Since the seemingly meteoric rise of eSports, the gaming world as a whole has changed. From the way games are designed to the spectacle itself of video games with these huge stadiums, prime time television presence, gaming has become so much bigger than I could have imagined 10 or 15 years ago. While games like League of Legends or Fortnite see cash pots in the hundreds of thousands to millions, the fighting game side of eSports seems smaller by comparison. However, seeing these events and sometimes even being there makes you realize just how immense these events are compared to some hotel conference room.
In these tournaments, we usually watch for our favorite players or our favorite games. But today, I want to talk about the aspect of these tournaments that really do matter to keep the hype and do their part to keep up tournament presence in the majors and even their locals: the commentators and influencers. We always seem to celebrate the players, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Support your favorite players. I just want to give the ones who either don’t play as much or commentate some as well. Those guys have a bigger impact on the game than you’d think.
The most famous example I think we can all agree on is IFC|Yipes. The fighting game community straight up wouldn’t be the same without him. From some of the hypest commentating in the business to organizing his own tournaments to most recently his podcast, Yipes has brought the hype to a myriad of games. Even when he has to be “esports friendly” it almost feels like nothing is lost. Almost. In any case, when Yipes isn’t commentating, sometimes people won’t watch or wonder where he is. That’s the kind of power commentators have now. I hadn’t even heard of Yipes until I heard him going OFF during a Marvel vs Capcom 3 tournament.
Outside of tournaments, you can often see the influencers of the FGC always reminding you to come out and be a part of the experience. Logan-Sama is always on Twitter reminding people to come out to every event. Besides good attendance, what a tournaments lives and dies on, he genuinely wants to grow the scene and get people to experience the joy he feels being there in the thick of it. Who knows how many people do? I’m sure these guys aren’t followed by JUST fighting game competitors. Plenty of casual people have probably been convinced and inspired to come out just to see what the hell Logan is going on about.
When they aren’t urging us to go out and grow the scene, a lot of them can be seen teaching or entertaining. Many pro players have their own streams and podcasts, Smug‘s being among my favorites but also Floe‘s and Xian‘s. Sometimes it’s them just playing and chatting with the stream, other times you’re being taught their processes and how they play/train. While not everyone is out to be Evo-ready, those who like fighting games generally like being good at them. As someone who play’s G, Smug has taught me a LOT that has really improved my game. It also helps that he’s hilarious.
If these guys have done nothing else, I can certainly say that they’ve given me the perfect reference to anyone looking to get into fighting games. While fighting games look easy to us to play, to people who haven’t grown up with them they can look daunting. When you start throwing terms like cancels, perfect block, parry, frame data, and so on at them, it can be overwhelming. Especially since, at the core of it, fighting games are all about quick decision making. Sometimes we don’t appreciate how much thought can go into a single move we make and sometimes we (the casual fighting game players) can’t always put into words the process. But they can. They are teachers because they have an understanding of these games not everyone has. Most of them are/were pros for a reason, after all.
In case I haven’t said it, support your commentators as much as you support your players. And it doesn’t have to just be the likes of James Chen or Yipes. There are many entertaining personalities out there. Hellpockets, Vicious, F-Word, Chris Matrix, Zhi, and more I can mention. And don’t just watch them in tournaments. Check out their side stuff. The podcasts and streams they do are amazing work that can turn you from bum to pro. There are people like King Jae or True Underdawg out here who’ve given me an understanding of games I would have NEVER gotten out of just sitting in training mode. Smaller channels and lesser known players matter too. If you have any favorites, drop them down below because I’m always looking for FGC players to follow that aren’t always Top 8 contenders because they have just as much to offer and are often entertaining.
Support commentators/influencers and go to your locals.