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Aaron Waite Aaron Waite
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Sweep The Leg

March 10, 2015
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The grassroots fighting game scene right here in Maine

I'm not sure if I put too much stock in it, or if I actually put any stock in at all. I'm in a gazebo surrounded by a bunch of other men and women, most of them sharing the same steely-eyed gaze toward the myriad screens showing a mix of 'Street Fighter,' various iterations of 'Super Smash Bros.' and the occasional oddball game of 'Killer Instinct' or 'Guilty Gear Xrd.' My next match is about to be called, and while I'm not necessarily nervous, I don't feel particularly warmed up, either. I haven't played the current iteration of 'Street Fighter' consistently for close to six months, and my first tournament match of the night just showed that. It's double elimination, so I have a chance to redeem myself here or watch myself dip out of the brackets with zero dignity or grace.

My next opponent is a fresh face in these parts. While I had been playing 'Super Smash Bros. Melee' for most of the night, this guy had been in a corner, working out all of the kinks in his game and making sure he was as ready as he was going to be to face off against the slew of long-time 'Street Fighter' players. My chances at this point aren't exactly promising. We sit down at a station and exchange a handshake and then a bit of small talk before selecting our characters and taking a deep breath as the loading screen ushers us into battle.
Lady Luck decides to smile on me this night. This guy is playing Evil Ryu, which a friend of mine plays quite often, and I've gotten pretty familiar with the matchup. He whiffs a few combos, dropping his inputs and becoming predictable as his nerves start to show. I take advantage of this, allowing myself to react to his steadily increasing panic. I get a knockdown, block for his wake-up Shoryuken and follow up with an attack of my own, ending our deadly little dance and taking the match. I offer my fist and he gives it a congratulatory bump as I compliment his skills. Endorphins shoot through my brain as I realize what I just got away with. It's addictive, it's glorious, and it's why I'm here: to fight.

A 'Fight Club' joke here would be way too easy, but when it comes down to it, there is a seriousness that underlies the festive nature of these tournaments. The competitiveness of fighting games is nothing to be sneezed at. Even at these smaller gatherings where the winner is lucky to come away with tens of dollars, the tension can be cut with a knife when it comes down to your match. There's usually good-natured ribbing afterwards amongst the regulars, keeping the competitive nature inside the game while showing the truly welcoming face of the community on the outside.

I've been going to local tournaments for a little over two years now, and walking into an insanely warm room with a bunch of like-minded individuals is starting to feel like coming home. It doesn't matter where you come from or what your background is; all that matters is that you come with a desire to learn or the ability to win. I've watched wide-eyed noobs become grizzled veterans over the course of a few months after putting themselves through the gauntlet of our local talent. Rivalries are formed, upsets are made, and legends are born.

It's downright intimidating on your first time through. The first thing you usually notice is a sea of custom arcade sticks, complete with aftermarket parts and commissioned artwork all saying the same thing: bring your A-game, because no one is going to take mercy on you. Watching players run through their combos and setups, the first reaction of a first-time tournament goer is one of realizing that you haven't prepared nearly enough.

There's almost a professional air about many of the veterans, a confidence that comes with hours of training and dedication to their games and their characters. It's both terrifying and inspiring to new players, with fear of what they're going to face in the present combined with hope of what they could become in the future. It's this balance of fear and hope that keeps this community alive. Veterans bring up the new players not scared off by the huge skill walls that face them in these games, and in turn those new players bring in their friends willing to take a few losses in order to enjoy the thrill of playing a fighting game competitively.

It's not for everyone, but if you can find the fortitude to step into the ring, you'll find a bevy of hands waiting to help you along the way. That learning curve is scalable, and we'll be more than happy to help you do it.

To learn more about the Maine Fighting Gamers Alliance, check out Tell em Aaron Waite sent you.

Last modified on Tuesday, 10 March 2015 17:33

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