This past weekend saw the return of REV Major, the Philippines’ biggest fighting game tournament. For many fighting game fans, it makes a welcome return to big, in-person tournaments. For me, however, it was more than that. Rev Major 2022 allowed me to reinvigorate my relationship with the genre and the community—something that had suffered a bit during the pandemic.
I’ve built a significant part of my career on fighting games and the fighting game community. I got my start writing for what was then one of the largest fighting game websites (the now-defunct Shoryuken) and later transitioned into organizing tournaments, including helping run some of the earliest majors in the country such as the Manila Cup and Red Bull Kumite Philippines. Even as other organizations picked up the slack, I was still helping run smaller tournaments and events for the community.
But this all changed when COVID-19 reared its ugly head.
The pandemic forced the fighting game community, primarily focused on offline competition, to adapt to a world where face-to-face meetings were impossible. For me—and most other fighting game players—this meant focusing on the games with good online play and hosting competitions around those. I even started a monthly King of Fighters XV tournament series (King of Fighters Revival sponsored by Variable) when that game came out earlier this year. (Read: Fighting in the time of COVID: how the local fighting game community is facing down the pandemic)
Despite these efforts, the over two years of relying almost solely on the internet for both competition and communication was taking its toll. And it took REV Major 2022 for me to realize this. Luckily, the same event also helped me heal this damage. It reminded me of the reasons why I love the genre and the community, which I’ll detail below.
No one barrier between “pros” and average people
With so many esports events, there’s a clear separation between the players there to compete and everyone else. Not so much at fighting game events like REV Major.
Here, the line between a professional player there to make a living and the average Juan just looking to have a good time is blurred. This is in part due to the open nature of fighting game tournaments, where anyone can join regardless of skill or status as a professional or amateur.
The other reason for this is that the players themselves tend to be averse to this kind of separation. Instead, more professional players are more than happy to interact and play with anyone who asks—something helped by a lack of any physical barrier between players and spectators.
It’s something that’s been a hallmark of fighting game tournaments since the very beginning, making them stand out from other esports competitions. And it’s also a holdover from fighting games’ arcade roots and how most serious play used to take place offline.
“In addition, the near requirement for offline play in most fighting games mandates that new players come into contact with established players in person,” wrote fighting game commentator and esports attorney David “UltraDavid” Graham in a guest article for Shoryuken in 2011.
“Even though some of our best new players used to be training mode monkeys and online warriors, our tournaments and meetups are exclusively offline, so they can’t help but spend time living and breathing the in-person FGC. If you want to get good at fighting games, you have to hang out with other fighting gamers, plain and simple.”
Now, even as online play has become a viable alternative for competition, this open nature that allows players of all skill levels—and even spectators—to come together without any barriers helps events like REV Major stand out.
Multiple games share the spotlight, including smaller ones
With tournaments that are part of a larger international tour for a specific game, it would normal to think that said game would be the central focus of that event. But even though REV Major 2022 is a “Master Event” on the Tekken World Tour, it never once felt that it was a Tekken 7-focused event. For one, Tekken 7 shared the stage with games such as Guilty Gear Strive, the King of Fighters XV, Mortal Kombat 11, DNF Duel and Street Fighter V—the last one even having a special show match between tournament winner Noparut “Talon|Book” Hepamorn and legendary fighting game player Daigo Umehara.
In addition, REV Major 2022 also provided a space for smaller, community-run tournaments for games such as Under Night In-Birth, BlazBlue: Central Fiction, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and more. This space captured some of the scrappy nature of the grassroots tournaments of old. Here, just like in the old days, players were at times having to do double duty, competing while still helping run the tournaments or even do some shoutcasting—the latter of which I was actually asked to do for Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3.
Beyond that, there were also spaces for people to play older games. Here, players of all ages could experience games ranging from classic versions of popular franchises like Street Fighter and Tekken to hidden gems such as the Japan-only Sailor Moon S fighting game for Super Famicom. There was even a setup for rhythm games, which allowed players to play games like Dance Dance Revolution, Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA and ParaParaParadise.
This space, plus a few adjacent spaces, like a nearby Rumble Royale booth where players could play Tekken 7 on oversized keyboards, helped make REV Major 2022 feel less like a tournament or convention and more like one big space for gamers to simply hang out and play games, which brings me to my next point.
Getting together with the community
REV Major 2022 felt less like a tournament or convention and more like one big space for fighting gamers like me to hang out and play. Yes, part of this is due to the reasons I outlined above. That said, a bigger part of this is due to how it brought people who hadn’t seen each other in months or even years together again.
Before the pandemic hit, many players in the community—myself included—got together on an almost weekly basis to play games. As previously stated, the lockdowns due to the pandemic put an end to this, isolating most players from longtime friends. This is on top of many establishments where players used to meet up closing for good during this time.
REV Major 2022 allowed us to finally see each other again. Here, all the pain and struggle from the pandemic didn’t matter. We had survived to finally meet up again and play the games that we loved.
This is on top of the new players at the event. Players who were getting to experience their first proper fighting game tournament and getting introduced to the community for the first time. Seeing these new players gave me, and I’m sure other veterans, renewed hope for the future of the genre.
If anything, it was the renewed sense of hope from seeing old friends and making new ones that did the most to reignite my passion for the genre. It was a light in a dark, COVID-shaped tunnel that indicated that this genre and this community that I loved were going to make it out of this ordeal in better shape.
And this couldn’t come at a better time either. The most recent crop of fighting games released over the pandemic made great strides in being playable online. More importantly, many in-development fighting games look to be experimenting with ways to get more players—including those not traditionally into the genre—engaged with the genre. Street Fighter 6 brings with it a full open-world campaign and an alternate control scheme. Meanwhile, Riot’s currently untitled fighter, codenamed “Project L,” is looking to shatter financial barriers to entry by being the first major free-to-play fighting game—one that leverages the massively popular League of Legends IP. (Read: Riot’s “Project L” is an assist-based League of Legends fighting game similar to Marvel vs. Capcom)
With all this, I can’t help but feel hopeful for the future and look forward to what REV Major will bring when we, to quote the event’s tagline, “do it again” in 2023.
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