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Fighting games are breathing new life into Australian esports

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Expert
24th May, 2019
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Last weekend we saw a fighting game competition here in Melbourne that had over 1,000 competitors pre-registered to enter.

This blows my tiny mind. It’s not because I don’t think of esports as viable or popular, it’s just that it really can be this easy to get in to. The Australian Fighting Game Championships Battle Arena Melbourne 11 was proof of this.

If you didn’t manage to get down and check out the action, here’s what you missed.

Unlike lots of game tournaments, BAM is cool in that it offers a lot of variety for both players and spectators. Fighting games are arguably one of the older esports. This genre has grown from the arcade cabinets right into people’s homes. Because of this, there are so many branches and they all have their own styles and fan-bases.

Super Smash Bros is one of the most popular and often people prefer to play on one of the older variations of the game. This year Nintendo released the newest edition in Super Smash Bros Ultimate which gives players more character choice than ever before.

It could be that this breath of fresh life into the game could be why its tournament at BAM last weekend broke the record for the biggest fighting game tournament in ANZ history with over 340 players signing up to smash.

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Perhaps it was fitting then that the tournament was taken out by Mr L who used the newly available King. K. Rool character to defeat his opponents. He secured victory by defeating Extra who used Mr Game and Watch. This is a big win as Extra has an exceptional track record with this game in the past two years.

In third place was Luco who chose Ness to fight. I don’t think there’s anything that really sums up Smash Bros better than that weird line-up of characters.

To add to the hype of Smash, fan favourite Super Smash Bros Melee from back in the GameCube days also saw significant patronage. It’s continued success is proof of what solid mechanics can do for an esport but it’s nice to finally see a new version of Smash start to capture the community. Perhaps one day we can get them to give up the GameCube controllers as well.

Super Smash Bros wasn’t the only title to see some serious patronage as Tekken arguably held some of the more exciting and meaningful matches of the weekend. Tekken 7 had over 260 entrants which made it the biggest recorded Tekken event that Australia and New Zealand have ever seen. These were also qualifying matches as a Master Event in part of the Tekken World Tour so the stakes were extra high.

Clutching this one out we saw Korean player for Fate Esports, Ulsan win using his combination of Kazumi and Bob. He took down fellow Korean JDCR who is considered by many to be one of the most successful Tekken players at the moment. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any local players in the top spots until we get to fourth place which 4LCH3M15T managed to secure for Genuine Gaming, followed by Chand NY for Kanga Esports.

The good news for ANZ players from Tekken, Smash Bros, and Street Fighter V is that BAM also featured games for the Path to Evo. One player from each game was declared best in region and received a trip to the EVO World Championships in Las Vegas to compete in the finals of the series. Western Australian, Travis Styles for Order took out the Street Fighter V title, while Wowzer will represent us for Tekken and Defective Dagger is our Smash champion.

All three of these players are brand new champions who had to take on the best players from last year to make it here. It’s very impressive to see this much push from some young blood in the community.

Another fighting game tournament which makes our list of ‘biggest ever in ANZ history’ was the Mortal Kombat 11 games. This is another new addition to a long-running fighting game series and only released in April this year. The Fan Favourite from Dark Sided, Wazmniator used the very popular character in this competition, Erron Black alongside Jade to win this tournament.

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While I could write about tournaments and their results all day this doesn’t really scratch the surface of what happened at BAM. Heaps of other games were featured, including those that have nothing to do with Fighting Games. Be it in their own proper tournaments like Splatoon 2 or just fun LANs which saw random folks playing games like Apex Legends and Rocket League.

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There was also a Cosplay Competition where fans dressed up as some of their favourite characters from some of these games that are clearly so loved. Artist Alley allowed people to get up close and personal with some fantastic local artists and there was even an Indie games showcase where local devs could share their games with everyone who attended.

Local competitive events like these are so important not only for the scenes they represent or even esports but just gaming as a whole.

It provides such a fantastic opportunity, not only for players to compete but for the culture to expand and attract more interest. It’s because of this that teams like Couch Warriors are so important with the hard work and passion they pour into making this a bigger and better place.

Next time you see a competition like this, even if you’re not necessarily into the headlining games or genres I highly recommend you take the time to have a look.

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Sitting in the spectator’s seat at a live event is often where people first find their passion for a sport and esports are no different. Even if it doesn’t tickle your fancy, there’s often a lot more under the surface and you’ll be helping to grow this cultural phenomenon in our country.