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EVO 2013: Epic Fights, Great Nights

My first appearance at this year’s Evo 2013 was filled with some many great memories, and I’m already feeling my Evo-withdrawal kicking in. From Mango’s upset over Wobbelz in Super Smash Bros Melee to Justin Wong’s near come from behind victory in Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3, with 1.7 million people livestreaming all of the legendary action witnessed digital geeks become headliners in this year’s EVO 2013. I spectated mostly SSF4 and Super Smash Bros Melee matches and didn’t enter any competitions, but man I surely had the time of my life.

The Geeks Come Out at 8am

The games began at 8am and waiting in line for my EVO Premium Access pass took a ridiculously long time. I want to say I waited for about an hour in line and it was so hectic and crowded, I wasn’t even sure if I was in the correct line to begin with. While I patiently waited for the line to move, I started talking with three gamers in line, two fraternal twins from Texas and another guy from New York, two of whom were participating in Street Fighter. One of the fraternal twins lamented that he had to go against Mago in his SSFIV pool and couldn’t believe his luck. I’m not super familiar with the FGC competitive scene, but I have heard that name get tossed around when I”m with my friends who do watch and play competitively. About after waiting a 1/2 hour in line, an EVO volunteer told people who were spectating to enter a different line which seemed a lot shorter and one of the fraternal twins and I thought were going to speed through the line. We were both wrong. The line was slower, much slower, but it did allow me to meet other people in line who talked about their fighting game experiences and where they were from. One thing I noticed was that there were a fair amount of Hispanics and African-Americans who were participating and it was a new sort of experience for me since I come from an area with a large amount of Asians in the US. We finally picked up our EVO badges and T-shirts and went to the main hall. My first thought upon entering the main hall was,

“My God, I’ve never seen so many fighting game enthusiasts and fight sticks all in one place at any given location.”

I stood there for about 3 minutes, just observing, watching, and allowing my eyes to wander around the room in awe. There were so many crowds around CRTs and people cheering and yelling at the most exciting matches. It was a geek’s paradise. If you thought the 3DS was dead, it was sure alive and kicking at EVO, and I could only wonder how many SpotPass codes were passively exchanged over the course of EVO 2013.

Pow Pow Pow

The first area that I floated through was the Super Smash Bros Melee section. There were about 700 entrants for Melee including American Idol winner, Taylor Hicks who came in 257th place (not bad!). If you haven’t already heard, the Melee portion of the event was nearly shut down by Nintendo even though the community voted on Melee as a surprise game to be featured at EVO and raised $96,000 for breast cancer. I didn’t really know who the pros in Melee were other than Sephiroth Ken (who apparently placed 49th out of all the Melee participants), but there were some really great matches going on. I recall one match where a guy used Donkey Kong to knock out a Fox player on the big screen and the crowd was rallying for Donkey Kong to win. Donkey Kong ended up winning.

The crowd went nuts!

One other pool play I recall being pretty exciting was Mango vs Wobbelz (which was the eventual Grand Finals match for Melee). Wobbelz ended up winning with his Ice Climbers infinite chain grab. Seriously, every time he landed it, the crowd went nuts. It’s a broken move, but it’s still somewhat difficult to pull off because Nana and Popo have to be in the right position in order to do it. Yet, the crowd was cheering every time Wobbelz pulled it off. When he won against Mango’s Fox, you could see the an explosion of happiness, excitement and passion on his face as he hugged his training partner who told him that training against Fox was worth it. Even though it wasn’t the Grand Finals or anywhere close to it, seeing Wobbelz less than 5 feet away express his emotions and riding off of the tailend of the crowd’s energy was something you could only experience by being at EVO 2013.

Skullgirls Panel

I dropped in part-way during the Skullgirls panel featuring Lab Zero Games when the team was taking the crowd through art concepts and how being transparent to the community is really really important. They told the audience of 100 people or so that they have a to-do list that is visible to everyone and that transparency builds trust with the community. The developers were super chill and definitely did not have the corporate vibe surrounding them. At one point, an enthusiastic fan came in dressed as Big Band with his theme song and was actually a nice, unexpected break during the panel. There was a Q&A session where people asked about how to break into the industry, finding jobs as an artist specializing in 2-D graphics, and whether they were allowed to use the Konami code in any of their games (which they unfortunately don’t since it’s only published by Konami and not a Konami game).

The next set of stars to enter the panel were the voice actors for the Skullgirls cast which including notable VA (voice actor) Christina Vee. The audience asked how one could break into the VA industry and the panel detailed out the difference and nuances of being a member of SAG (Screen Actor’s Guild) and taking non-union jobs (which most video game and anime VA gigs fall into). That part was something I definitely was not aware of, even though I have a friend who is in the industry. I realize now how difficult it is to really make a living off of voice acting and now saw her career from a different perspective.

Super Street Fighter 4 Semis

This was the first time I got a taste of why everyone really loves Street Fighter. I was sitting near the front row and one moment that really stuck out to me was when one of the players (not Justin Wong) used Rufus and performed his Ultra 1 – Space Opera Symphony and the crowd chanted all the hits and ended it with a two handed thrust in the air in unison. Seeing this in the crowd, my friend and I who aren’t really on the SSF4 scene were like, “Whoa, what is going on?”

It was super tight.

We got our first glimpse of Daigo, Infiltration, PR Balrog, Tokido, HaiTani, Gamerbee, Tokido, Xian and many more renown SSF4 players and I could feel the intensity of each of the matches. The poking, footsies, and overall mental game was evident at the highest level and was something to be appreciated.

Stay tuned for part 2 coming soon including my experiences from the Killer Instinct, Madcatz, and Capcom panels and not to mention what it was like to be near the front row for the Grand Finals of EVO 2013!

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