On Twitter the other day, Ultradavid said of me, “Jared isn’t even shy about having an agenda and wanting to stir things up.” That’s actually very astute as I’ve said all along throughout the great (?) fighting games as eSports debate that the only thing I’ve wanted was to have this debate out in public, in the open. All I wanted was to have key figureheads say their piece and to have the community engage with them. We’ve heard from just about everyone this year from the top players, major broadcasters and key community figures, along with eSports organizers, casters and journalists. At this point I think we’ve taken it as far as it can go and a lot of folks are starting to feel pretty tuckered out on the whole subject.
The only problem is that me simply wanting a debate is something of a half-truth. In kicking the hornets nest, I began to notice a trend amongst the responses from the fighting game community that didn’t sit too well with me.
That trend is negativity and inaction. In Tom Cannon’s article where he preaches the evils of eSports, the tone is hostile and in the end there are no solutions offered. How will we grow the scene, increase prize pools and ensure growth? I don’t know, but fuck those other guys. With over 10,000 words to his credit, Ultradavid, while striking a more positive tone for sure, doesn’t offer any solutions himself other than to stay the course. We’re going to be big and we’re going to go pro eventually, but we’re not really going to do anything different to get there. This entire debate started with the notion that we should already be as big, if not bigger than other games and that we need to figure out why that is and fix it.
Somewhere in the middle of this debate, StarCraft personality and professional player, EG iNcontroL wrote an article for TeamLiquid called “A Decent Proposal” that I encourage everyone to read. In this admittedly pie-in-the-sky article, iNcontroL preaches the power of social media, fan support and even what you can do to help encourage more and greater sponsorships in the future. It wasn’t a blueprint by any means, but even in its grandiose vision of the future of eSports, I’d consider it more positive and useful than anything produced from the other end. I know not to expect a business plan, or even a list of actionable items.
What I’m looking for is positivity.
There’s been hostility from both sides (What’s up, vVv Gaming?), but it’s not just that. The fighting game community seemingly thrives on negativity and it’s simply not a healthy way to operate. Everyone is so concerned with what they are not, what they will not and what they can not do, but not many seem willing to think of what they can and what is possible. “Fuck eSports” is not the path to growth. Even punk rock died out eventually with that attitude. The fighting game community is already known to have a certain edge to it, even seen as a bit hostile.. I don’t see the point in encouraging that perception.
I understand the fear and the outrage and yet, at the same time I don’t. Yes, change is scary and the past is a bit checkered. That part, I understand. What I don’t understand is this fear that, should the day come when Capcom inks a deal with a pro league, everything you know and hold dear will suddenly vanish. The cheers will be silenced, tournaments will cease to exist and Adam Sessler will commentate every match ever. That won’t happen because you won’t let that happen and it is your responsibility, as a community, to ensure it doesn’t. These are smart, nimble companies. Both IGN Pro League and Major League Gaming have a long history of involving and listening to communities, making sure top talent rises from players to production and catering to the audience. You are the Street Fighter audience. Without you, they will fail.
There’s this profound lack of confidence in the fighting game community that says eSports will poison the well and we’re helpless to prevent it. There’s this general notion that the eSports community is not ready for the fighting game community. Maybe so, but instead of accepting that and cowering away, that should be your badge of pride. Like a Raiders fan going to a 49ers game across the bay — it is your responsibility, as a fan, to bring the hype and show them what you’re made of. Cheer louder, cheer harder, support your game with as much ferocity as you can. There is nothing and will be nothing to prevent you from doing that. Why are we afraid of eSports poisoning the well when the opposite is just as true? As someone from the FGC, each and every eSports event I’ve attended has been something of a cultural exchange, introducing them to our quirks and idiosyncrasies and they are hungry for it. Their passion mirrors yours and there’s so much to learn from one another.
This little piece has gone on too long so I’ll just kill it here until 2012. We all agree that without Capcom, this rocket doesn’t leave orbit and we won’t know what happens until much later on. Until then, my advice for the fighting game community is this: stay positive. Stay positive, stay hungry, strive for something greater. Never settle for “good enough” and push yourselves creatively. I’m doing everything I can to encourage its growth through sponsoring events with TwitchTV and promoting the best of what is produced through promotion. It’s up to you guys to actually carry it into 2012 and beyond.