How to get a fighting game community to thrive and grow

Every community needs its leaders

Posted by Henry 'Choysauce' Choi, guest writer • December 2, 2017 at 8:04 p.m. PST

"What makes the community thrive?"

This is a question that came to me often while I was very active in the King of Fighter scene when KOF 13 was the main game. I really love the game and the community, so I thought if I could apply concepts from other thriving scenes, the KOF scene could grow just as well.

I didn’t get around to finding an answer at that time but I was always still curious about what makes a community thrive.

So now, I finally went ahead and asked leaders from 3 different communities on their perspective and experience on community building: Sharpie, TO for Xanadu Monthlies & the Skullgirls Tour, Tania Miller and Eugene Lin, TO duo for Super Street Fighter 2: Turbo at Wednesday Night Fights and the ST Revival movement, and finally Stephenson Bamidele, Esports Arena’s FGC project manager.

From speaking with these leaders in the FGC, I’ve discovered 3 key ingredients for having a fighting game scene that thrives. The first of these 3 keys is Leadership & Organization.

Communication

Organizing anything comes with many challenges and the only way to overcome them is through good communication. While there are many things we can accomplish ourselves (as in just one person), we quickly find that we need other people to help with events and projects.

Whether it’s as small as a local gathering to something as huge as EVO we need to communicate with other people to make it happen. It seems trivial and obvious to make communication a point, but it is the foundation for all of the FGC.

The nature of the genre calls for us to, in a way, meet someone and fight them. At the smallest scale, we need to contact another person and ask them to play (unless we just want to fight randoms on ranked).

This scales up to major tournaments and events, which require quite a bit of communication and teamwork to pull off. The community can strategize and plan for the future with input from everyone using tools like forums and social media.

Letting ideas flow and keeping members of the community in the loop is key for working towards goals. This is something that the Skullgirls community has done extremely well.

Sharpie and other leaders understood that their community isn't as expanse as some of the bigger game communities, so they strategized to meet at particular events to make sure their numbers are a bit bigger. This helped to ensure that the game was treated well at the targeted events.

It made it a win/win situation for both tournament organizers and the community since there’s a large group to support the tournament and in turn the TO has good reason to help provide needed resources for the tournament.

Through forums (www.skullheart.com) and other communication tools, the Skullgirls community pooled their input and ideas to pick the tournaments that would best fit their needs. Good communication empowers a community and makes sure that they’re going on the right path and going on it together.

Events For The Community

There are many reasons why events are put on for the Fighting Game Community. It’s a great time for people to meet new and old faces, to test our skills, level up, and share in the joy (and the salt) of fighting games.

Meeting people in person to play tends to be an overall better experience over playing random people online. Events are a great way to give community members a goal to strive toward.

Major events are a grand stage where players can come to display their skills. The incentives of the cash prize, possible sponsorships, and the pride of placing better or winning bring many strong players.

But being a great competitor isn't the only thing to we can aspire to be. Commentators, stream producers, and event coordinators are also striving to improve to make a mark in the community and the world.

Events also create great buzz and inject life into the community. There’s a lot of excitement that comes from anticipating to go to a fun event to see great matches and play with friends.

Many interesting storylines with tournament matches, social topics, and personal stories from attendees are just waiting to be shared. The energy in the air is electric and contagious and is a totally different feeling versus watching from home.

If you are a fighting game fan and haven’t been to a major tournament yet, you’re definitely missing out.

An excellent example of this is the Finale for the ST Spring Series held at Free Play Arcade in Arlington, Texas. Chris Delp and many other organizers are working together to orchestrate this huge tournament for the classic (now 20+ year old) game, Super Street Fighter 2: Turbo.

There will be top competitors from Japan, US, and Canada, along with $5K in prize money. It is also having qualifiers in LA, NYC, and Toronto that will send the top three winners to the finale with travel & hotel accommodated.

Tania Miller and Eugene Lin are doing their part by hosting the LA qualifiers and promoting the event. This tournament has something for everyone who is a fan of ST.

Also check out the Skullgirls Tour, which is a tournament series with online and offline tournaments. Look for any of the "Road to Skullgirls" events for the upcoming offline tournaments and more info on their SkullGirlsTour Twitter page.

Great events are goal posts and celebrations that help bring life to the community to keep it moving forward.

Consistent Local Gatherings

It would be hard to sustain the community with just big events alone. People need a regular place to meet, train, and have some fun.

While big events can be amazing and bring in a lot of new people, it isn't sustainable to constantly have them. The higher price of going to major events and the time invested to create and attend are very taxing -- this is why regular local gatherings are the lifeblood that keeps the heart of the community beating.

People in a community need a place to call their home and they need to know that it will always be there for them. People need to have the confidence that there will be that place for them if they show up.

The mix-up of not knowing if a gathering will happen or not will dissuade people from coming and will end up causing the community to dwindle. If someone shows up with no gathering there, that trust can be broken and it makes them less likely to come back.

The Smash scene has local gatherings galore with a gathering for every day of the week in SoCal. Mega Smash Mondays, Lan Hero Tuesdays, Wednesday Night Fights, Fire & Dice Thursdays, and Falcon Punch Fridays.

Other events like Salty! at Game Realms holds weekly Skullgirls events (every Friday) and WNF at Esports Arena has weekly ST tournaments (every Wednesday).

Consistent local gatherings help to make sure that local players have a home that they can return to.

Leadership

The reason that any group would stay together is to unite on a common goal. Many if not all the sub communities within the FGC have a form of this goal. "Help the community have fun and prosper through our favorite game."

There are people that the community look up to in order to help make decisions on behalf of the community. It is evident that people have names that come to mind when they think of who the leaders are for any given community.

Typically it’s the tournament organizers, commentators, top players, and streamers, but really it's anyone who puts themselves out there to support their own game and community. These people tend to be the biggest advocates for their group and goes above and beyond to help their scene to thrive and grow.

They spend a lot, if not all, of their free time and resources in order to see their scene grow. Leaders are needed to keep the community together and in communication.

If the group behind a given game is fragmented, then communication will likely be broken. There's also going to be an inherent competition among the fragments that drives the community further apart.

Keeping the community unified on how things will be run is key to prevent unnecessary obstacles for growth.

Leaders like Sharpie, Tania Miller, Eugene Lin, and Stephenson Bamidele are necessary to keep the banner raised for their respective communities. (Thanks for all your hard work!)

Conclusion

There are many factors that can come into play when trying to help a community thrive. But being able to organize, communicate, and make decisions as a community are key components that can determine its survival.

Getting these fundamental components down will really help establish a good base for further improvement for your community.

Stay tuned for the next ingredient for a thriving community: PUBLICITY.

Feel free to share in the comments or tweet me at @choysauce85 about how your community leaders have helped organized things for your community.

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