I like not doing posts that are a bit TOO personal. Usually they just tend to bore people. Also, it's a public blog, so me putting things on here about myself or others close to me may very well come back to bite me square in the bum. But today I'm writing something a little personal. Today I'm telling you something that's a little nerdy (alright, really nerdy) but still important to me. Today, I quit fighters.
That might be a little sudden, so let's take a step back to 15 years ago where things began: the Aladdin's Castle in Kennedy Mall. Back then there was a machine with a new 3D fighter. Yes, I'd played fighters before, but I'd always sucked at them. For some odd reason, this new one, Tekken 2, drew me in. Not only me, but tons of other players. Maybe it was the gigantic cabinet. Maybe it was the competition. Regardless, there was usually a crowd of people both watching and playing, and this appealed to me. Putting a token in didn't mean playing the boring, cheap computer anymore. It meant playing someone else. And that someone else was usually hungry for a win just as much as I was. I started learning combos, watching how others played, things I'd never done before. I'd even met some pretty good friends. Tekken 2, with those crappy sticks and small town competition, was the birthplace of the competitive gamer I am today.
Over time, new games came out. In 1999, Tekken Tag hit the arcades and the crowds kept coming. I was probably the best in town at the time and could stay on the machine for a long time without much to worry about. Some friends of mine would occasionally knock me off the sticks but, when the day was over, I'd be the one with a higher win count and more decisive victories. In September of that year Namco held a nationwide Tekken Tag competition. Local arcades would send their winners to regionals and eventually nationals. I won the local and, with two others (Navin and Alex aka RagingKeela), went to the regionals at the Gameworks in Schaumburg, IL. We went in with our heads held high, wondering if people would even be able to compete with us. Well, they didn't. They just beat the tar out of us. They did stuff we didn't know existed. They used characters we didn't consider to be playable (Ogres, how wrong were WE). Those two went out without a win and I lucked out a win my first round before getting eliminated. In short, we were nothing.
When we got back, we started studying. Learning juggles, strategies, other characters. We may have left regionals defeated, but we came back home determined. Determination only gets you so far, though, and doesn't plan for certain things. Like our local arcade closing down a year later. For most people it was just the loss of something to do, but for a dozen or so of us it was the death of a community. If I remember right, I don't think I played another fighter seriously until Soul Calibur II came out in the arcades, and I had to travel 90 miles to play it. Through some odd chance, I met back up with now good friend Alex through some buddies in the Cedar Rapids area and bam, I was back. Studying, practicing, weekly play sessions, I was hitting things harder than I ever had two years prior in the now ghost of an arcade.
I never stopped taking it further, either. We eventually got a decent scene in this small town again. I held tourneys, got people together for weekly gaming nights at my place, and a few of us would even travel to other local gatherings away from our city or larger tournaments across the nation. My taste in games turned from Tekken to 3rd Strike and Capcom vs SNK 2, but the hunger was the same. I needed that competition. Whatever was going on in my life, wherever I was, whoever I was around, all I wanted to do was compete.
That hunger hasn't changed. Life doesn't care though.
A couple years ago, I lost my job and didn't find permanent work until a year later. Even then, it put a nice little wound in not only my finances but also my will, self-esteem, and relationship. The tournaments I ran came to an end. The amount I'd travel dove from once or twice a month on average to once or twice a year if lucky. The fighting game scene in town dwindled to less than half a dozen, due to people moving or just losing interest. And, over the last couple weeks, I've realized that I just don't have the time to stay competitive.
And right there was the last sign.
For me, being competitive was the main draw. Finding the flaw in myself I'd need to correct or the weakness in others I could pick apart. Seeing myself get better and push others to do the same. Sure, having the friends I know only because of fighters has been awesome, but it's not what pushed me in the first place and it's not the motivation that's kept me in the game for nearly 15 years now. Without that ability to put time, money and energy into practicing and travelling, I lose the very reason I started playing. I lose that fighting spirit. I lose that cocky little bastard putting his token up on the Tekken 2 machine, announcing to the guy twice his age and height, "I got next," as I can't even make it to the arcade now to do that.
And so, I quit playing fighters competitively. Will I ever start again? Once a day comes when I have the time and money to invest in making a comeback without feeling like I'm putting the wrong things on the front burner, then probably. I'll still hang out with friends that play and still mash buttons for an hour or two when they invite me over. But for now I need to work, to take care of myself and others, and to write. Until I get everything under control with that...here's the towel.