This was my first year at BAM (Battle Arena Melbourne), a fighting game event run by Couch Warriors, which a few people from SEE happen to be a member of. I ended up volunteering, as I wanted to help out. MrFodder really loves fighting games, so I thought it’d be nice to help grow the scene. I think I had learned enough from playing a few games of Smash Bros. Melee with MrFodder to pass myself as a fighting game fan. Nobody discovered that I was a Dota 2 player in disguise at least.
You could enter as a competitor, which allowed you to enter tournaments, and play in the casual play area against randoms (though you are required to bring your own controller(s)), or a spectator, which meant you could wander around any of the areas, but only to watch.
There was a free section for Tekken 7, which was amazingly popular. I don’t think I’ve played Tekken since the PS1 days, but I’m glad the game is still going strong. What you can’t see from the photo is that the section extended quite a while further, and there were rows of monitors and consoles set up for people to play with. They also had a new-challengers tournament, which I think was free, although you had to pre-register.
To start with, I was quite astonished by how big the fighting game scene actually is. MrFodder goes to some of the smaller CW events sometimes, and he said there are usually around 30 or so people there. I think this event was going to have about a thousand.
By far the coolest thing I saw there was the VR fighting game display.
(Sorry for the blurry photo, they were moving around so much it was really hard to get a non-blurry one.)
I’ve actually talked about this with other people before – which games are suited to be turned into a VR game. As cool as I think it would be to play Dota 2 in VR, I feel like with an average game time of 40-60 minutes, your arms would be really tired from waving around casting spells. And if your attack speed was limited by how fast you could move in real life, that would be incredibly unbalanced for certain heroes. But I digress. I’m not entirely sure how it worked, and I didn’t get a chance to try it out for myself, but other than accidentally punching your opponent in the face, or jumping up and falling on your ass, I think fighting games in VR is a great idea.
I got to see the famous Daigo (guy in the purple Twitch hoodie), though I didn’t get the chance to compare my thumbs with him. MrFodder thinks that I have an advantage in fighting games because of my “Asian thumbs” that can bend really far back. I don’t know about an advantage in fighting games, but I definitely have an advantage in thumb wars.
Given Melee is MrFodder’s game of choice, I had to check out the area, and I had to look no further than the area filled with CRTs. Gourmet Race could be heard playing over the speakers, and it was pretty amazing to watch some of the players. Their hands move with sudden, panicked-looking movements, but if you look at their face, they are completely calm, like the whole thing is just muscle memory for them.
The whole event is being streamed on Twitch, broken down by games:
They looked like they had a pretty professional set-up:
I was really impressed.
I’ve heard some not-so-great things about the attitude of some people in the fighting game scene, but I didn’t notice any of that. When I told people that I liked to play Zelda in Melee, nobody made fun of me, or put me down. Most of them were actually really encouraging. The general vibe of the attendees was excitement at being surrounded by people who liked the same thing that they did. Whenever I asked someone about which game they played, their face would always light up, and they’d get so excited talking about it. I feel bad, because I honestly had no clue what most of them were talking about, but I don’t think they even noticed.
I didn’t realise it was a BYO controller thing, and I’m not even sure if volunteers were allowed to play, so I didn’t end up playing anything. Probably for the best, because it’d just be wasting someone else’s time, kinda like Serena Williams playing tennis against a toddler. But there was a section in the middle for casual friendly games between attendees.
There were a few vendor stands, and some stalls with artists who were selling their drawings. I didn’t really check those out.
I’m glad that I went, it was pretty cool to see some of the behind-the-scenes stuff of what goes on in running an event like this when it’s not done by a huge organisation like PAX. Plus, I think it’d be great for the e-sports scene to grow in general, even if it’s not Dota 2.