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Should the fighting game community shift to primarily online competition in the near future?

Is it still a pipe dream or one that we really need?

Posted by Dakota 'DarkHorse' Hills • October 11, 2021 at 8:08 p.m. PDT • Comments: 52

The global coronavirus pandemic changed the way we play fighting games and interact with the community for well over a year by pushing everything online and decimating some local scenes.

With offline events attempting to make their big comebacks now, there is debate as to whether the FGC should be looking to move to primarily online formats.

These current discussions appear to have really taken off from RushdownV3's recent post where he shared his belief that offline locals and regionals aren't necessary if a game's netcode is up for the task.

"I don't think [people] are ready for the conversation, but if the [game's] netcode is good (like strive quality), I think PC online events should just be the standard," wrote RushdownV3. "There's no need for offline locals/regionals when the online experience is so similar or in some cases better."

This of course sparked a myriad of responses from other players, some in agreement and many on the other side, but does he have a point?

Let's delve a little deeper into the current and upcoming landscape of fighting games to get a better picture of what we'd be gaining and losing by going ahead with such a big move.

Since a lot of you likely have the immediate reaction of wanting the scene to return to what it was pre-pandemic, we're going to begin with the positives of an online FGC.

The benefits of an online FGC

Flexibility and comfort

As is probably pretty clear already, the biggest benefit to participating in online tournaments and meetups is the ability to do it all from the comfort of your own home.

There's no need to spend hundreds of dollars if not more in travel expenses or take away large chunks of personal time to toss money into a pool they aren't likely to win.

Many players will say they enjoy these aspects of the FGC or what they lead to, but even more can't make this a feasible reality.

A massive amount of players around the world exist who don't live in areas with active fighting game scenes, and trying to cultivate one right now is no simple task.

Tournaments can be run at any time and any day of the week from anywhere without the need for finding venues or needing to leave before your local hobby store closes for the night.

Since RushdownV3's initial post was made in response to some players complaining about competing on PlayStation 4s again in Street Fighter 5 after playing on PC all this time, it exemplifies another positive of online.

You can always play on the setup which you're most comfortable with — your own.

There's no need to worry about a bad monitor, laggy console or poorly configured PC because you'll know exactly what you're getting out of your personal hardware.

The games will always look and feel how you want or at least how you're used to, so there's no stress of needing to adjust to whatever random setup you happen to sit down at.

Online communities

Places like Discord have exploded in popularity over the past few years, and there's a home to be found within for just about anybody.

Pretty much every region, every game and every character has a server dedicated to wide and specific needs of players who enjoy fighting games and want to expand their horizons.

It's arguably never been easier to share tech and advice or meet new people than it is right now, and online communities can be a great way to grow as a player and as a community.

There's even wider applications through places like Dustloop and even Twitter for people to share their findings or helpful information even if they're thousands of miles apart and don't even speak the same language.

Sometimes you just need to be open enough to put yourself out there and see what happens.

The negatives of removing in-person events

The C in FGC

While we just went on writing about the positive aspects of Discord and online communities, many if not most players who've experienced in-person locals, regionals or majors are likely going to say that it's just not the same.

The atmosphere of each level of competition is its own unique beast, offering players different lessons in the game and for life in general.

Sure you can meet hundreds of people at one time on Discord, but getting to meet up with a dozen or so guys at your local game store can legitimately change your life and mindset.

If you stick around, you'll get to know people on a deeper level and learn who they are outside the game more than you likely get from text and voice chat.

You can't really go out and grab a burger after running a first-to-15 with members of your Discord.

Personally, I feel as though I've learned more from attending a handful of locals than all of my time playing online because you'll almost always find someone who's happy to sit down and teach you match ups or entirely new games.

Without offline, you don't really get local legends, rivalries or witness players level up to take on bigger events to try and make a name for themselves.

On a larger scale, in-person events will often times take you to places you've never been before and meet people from states, regions or countries you've never traveled to before either.

They push you out of your comfort zone and force you to adapt.

Even as just a spectator, the energy of majors is just something else.

Watching something like Evo Online can't really compare to the crowds of hundreds or thousands of fans who love fighting games cheer for players, come up with chants and react when something crazy happens on screen.

There's just something of an electricity that just isn't there right now with online.

Technical limitations

In a perfect world, online fighting games would probably be the way to go for most players, but we don't live in such a place.

Outside of like Killer Instinct and Skullgirls, there really aren't any modern, popular titles that offer a play or tournament experience that rivals offline.

Even with Guilty Gear Strive's excellent netcode, it still suffers from lobby and connection issues that can make trying to fight against specific people a real pain — especially if it needs to be spectated and streamed too.

We have yet to see what a fully next generation fighting game looks like, but it's hard to imagine they'll be leaps and bounds better than what's available right now.

Sure, there's arguments that the PS4 and Xbox One don't really cut it for competitive play anymore, but there's new consoles out now that we haven't seen what they're really capable of in the genre.

Players and developers are also still grappling with the disparity and quality of internet access found in places like the United States, South America and parts of Europe that make it difficult to achieve consistently good online experience.

With the hundreds and thousands of players we're seeing traveling to majors right now, the community is hungry to take back what we lost, and the smiles on people's faces there make it seem they won't want to give that up again any time soon.

If issues can be ironed out, I can see a future in the next 10 years or so where online is the dominant form of competition thanks to simple ease of access.

That being said, however, meeting up with and mixing the crap out of other players is still in the DNA of the FGC.

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