To the members of today's fighting game community...
We screwed up. We were all given the ball by the forefathers of this community, and instead of running with it we dropped it, kicked it into a gutter and left it there. There it sat until people like Alex Valle, Mike Watson, Henry Cen and others begrudgingly came back, picked up our disheveled community and took control of it again. To them you owe everything; to us, a swift kick in the ass has been due for too many years.
It's pretty hard to define generations in the fighting game community, because there is so much turnover and, at times, so many different games coming out. However, I'd consider myself part of the third generation, the Shoryuken generation, based on the fact that I joined competitive fighters in 2001, not long after the site's inception in 2000. By this time, most major scenes in America had already formed, with several players from older Street Fighter and/or Tekken games leading the young group of children I was a part of into competitive gaming. It was a pretty surreal notion, playing fighting games for actual money, but many of those guys took the time to help us out with strategies, combos and our neutral game. Along the way a lot of us learned a thing or two about life as well. The thing I need to stress is the patience we were shown; so many of us were hot-headed idiots, shy misanthropes or other generally antisocial people that it's amazing we were invited into the scene. But as long as we wanted to play games, to get better and to try our best we were normally welcomed with open arms. Of course there were the fights, the egos and general chaos but we were all young and stupid. And that, as anyone knows, is a dangerous combination.
But because of that mentoring, my generation thrived. We all grew as players at a different rate—some of us are still evolving today—but even in the fighting game "Dark Ages," the time of no new Capcom fighters being released, the scene grew bigger and stronger than it had been before. Players like Justin Wong became not only the flag-bearers of a new generation, but also surpassed the accomplishments of his predecessors. Tournaments became bigger even as the number of new games being released slowed to a crawl. The scene even received the greatest validation of all its hard work with the promise of a new Street Fighter game, to be released in 2008. No one in the community could wait for that day.
When Street Fighter IV came home in 2009, however, my generation did not repay our debt. The explosion of new players from SF4 caught everyone by surprise, I think, but our generation was not in a mindset to accept the wealth of new faces. We were, honestly, still used to being the young players, prone to mistakes and free of the responsibility that should have come with our number of years playing games. We largely shunned new players who did not immediately "get" what the community was about, brushing them off if not treating them with downright hostility for not knowing things like "footsies" and neutral game. These players saw people not too much older than them and looked for help, and we shit on them. In doing so we did a great disservice to ourselves and the scene.
The weird thing about the fighting game scene is that hostility has always been prevalent, but it used to be avoidable. During the arcade days, if one person treated you poorly it might ruin your day, but tomorrow would be a new start. You could go back to the arcade when that player wasn't there, or make friends with other players. You were never locked out of enjoying your hobby because of interpersonal issues. But by 2008 most arcades in America had closed, and the fighting game community had moved from public arcades to private residences. New players were not only treated badly, but also excluded from hookups and made to play among themselves. We continued to mock them from the sidelines, calling them "09ers" for the year they registered on Shoryuken's forums, and laughed at their playstyles without realizing that we had never bothered to even help them get better.
Now in 2013 we find ourselves at a proverbial crossroads. While Street Fighter IV and Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 enjoy a great amount of success, previously strong scenes, like those centered around airdash (or "Anime" games) and Tekken, now flounder outside of one or two big tournaments a year. We created this problem. Instead of being community leaders and inviting new players into our games, running tournaments and encouraging growth, we sat back and let people fall on their asses until they decided to leave. We were thankful for the few new followers to our respective causes but never understood why nobody bothered to play our games. It wasn't just because Capcom games will always be the biggest in the scene—though that is a factor—but because we were assholes.
You might think this is a damn long post to be what amounts to a mea culpa, but it's also a call to action. There are a lot of players in this community that remember the days of camaraderie, trash talk and "good games," and we can have that back if we actually reach out a hand to help all the new people in OUR scene. Some of these players may be awkward, arrogant, angry or have any other number of annoying personality traits; so did we. But people put up with us, and we turned into some of the best players the fighting game scene has ever had to offer. Let's give this new generation the chance to do the same.
Cognitive Dissonance is an editorial feature series by SuperFX. He can be found on Twitter. Views of SuperFX are not representative of IPLAYWINNER as a whole.