Before we even start, be warned that this is a long read and there are no pictures Also that this is an opinion piece, and should be taken as such. If there’s any debate towards my thoughts here, know I have my roots in the Fighting Game Community and it’s because I’ve been working hard on this site and other projects that I was able to branch out and make friends from across all genres and at all levels.
Recently, a debate came up between “E-Sports” and the “FGC”. You can find all the info you need ,here, here and here.IF you’re interested, click through at your leisure, read them and form your own opinion and stance. You’ll also need Sir Scoots rant that started this whole thing to get some perspective, and it can be found here.
This has been a topic that’s been raging on twitter for some time between people deep within both communities at every level. To say it could be like Marvel’s Civil War would make it seem cooler than it actually is, but people are choosing their sides on this like there’s an actual registration act and things are actually changing within the community because of it.
So before we get started, lets define the key terms that are at the core of this issue.
Professional Sports, as opposed to Amateur Sports, are sports in which athletes receive payment for their performance.”
Electronic Sports (E-Sports) comprises the broad scope of competitive video game playing. Other terms include “competitive gaming”, “professional gaming” and “cybersports”. Games that are played as E-Sports normally belong to the “Real-Time Strategy” (RTS), “Fighting”, “First-Person Shooter” (FPS), “Massively-Multiplayer Online” (MMO), and “Racing” genres. They are played competitively at Amateur, Semi-Professional and Professional levels including participation in leagues and tournaments. Because they are usually compensated for playing at a higher than average level, the definition of a “Pro” gamer is someone whose sole income is generated from gaming.
The Fighting Game Community or FGC is the collection of players, tournament organizers and online streaming teams that keep the competitive aspect of a wide selection of fighting games going from local to national/global levels. This is done in an organized and regimented, yet informal manner however as the FGC has no governing body, having a scene anyone can join.
Alright, so where do I stand on this debate?
First off, I feel that Fighting Games have always been an “E-Sport” from the time of their creation. I feel that the Fighting Game Circuit is similar to more individual sports such as Tennis, Bowling, etc. rather than the traditional league based sports like Football, Basketball, Baseball, etc. because hey just aren’t compatible on the same terms. One good reason for this is, similar to any individual sport, they travel the country competing in different tournaments with the chance of winning prize money. In line with this, the money for the player competing is limited to three things: the amount of people entering the tournament, the pot bonuses, and in some cases the extra money matches that are played on the side. The way I see it, if players choose to attend a big event with a bigger turnout, they have a bigger pot in the end because you have more pot monsters in attendance(people who contribute to the pot with no real chance of winning). If they happen to get sponsored along with all of this then that’s a bonus, but In this system, the player is in total control of their entire career. Those who knock this method argue that under a league, you’re going to get more money per event, guaranteed.
It isn’t that being an E-Sport for the FGC couldn’t work. It could, just not for the top players. It could work for the mid-tier, to close to top-level players, but not the best. For example, with most professional leagues, if you sign a contract, you’re bound to that league. Just look at the NBA, for example. When players are under contract in the NBA, they cannot play in any other league overseas or no without voiding their NBA contracts. The reason for this is simple: Leagues want to protect their brands. Imagine, if the top players in the NBA could play where and when ever they wanted, you’d have a ton of things like the recent lock out happening all the time, with players jumping overseas for 1-year paydays that beat their current contracts. The quality of the NBA would suffer overall if there were seasons where star players weren’t playing on their teams, when they’re supposed to consistently have the best players in the world.
Back to how this relates to gaming, if you have the the top names in the community playing in your league, why would you let them play in other leagues and events if you are trying to show that yours is the best? So let’s say, if Jwonggg (Justin Wong) signs with X-League, he is now under contract and cannot play in any other league or event where he can make money. If you watched the indie documentary The King of Chinatown, Justin made quite a bit of money for his team in a year playing in events and such. Under a league format, he couldn’t have done that if those events weren’t sanctioned or if whatever deals he signed conflicted with those of his league. I know, one could argue, “Well, what if the contract allowed him to play in other events, but not leagues?”, or “What if it allowed him to play in other leagues and events?” My answer to that is: What would be the point of signing someone to your league if there’s no exclusivity? You sign a contract, and it becomes a waiting game with the hope that it averages out to more than what you would have made playing in various events, which is basically guaranteed money.
