#37: Evo moments

Ha! I decided to write about Evo today before making the #37 connection. Serendipity!

Did you know it was Evo, the World Cup/Super Bowl/Olympics/etc of fighting games, this past weekend? I did not, which is crazy. Evo has been a highlight of my summer for the last decade or more, an unmissable annual celebration of one of my favourite genres — certainly the one I most enjoy watching played competitively, and the one to which I owe my career.

Sure, it was my training in news reporting, and obviously my innate talent, charisma and pleasant natural musk, that got me through the door at Edge. But back then the mag had a fighting-game problem: there was the perception that Edge didn’t really understand what made the genre tick. Enter me, new to this game journalism lark at the ripe old age of 32, but with decades of fighting-game experience under my belt and, at the time, a deep obsession with Super Street Fighter IV. Looking back through my portfolio, the vast majority of my early appearances in Edge were connected to fighting games. I took every opportunity that came my way.

A lot of game journalists owe their career to this sort of thing. They get their break by virtue of a niche interest — driving games, JRPGs, 4X strategy titles or whatever — that helps a publication fill a hole. Once you’ve proved your worth, you’re trusted with a wider mix of games: you get in the door as a specialist, but leave a generalist. Earlier this year, talking to a potential client about my consultancy work, I was asked about my areas of expertise. My answer was everything. And fighting games.

I’m not as into them as I was, sure. I was only ever good, not great, at Street Fighter (though I did win a fun E3 press tournament once). Age hasn’t helped, and the small-hours clack of an arcade stick is somewhat incompatible with having two small kids. Besides, I never really got into Street Fighter V, a game Capcom made a frightful mess of at launch, and that I’d long since lost interest in by the time the developers finally got around to fixing.

But I will watch it, you bet. There is nothing quite like a fighting-game tournament: the hungry roar of the crowd when someone does something spectacular, the dramatic clutch comebacks, the thrill of seeing the best in the world, deep in the tournament bracket, battling for the biggest prize of all. It is magic, pure and simple.

Fighting games should be the world’s most popular esport. They are immediately readable to even a novice: two huge characters hitting each other beneath two big health bars and a timer. It is a boxing match with a helpful UI. Sure, there are nuances, but there are in every sport — you do not need to know what a double pivot is to watch football, or name all the fielding positions to enjoy cricket — and in any case, there’s nothing in any fighting game to match the likes of Dota 2 or League Of Legends for complexity. I remember a few years back when Valve, recognising the impenetrability of Dota 2, ran a separate stream aimed at beginners at its premier tournament, The International. I gave it half an hour, and was so lost I had to check I was watching the right stream. I wasn’t even convinced it was in English.

So, yes, there’s nothing like a fighting-game tournament. Unfortunately, last weekend’s Evo was nothing like one either. Held entirely online, robbed of its atmosphere through the lack of a crowd and starved of drama and momentum by the lengthy delay between games, it was a dreary little whisper of a thing. In years past I’ve devoured the entire Street Fighter tournament, from pools on the Friday right through to Grand Finals on Sunday; I have booked the Monday off work and stayed up all night to catch every game’s final stages live (with maybe a li’l nap during Smash Bros). This year I searched out SFV Grand Finals — one of them, anyway; it seems there were multiple tournaments, broken out by continent in an attempt to mitigate the effects of latency — on YouTube. I was bored stiff, and lasted about ten minutes. We have lost lots of precious things to this pandemic, of course. This one stings as much as any of them. If it’s not back next year, I shall simply scream.


  • Deposed Twitch superstar and eternal controversy magnet Dr Disrespect, known to his mum as Guy Beam, is moving back into game development (before he adopted his ‘80s action-flick persona he was a Call Of Duty level designer). Working with BoomTV, he is seeking a studio head for the new venture, which plans to partner with “mega influencers” and “work closely with them to launch their dream gaming title”. I had no idea game development was so simple.
  • PUBG maker Krafton has been talking up its IPO for some time, and finally listed on the Korean stock exchange yesterday. Shares ended the first day down 10% — the worst first day of trading Korea has seen since 2004. Loser loser, etc.
  • The Amiga 500 is one of my few gaming black spots: I never owned one, or knew anyone who did. Perhaps you are different, in which case the newly announced A500 Mini may set you all of a flutter. Enjoy.
  • My dear friend, the former Edge columnist and current Hit Points reader Alex Hutchinson, has announced his new studio, Raccoon Logic. Hurrah!
  • I was surprised to read of the existence of a company called Edge Gaming, an esports outfit that has just raised $2 million in seed funding. There was a time when attempting to use the Edge name invited the attentions of a certain hapless trademark troll. But those marks were cancelled years ago, and perhaps it’s just as well: this new firm’s founders are former Israeli special forces.
  • Sony has cornered the anime-streaming market with the billion-dollar acquisition of Crunchyroll, whose 120 million users will soon be members of a new service unifying it with the already Sony-owned Funimation. Eurogamer claims Sony plans to offer it as part of a pricier PlayStation Plus package.
  • Last night’s ID@Xbox showcase brought news of some 30 indie games headed to Xbox. The Twitch stream is two hours long (gah); mercifully, the individual trailers are in this YouTube playlist. Nintendo also has an indie broadcast coming today, as the platform holders remind us of their existence while keeping their powder dry for not-Gamescom in a couple of weeks.

That’s it for today; I will now spend the rest of the day watching classic Street Fighter tournaments. If you’re curious and have a couple of hours to spare, my eternal favourite is the Ultra SFIV Top 8 from Evo 2015: with SFV launching the following year, it was the game’s last appearance on the Evo main stage, and as such the standard of play is frighteningly high. As always, if you’ve enjoyed today’s Hit Points, please give it a share — and perhaps consider a paid subscription, if only out of thanks for the fact that I keep my begging until the end, in seeming contradiction of Substack best practice. None of us wants to see this stuff in the third paragraph, do we. Catch you on Friday.