What is the future of the UK Fighting Game scene?
Sun 3rd Mar 2013 - 1:32pm: Fighting
Through out the last year the Fighting Game Community of the United Kingdom has gone through many changes. The fighting game hub of the UK, Neo Empire, has been taken down, leaving a noticeable gap that hasn't yet been filled. However, around the UK smaller communities have grown and can stand by themselves without having to look towards London for support. The days of London being the core of the FGC are over and we are moving forward to a larger, vibrant scene within the UK.
I joined Neo Empire forums back in 2004. I was an inexperienced player who dabbled in Guilty Gear, Marvel Vs Capcom 2 and Capcom Vs SNK 2. Being Welsh and living in Wales I hoped to find like-minded folk to test my might. Unfortunately I didn't find anyone and Wales was left without a scene for a long time.
Without luxuries like X-Box Live/Playstation Network I had to go to London. This was the case for a lot of places with small communities consisting of a handful of players. The spotlight was on London. Tournaments, high level play and ranbats (ranking battles) were all found there and if you wanted to progress, London was the place to be with big events like Super Vs Battle, Ultimate Clash and even earlier, Fighter's Day. It was a struggle to grow as a player in Wales until the impact of Street Fighter 4.
The Street Fighter boom did a lot of good for fighting games around the world. America already had Evolution and other tournaments but the UK lacked that broad scope of competitive play. Three years ago a bunch of players from the South West (South Wales, Bristol and surrounding areas) formed a community called Super Miner Battle Farm (SMBF for short). The Facebook group started with eight people and now has over one hundred members. Other communities started to arise around the country: Electronic Dojo Birmingham, Versus Scotland, Manchester Battle Arena, Triple Threat Southampton, Exeter Cyberbrawl and so on. All of a sudden this explosion of community-run events started to pop up, including my own event, Proving Grounds. Suddenly, London wasn't the only place for fighting games.
Before Christmas of 2012 another Super Vs Battle was hosted. It came out of the blue and was announced very close to the date it was being held. SVB had gained a bad reputation through organisation issues and Neo Empire tried a gutsy move with a sudden tournament. It didn't go well and shortly after Neoempire.com was no more.
Since then a void has been left. Regardless of all the independent scenes, Neo Empire was a place that brought them all together. That's not to say the other scenes have suffered with its disappearance. With Facebook and other social media networks the smaller scenes are becoming stronger and are now hosting recognised events. However, Neo Empire was an easy way for these scenes to communicate.
Since it's departure, others have tried to take its place. Unequalled Media have announced a website, there are rumours of Armshouse's WorstGiefEver creating a European forum and Heart of Gaming revealed that they had seen the new Neo Empire website to re-launch soon. It's going to be hard to find one place to call home.
Losing the website that connected the community together was unfortunate, but the FGC has gone forward and become stronger since. Tournaments have become successful around the UK; Scotland will be host to Hypespotting, a 'Road to Evo 2013' qualifier on March 30th-31st and has created strong connections with Manchester Battle Arena and Proving Grounds by making them qualifying events, offering seeding points and free entry to Hypespotting. Last year Mutliplay's Insomnia Gaming Festival brought Unequalled Media on board to host Fighting Game tournaments.
We also got to experience an amazing Street Fighter 25th Anniversary at i47. Events are being supported by sponsors such as; Alienware, Iiyami, etc. This offers larger prize pools, greater technological support including hardware like monitors, headsets and a stronger sense of professionalism.
High profile players have been making appearances at these events: Dignitas' Zak 'ZakBennett' Bennett, Western Wolves' Ryan Hart, F-Word as well as Razer's Problem X to name a few.
Unfortunately, Gamerbase in both Manchester and London's Trocadero have closed. This is beyond the communities control and were both prime venues for their local events. These set backs won't hold them down though and I'm confident the organisers will find new venues and they will continue to host tournaments and weekly events.
With so much growth and positivity surrounding the players, events and organisers, 2013 is shaping up to be a strong year for the UK FGC. Although London hosts great events and has a strong player base it is no longer a necessity to outside players because welcoming communities and events are spreading all around the UK. Do we need a central hub for the UK FGC? Yes, it would be great but it's not a necessity. We do just fine on our own.
During the next few months I'll be travelling to a lot of events within the UK including i48 and Hypespotting 2. I'll be doing write ups on these events so watch this space!
Below is a list of communities around the UK with links if you wish to get involved. This is a great way to meet new friends and level up your game. Offline practice is the best way to level up and build confidence for tournament play.
Super Miner Battle Farm (Wales, South-West England)
Proving Grounds Tournament Series (South Wales)
South Wales Fightnight
Manchester Battle Arena
Triple Threat Southampton
Electronic Dojo (Birmingham)
South West Warzone (Cornwall)