; More Than Just Pirates
From the beautiful island of Saint Maarten, I got a chance to talk to VxG Rolando Brison regarding the sights and the happenings.
Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule for this interview Rolando. Tell us a little about yourself.
Well my name is Rolando Brison, but now I am known as VxG’s “It’s ya boy Rolando” because of how I introduced myself in a promo video we made for VxG, haha. So I kind of kept that going for the stream monsters. Anyway, I am 27 years old, and have been organizing tournament since I was 16 years old, and started doing the VxG as a major since 2006.
I work almost full time for VxG now and the related gaming activities I do mainly because I have a moderately self-sustaining business so I can devote a lot of my time to my passion of making VxG a tournament everyone loves. I even chose college with VxG in mind, since I studied “Tourism and Recreation Management” at the In Holland University of Amsterdam, to which I hold a bachelor’s degree.
I just love telling people about our beautiful island of St. Maarten which depends on tourism, and I love gaming, so VxG is perfect combination.
You host a tournament called VideoxGames on the beautiful island of Saint Maarten. What exactly is VideoxGames?
VxG started as a local small tournament that I started together with my best friend Jeff Oliver back in 2001 when I worked for him at a local video store. A Coworker and I both approached him about doing a local tournament to get young people to know about the store but also to give young people something to do in the summer.
It has since grown thanks to my expertise in tourism and efforts from my team and local sponsors into the biggest video game tournament in the Caribbean. It is a unique gaming experience that is a perfect blend of tournament gaming, a Caribbean vacation, and the best parties of your life while still maintaining a relaxed schedule.
I mentioned earlier that St. Maarten depends on tourism, and our economy continually depends on activities that attract people to our island. I fulfill both my passions for tourism and gaming with VxG, so I am very happy to be the Chief Coordinator of this event and the Vice President of the foundation that organizes it every year.
What makes VideoxGames a tournament that those in the FGC (fighting game community) should attend?
Well the first thing is that VxG is in the Caribbean, and there is nothing like the Caribbean. Our beaches, our food, our weather, our people, our culture, our nightlife, there is nowhere in the world that compares, which is why we are one of the world’s top tourism destination and the world’s number one cruise destination. St. Maarten itself is just a small dot in the Caribbean, yet we are the second most popular tourism destination in the Caribbean in terms of visitor arrivals.
We offer gamers the chance to compete in their tournaments that prove to be a competitive as any tournament in the United States, but still much more than just sitting in a basement or conference room playing video games. Basically it’s a Caribbean vacation that every person in the world would want to enjoy, but more catered to both casual and professional gamers.
Still, I think as gamers like Gootecks, Mike Ross, Combofiend, Kayane, Iperu, Burnyourbra, Kor, Sanford, and Perfect Legend would attest, the island experience is the ultimate reason for coming to VxG.
It seems as if the community down there is growing. Has there been an influx of new players in that region?
Well, the reason why we decided to make VxG international was because the community on the island is small. So in order to compete, we need gamers to come. As a tourism professional, I was able to develop great packages for gamers to come and showcase their skills to the world. And showcase they did!
The gamers from the Caribbean were able to fend off American fighters in our Caribbean Battle royal for example, winning the tournament 6-1 versus the likes of Sanford Kelly, Perfect Legend, Mike Ross and others. And everyone by now has heard about Dominican Republic‘s Gross who beat Perfect Legend at the VxG MK9 finals.
Our region has amazing gamers, but some people don’t realize it. For example, EG PR Rog is from the Caribbean region, as well as the world’s best Soul Caliber player who is from Dominican Republic, and many more.
What do you see as your role in the fighting game community in Saint Maarten?
My role is to encourage gamers that no matter how small the island is, we still can try to compete with the region and the world. We also try to show gamers that we are the gaming capital of the Caribbean, and to also make sure they our gamers know how to be hosts.
We welcome gamers with open arms to our island, and our gaming public is very social and friendly with international gamers. It’s another reason people loved gaming in St. Maarten for VxG.
What’s the most popular game played in the Caribbean?
Street Fighter is the most popular fighting game, but Modern Warfare 3 is probably the most popular overall. Our Mw3 tournament had the most gamers signed up at VxG.
You chose a few known players to attend the VideoxGames this year; Mike Ross, Combofiend, Gootecks, Kayane, Kor, Iperu, and myself. What made you decide to choose those specific players?
