SoCal Regionals 2013: Setting a New Standard
Reflecting on the new elements that will define FGC-competitive events.
As a lifelong fan of fighting games with a passion for spectating competitive play, I'm what the internet masses would call a "stream monster." Even as a sports enthusiast, I look forward to watching a broadcast of a major Street Fighter event more than I anticipate an NBA or NFL game. Evo is my Super Bowl. Just as pigskin diehards grab their closest friends, hottest wings, and favorite adult beverages in preparation for football, I spend the end of tournament weekends glued closely to my computer, enjoying every bit of the digital fisticuffs on hand.
While spectating SoCal Regionals 2013 this past weekend, I saw everything I love about professional sports and digital gaming fuse more seamlessly than ever. Sure, just about every major tournament features intelligent commentary, player cameras, and a wide roster of top players, but few events have wrapped it all up in the package that Alex Valle and Level Up Live were able to.
While fighting games are becoming a bigger part of traditional "eSports" events such as Major League Gaming and IGN Pro League, SCR 2013 proved that a grassroots gaming organization can grow from the bottom to provide the same level of captivating professionalism. From Redrapper's unforgettable theme music to the ESPN-style transitions from game to commentary booth, every second of the event oozed with an unprecedented level of polish.
Presentation aside, another major factor that set SCR 2013 apart from the pack was the plethora of entertaining exhibitions on display. Sure, watching top players battle through a bracket for pride and money in games such as Street Fighter and Marvel vs. Capcom is fun, but exhibition matches bring FGC events more in line with boxing and MMA matches: With a lot of the same anticipation, training, and trash-talk that defines those real-world sporting events.
Speaking of trash-talk, perhaps the only low point of SCR was found in the the sometimes awkward pre and post-game interviews. I absolutely loved seeing players interviewed live on stream, but watching Gootecks attempting to generate hype by forcing exhibition players to talk smack before certain matches was slightly uncomfortable. At East Coast Throwdown 4, IGT Unknown and OMG Itz Andre had a legitimate disdain for one another, and it showed in both their play and demeanor. However, trying to get someone like Viscant to speak scandalously… not such a great idea.
Still, I appreciated that just about every facet of pro sports found its way into Level Up Live's stream presentation. While his presence was polarizing, I particularly enjoyed the on-camera antics of "KingofSaurus," who used his iPad to display stream-chat jokes in person. On one hand it was unnecessary and rambunctious. On the other hand, it is a testament to how truly passionate the "stream monster" army is, and his actions were not all that far removed from a basketball fan holding up a sign with their favorite player's number.
While SCR 2013 has not completely reinvented the wheel when it comes to entertainment, it has damn near perfected it. Level Up President Alex Valle recently quit his day job to focus on his company full-time, and his passionate dedication shone through from the first jab to the last knockout.
[Photo credits: Bryan Gateb and Level | Up, LLC]