While the fight over the debt ceiling raged on in Washington this weekend, another, far less depressing to watch kind of battle was happening in Las Vegas: An international contest of digital warriors, locked in gladitorial avatar combat.
It was the latest iteration of the Evolution Fighting Series, commonly known as EVO, the largest fighting game championship on Earth. Over the years, EVO has become the de facto showdown for the world’s most skilled players of games like Street Fighter and Marvel Vs Capcom. And if there are any doubts about whether videogames can be competitive sports, one need only observe the absolute calamity that erupts when some of these heavy-hitters throw down.
It’s difficult as an outsider to perceive just how complex these fighting games really are. Beyond the technical skill and execution in each match lies a vast, multi-dimensional mind game that requires both the keen wit of a poker player and the reflexes of a professional boxer. Capcom’s Seth Killian and other electronic battle scholars analyze the lightning-paced matches with color commentary, dissecting the movements and strategies of the players in real time as the event streams live on the web.
Like any sport there are heroes, villains and rivalries. One such example this year, a Korean player named Poongko floored everyone during a match in the Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition semi-finals by utterly dominating repeat champion and crowd favorite Daigo “The Beast” Umehara. Daigo, who rarely misses making the top 3, was bumped to the losers’ bracket in what could be seen as the greatest surprise (or biggest upset) of the entire tournament:
Also of note, this guy (and several others) got taken out by an 8-year-old:
And in the final showdown of the Marvel Vs Capcom 3 tournament, an absolutely ridiculous, against-all-odds comeback by PR Balrog. Balrog eventually lost to newly-crowned MvC3 champion Viscant. But the bracket-resetting turnaround seen here as he holds ground against the relentless assaults of one of the game’s most deadly characters, with seconds left on the clock, is nothing short of electrifying:
If the results of Washington’s political poo-flinging don’t excite you (and they probably won’t, unless you’re a self-destructive Republican or a millionaire), nothing beats watching some of these videogame grudge matches. There should be plenty more videos of the tournaments arriving on community sites Shoryuken.com and CapcomUnity in due time.