Well if you look at the list, you see diversity was the key. We wanted different ethnicities, genders, personalities, and people from various parts of America and with roots all across the world. We also choose 3 teams that we think help develop their gaming communities in very distinct ways.
Cross Counter has been the closest FGC team to bring the community to the mainstream with their documentaries and shows and personalities, DMG with their professional attitude towards gaming and strong credo of respect, community and dedication was something we wanted to welcome to VxG, and Empire Arcadia with their amazing history as the world’s most winning gaming organization could not be left out of VxG. We will continue to work with all 3 of these teams, but will welcome all teams across all genres of gaming to VxG next year.
Do you have any plans to fly out more international competition to VideoxGames next year? If so, do you have any specific players in mind?
Well next year we have done something to help attract more gamers to the tournament. The “Destination St. Maarten: Road to Vxg” qualifiers is a tournament series using mostly existing tournaments in the United States, including Youmacon Battle Opera, APEX, known as the world biggest smash tournament, Wednesday Night Fights, and SoCal Regionals. Also two very important west coast tournaments will be announced in the coming weeks. Gamers can attend these qualifiers to win an airfare and/or hotel to attend the VxG.
Of course, our recent announcement of having $65 thousand dollars in guaranteed prizes for VxG 2013 is due to the support from our local tourism agencies who value the promotion we give to our island. For example, Street Fighter IV in 2013 will have a top 16 payout of $13,600. We chose top 16 because we want as many people as possible to value their tournament experience at VXG.
Just recently VideoxGames announced their sponsorship of Empire Arcadia (EMP.) what does this mean for VideoxGames in the future?
This means that VxG is now endorsed by the World’s most Tournament Winning Franchise. We are very proud about this because we know that EMP and their players will help bring word out about VxG.
We know there are a few people out there who questioned our decision on this, but given the pedigree of EMP, as well as the roots its leader and various gamers have in the Caribbean, we wanted to support them to do what they can to develop themselves further while still boosting the name of VxG.
Has the date been set for next year?
Yes, the date was set one week after this year’s event ended: July 11th to the 16th 2013. We have already created a thread on SRK about it as well. While we don’t depend mainly on gamers from the U.S. for attendance, it would be nice to avoid scheduling conflicts since EVO is usually held at the end of July or early August.
Still, our date is set far in advance and we are ready to go. The resort hosting the VxG 2013 is one of the premier conference centers and hotels in the Caribbean: The Sonesta Maho Beach Resort, which was voted as the world’s number one most special beaches! ( Article Here )
What should anyone attending the VideoxGames for the first time expect to see?
Expect gamers from all around the world especially from the Caribbean and South America, though not many from Japan since word of VxG hasn’t spread there as of yet. They should expect the most entertaining experience of their life, and I say this with confidence since all 120 international gamers that came to VxG last year have told me personally that that was how they would describe their experience. Expect great prizes, and great gaming.
Expect to be on the world’s number 1 beach just minutes away from your hotel room. Expect the friendliest tournament organizers and staff who are all trained in the hospitality sector, something we know no other tournament has, and which we have simply because that is what 90% of us in St. Maarten do. Every gamer is treated like a king (or queen) because we value what you as our guest brings to our island.
Random question. Is there a tournament in the states that you’ve always wanted to attend or might possibly attend in the future?
The tournament I’ve always wanted to attend was East Coast Throw down. Evo never really appealed to me because most Caribbean players who go there feel isolated and left out; whereas the gamer I know who attends the smaller “grass roots tournaments” get what we offer here at VxG.
We are hoping to make ECT a VxG qualifier as well; in which case I’ll finally have my dream of going to this tournament. I’ll sign up just to have my pathetic Blanka knocked out in the first round and I can finally officially retire from competitive gaming as the Gabby Jay of professional gamers.
Three things about you that people don’t know.
1) I am a debating champion of the Caribbean, having won the Caribbean Tourism Organizations’ Youth Congress debates in 2002 and 2003 consecutively.
2) I am an amateur standup comedian and professional event host: I have done standup comedy in Amsterdam, locally and on other islands. I just love being in front of crowds. I also host and MC events, I just love speaking as I said: P
3) I’m scared of Crabs. If I go the beach and see a crab, that is it. I cannot… re-enter… the water!