''At Holloway Road's Rocket Centre in London, an annex to the Metropolitan University next door, things are fairly quiet at 10am. Cars roll past and a few early birds filter out of the nearby train station clutching roadmaps. By this point the Neo Empire crew, the most avid contributors to the UK fighting game scene, have been setting up for hours. Battle of Destiny is their biggest event ever, and, with full support and sponsorship from Capcom, nerves are on edge.
They needn't have worried. By midday it's already an unprecedented success, the building's two floors packed to the rafters with hundreds of gamers from around the world. The Neo Empire team - founders of the web forum of the same name - have done half a dozen similar events over the last four years, but how far they've come with Battle of Destiny - a hardcore gaming spectacle on a scale to rival the bonkers back-story of many a Capcom pugilist - is impressive.
"This is easily the biggest thing we've done," Masamune, one of the Neo Empire admins, explains. "In the past the venues have been much smaller. For this one we've been here since Thursday getting things ready." Which is odd when you consider that the UK arcade scene, from which the event's biggest interactive showpieces are drawn, is "already dead". "The problem is arcade owners don't know anything about gamers, or what gamers really want to play," reckons Masamune. "We don't run Neo Empire events for profit, and we'll be lucky to break even this time, but we want to keep the fighting game scene alive because that's our passion."