See also: Fighting Game and Useful Notes/Fighting Game Tournament Play, though it has been around for a while, has only recently reached the mainstream spotlight. For some titles, such as Starcraft, the rise to prominence is truly remarkable. The rise of Major League Gaming has made strides to legitimize videogames as a sport, and it's not uncommon to see game tournaments awarding cash prizes in the upwards of tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. However, this rise in popularity has not gone evenly across the board. Completely distinct from MLG or "E-Sports" is the Fighting Game Community—a niche which is slowly but surely becoming more "mainstream", changing the community quite a bit.
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History of the FGC
First GenerationIn the beginning, there was Street Fighter II, and it was good. Street Fighter II: The World Warrior was released in 1991, and was a critical and commerical success. Though fighting games had exist before it, this game was the Genre Popularizer and the Trope Codifier for nearly everything that fighting games possess today. Players from all over showed up with full wallets at their local arcades and took turns beating the crap out of each other to prove who was better. Naturally, people began to ask the question: just who is the BEST?! And thus, the Fighting Game Community took its first steps. Years prior to the advent of YouTube, gaming competitions were extremely obscure and insular events that were entirely self-perpetuating. In short, if you played the game, and you were good at it, chances were you would go to an arcade (or to someone else's house) to play against someone who was equally skilled or better. The only way to experience better competitive play was to see it, and face it in person (or, if you were lucky, on recorded video). All of this began to change with the internet, starting with message boards. On various disjointed forums, players of any particular game (or subsect of games) could meet and compare notes with other players and mutually try to improve. This made it easier to organize gatherings and compare "technology" (gamer jargon for improved playing methods). Of course, being a competitive community, where nearly all players were striving to one-up the other, this inevitably meant that Flame Wars were near-constant. In 2000, Shoryuken.com (of course named after the famous Street Fighter attack) was born and became the go-to forum for Street Fighter competitors. Other fighting-game sites were also in use, such as Virtuafighter.com and the (now-defunct) Soulcalibur.com (both of which were actually founded before shoryuken.com), but Shoryken.com in many ways became the "face" of the FGC. The creation of Shoryuken.com can be marked as the end of the "First Generation" of the Fighting Game Community and the beginning of the "Second Generation".
Second GenerationWith this new hub, the fighting game community quickly began to pool together to create "major" tournaments that would gather the best of the best from all over the country (and the world) in order to compete with each other. The "Evolution Championship Series" (or "Evolution 2K") was created in 2002, evolving from the previous "Battle by the Bay" tournament, and became their flagship tournament. In the earliest incarnations, BbtB and EVO were Street Fighter-only affairs. This quickly changed in 2003 with the addition of several additional series. About the same time, video footage of tournament events and combo exhibitions became commonplace. This footage became one of the major ways for players unfamiliar with the FGC to become "hype" for these events; either after watching other players better than them perform amazing feats, or after watching and deciding that they could do better themselves. However, this was a double-edged sword: the ability to watch footage online meant that players could copy others without the Meta Game context that went into their decision-making, causing them to mimic what they saw without truly understanding it. This only grew more pronounced as YouTube began taking off in popularity, with more and more FGC content ready and available for viewing by any interested parties. However, in the middle of the 00s, the FGC began slowly fading in popularity. There are many factors which have been blamed, but all had a hand to play in it. The dwindling arcade market, the increasing complexity and thus bar of skill required for new players, the (alleged) unfriendliness of experienced players toward newbies, and ultimately, the dwindling of fighting game sales and their subsequent lack of profitability. Of the aforementioned problems, some are subjective, but all created a particularly vicious circle. Even worse, it became increasingly difficult and expensive to maintain the machines that ran these games. Some games were never ported to a console, or even if they were, were not "arcade perfect" or were not available on a next-gen system. As new game technology was released, players were still forced to bring old systems and cabinets, controller adapters, and jury-rigged setups to every tournament, and these had a habit of being unreliable. Many of these problems, however, came to an end in 2009. And, ironically, it would come back to Capcom and Street Fighter.
Third GenerationIn 2009, after positive reception to Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting on X Box Live Arcade, Capcom announced the development of Street Fighter IV. As this was the first new Street Fighter title in over a decade (not including various crossover fighters), the FGC highly anticipated the new game—particularly when it was announced that the game would be highly modeled after the most-popular Street Fighter II and not the Alpha series or III series. This meant that both old-school players and new players would be able to play on fairly equal terms. Street Fighter IV was a tremendous success and is credited with resuscitating the FGC almost overnight, creating a new boom of fighting game popularity in the Seventh Generation. Thanks not only to a welcoming community but extremely successful marketing and support from Capcom, SFIV took the fighting game world by storm and became the new de-facto main event for most major tourneys. It also brought and influx of new players and Fighting Game afficionados into the mix, and has explosively increased the number of competitors. It has even brought players who had retired from the community back into the fold. The FGC has rolled with this new momentum and has expanded its curriculum to include new tournaments, including more Majors and local events as well as live-streams to allow fans to watch these events in real time and hear commentary which explains the matches as they happen. Sponsorship became a reality starting in 2010 with franchises like Evil Geniuses, Broken Tier, Mad Catz, and others paying players for free advertising. Daigo Umehara, a legendary Japanese player pictured above, even makes a living by Beta Testing games and merely stating that he likes it! Not everything is well in this new community, however. As mentioned before, other events such as Major League Gaming have outpaced the FGC's growth. While not necessarily less demanding, MLG games have a larger fanbase to pool from as most of them also come from series which benefit from a robust Single-player campaign. Also, it has been noted that many of these games cater to PC gamers as well as those with a higher level of income due to the expense to play them at a competitive level. Thus, the model which has worked for MLG does not carry over easily to the FGC, which although doing well, has yet to reach its potential. Further, the FGC is still very much a "boys club" and remains crass, rude, and boorish at times. Turn on any popular tournament stream and it's likely that you will hear something not suitable for small children of the faint of heart. Female fighting gamers, though increasing in number, are still fairly rare. This has led to accusations of sexism and harassment from more outspoken and vulgar members of the community, most notably on the controversial Cross Assault reality web series. The FGC while still going through growing pains, is very much alive and healthy for the moment. The years 2011 and 2012, in particular, have seen a resurgence of the fighting game genre, with the release of several new titles: Soul Calibur V, The King of Fighters XIII, Mortal Kombat 9, (Ultimate) Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Tekken 6, Skullgirls, Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown, Street Fighter X Tekken, and many, many more.
With the explosion of live-streaming on sites such as Twitch and U Stream, many local fighting game events have sprung up which can be viewed at their respective channels. The general FGC team page can be found here: http://www.twitch.tv/team/fgcpros.
EVO Tournament SeasonThe 2014 Evolution Tournament series reached its close with Evolution 2014 on July 11-13, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. As usual, Street Fighter IV was the marquee title. The winner of each respective tournament has been crowned "Evolution World Champion" until the next tournament in 2015.
2014 EVO Tournament Season
EVO 2014 Champions
Other Tournament Seasons
Apex 2014 Smash Bros Championsnote
Tropes Common To This Community