There are always events to attend, too. Currently now there are tons of local,regional and major tourneys within the FGC. While not an always perfect system, it does a good job of self regulation within itself. New tournament organizers (TOs) pop up and fade from existence frequently along with big names, but what makes the FGC great is that if you really want to be apart of the community and be accepted you have to get out there. It’s welcoming if you’re able, and people take notice of hard work with a serious attitiude being appreciated. Everyone in the FGC knows fighting games need to be played offline in order for the matches to be played at their fullest, as offline tournaments are practically the litmus tests of competitors. This is because to be honest, the netcode for most fighting games sucks, and they wern’t made to be played with things like input lag and frame delays. There is a reason online rankings in fighting games aren’t taken as seriously as much offline victories, and I feel it should stay that way.
Getting back to those mid-level to high-mid players, they are the ones that however could benefit from an online league because as it stands right now, frankly I don’t see them traveling long distances just to get blown up (i.e. ‘beaten badly’) in tournaments by those same top level players. In a league format, the league could basically monitor in house talent and develop some players and enter them in events in an attempt to showcase their brand. These same mid-level players would also get some chances that they normally wouldn’t be able to get because they don’t have time to practice or actually dedicate serious time to the game due to, with other reasons, perhaps having a life and job outside of professional gaming.
Under this tried format, most of the games will take place online so they can have a ranking system for their offline events and majors. Leagues like MLG currently do this with internet services like . While it’s an admirable system looking to get the whole country involved, it’s flaws become quickly apparent due to disputes (over match outcomes), disconnects (sometimes the internet doesn’t want to be bothered or someone ‘ragequit’), boosting (making fake accounts or having friends lose to you so you can boost your stats), not to mention shoddy connection issues, missed matches, etc. I’d have to say, if the league uses these standings to determine seeding for a fighting game event, that would be to say politely, bad. I mentioned earlier fighting games have notoriously poor net code combined with bad connections. If you add mild cheating or lag switching as a result of these bad connections you’ll have players who are ranked highly that shouldn’t be, another common flaw. It needs to be managed much better in order to work on the level of the FGC.
But then, there’s also the publishers. In my opinion, one of the biggest problems keeping fighting games from being considered an E-Sport is quite simply some companies don’t want them to be. There’s a reason Capcom didn’t allow WCG, MLG or any other leauge to ever run Street Fighter and Marvel vs Capcom officially as tournament games. Companies in general seem afraid to take that kind of commitment to a league. Part of the problem is issues on how their game(s) will be portrayed, along with wanting a piece of the direction if you’re using their intellectual properties. Most of the companies that create these fighters are Japanese and the Japanese have their own way of doing things when it comes to stuff like this. The rule sets or the way the ranking system is run may anger the publishers too. There’s a ton of things that can go wrong between two companies in terms of communication and execution, not to mention that in a league capactity it also takes a great deal of control away from the actual community, the ones who shape the scene to begin with.
In closing, the bottom line? At the end of the day we can all find things wrong with both sides rather than finding the right things. I say that the league notion for fighting games is tough and as it currently stands, there are no leagues that can run them properly. It isn’t a bad idea to want them, but it’s going to take some serious work and consideration. I think if multiple leagues picked up the same game and allowed players to freely play between them that would properly capture the spirit of of the community. Among other things, the local scene has to be integrated into what they are doing as well. You need to have locals AND regional tournaments as well as true majors. It isn’t a simple answer in the least, and everyone has one, but answers
there, you just have to work for it.