Why Videogame Events Need to Evolve, Part 1

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Once upon, I took videogame competition exceptionally seriously.

DDR AAA, AAA pics, Dance Dance Revolution, Ohio DDR
My perfect score here: over 40 hours of no sleep, little nutrition, a whole day of tournament, AND five hours (up to that point) of straight Dance Dance Revolution. Time: 4 a.m.

I traveled to national tournaments multiple times a year, and have been lucky to compete in Japan as well, as well as play the best players from the world, in fighting games like Street Fighter II, III and Marvel vs. Capcom 2, and also Dance Dance Revolution.

I traveled to national tournaments multiple times a year, and have been lucky to compete in Japan as well, as well as play the best players from the world, in fighting games like Street Fighter II, III and Marvel vs. Capcom 2, and also Dance Dance Revolution.

What I remember most fondly about these trips are: the people, and the thrill of competition. But the actual “events” themselves? I look back at them a little less fondly.

videogame tournament, Street Fighter,
Ohio WAS the heart of it all with Season’s Beatings: pictured, then-Capcom legend and rep Seth Killian, with the world’s best showdown: Daigo vs. Justin Wong

Because the thing is, for me, tournament got boring.

Daigo, sleeping at tournaments
Rare footage of Daigo actually asleep.
Actually no, because this happens to you at almost any fighting-game tournament.

Competing is a rush, and spending time with people you get to hang out with a few times a year is the best. But I started to feel like tournaments are a grind, with not much bang for your buck and your vacation time

  • Pay to play in events only 5% of the players have a realistic shot of placing in. (Going two and out in one game gives you about 10 minutes of event time for your $50 entry)
  • No time to eat (I still buy a jar of peanut butter + a loaf of bread and subsist on that all weekend)
  • No other event attractions/activities outside of the short time you you’re actually competing.

I know cons are huge, but I’m not a fan of cons either, which are way too on the “casual” side for me. As a competitor, I’ve too often seen “tournaments” with:

  • A prize that as a 32-year-old gamer excites me as much as winning an algebra book.
  • Non-standard rules (arbitrary bans, random bracketing)
  • Overwhelmed staff unfamiliar with how competitions with hundreds of passionate players run
  • Not enough hardware
  • No hype
videogames, cosplay, Street Fighter
Videogame/anime cons seem to be less about PLAYING videogames and more about … other stuff

The event I co-directed and co-founded, Season’s Beatings, tried to improve the tournament experience a bit while keeping everything that gets players traveling across the world for games they love to compete in.

  • We invented our own 32-man pool system in 2009 to minimize player boredom & confusion, and your time wasted.
  • Learning from EVO’s example, we built a pre-registration system so we could be prepared as a tournament team and start events exactly on time.
  • We organized EVO-like special events and runbacks featuring the world’s best dream matches.
videogame championship, Cleveland videogames
Season’s Beatings delivered dream matchups and world-class special events to the fighting-game world for 7 years

But while I was so focused on piecing together monumental, U.S. vs. the World matchups, I felt the fighting-game community had started to forget what brought us all together in the first place: fun.

Enter Console Combat.

Our partner group, also based here in Cleveland, Ohio, did the grind work of building up a sustainable, local gaming scene after the boom of Street Fighter IV. And their focus was on serious tournaments  but just making sure like-minded players had a place to get together and call their own, through monthly events and weekly get-togethers.

videogames in bars, Cleveland videogames
The bar videogame events I produce today  as an entertainer were inspired by passionate gamers running Cleveland gaming monthlies for competitive tournaments.

Similarly, Arcade Legacy in Cincinnati, Ohio, runs events for both popular fighting games and fun competitions for obscure fighters anyone can enjoy. Where else in the world in 2014 can you be playing Street Fighter Alpha 2 on streamed arcade cabs projected onto a blowup screen in the middle of a huge mall?

Ohio arcade, arcade, videogames
Arcade Legacy de-emphasize being the world’s best at one game and emphasizes having a ton of fun playing videogames

After we retired  Season’s Beatings, I took some time away from gaming to learn about the professional special-events world in Cleveland. I then started GDL Entertainment, Ltd. (“Games Done Legit”) with the goal of running gaming entertainment as a full-time career — not just weekly events, but also custom-made contests & lineups for corporate parties, birthdays, bar mitzvahs and school events.

ballroom, videogame event,
Season’s Beatings: Ascension in 2012 was our first event in a grand ballroom. While successful again, we’d started to feel the fighting-game community was at a stagnation point

And our idea that gaming really does bring everyone together has been validated so far! Our first GDL bar mitzvah was a huge smash, we’ve given students tournaments at multiple school functions, and our weekly gaming nights have been doing strong since spring 2014.

We’ve got more of both coming, too, and we’ve even been able to show corporate teams how using videogaming is the most interactive way to entertain and learn.

I knew that above all else, the social benefits of gaming are what would make or break this venture, and we felt that now’s the time to bring this spirit to tournaments and expos.

And what I learned from being apart of both Season’s Beatings (hosting the world’s best competition) and Console Combat (gaming as a community, like having our own secret club) brings us to what I hope is a new kind of videogaming event.

Cleveland videogames, videogame party,
The Lakeland Videogame Expo, Sept. 27, in Cleveland will be a merging of different videogame-event philosophies & activities. We aim to please!

Part 2 will be how GDL Entertainment truly aims to live up to the name “Games Done Legit”.

What would you do to make videogame events more fun? More interactive? More inclusive?

We’d love to know the most exciting videogame tournanament or videogame party you’ve attended, as well!

Connect with us on Facebook/Instagram/Twitter (@GamesDoneLegit), we want your thoughts to make our new destination events the best they can be to earn your time, your dollars, and your trust. #UnitedWePlay

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