Ok, I’ll open with a disclaimer: I’m not especially clued into the fighting game community. I’m just not. I’m totally fine with it being a thing. Y’know, far away from me where I don’t have to think about it.
However, since picking up Netherrealm’s surprisingly accessible DC fighting game Injustice: Gods Among US last year and recently returning to a Smash Bros game for the first time in years, I have become steadily more accepting of the 2D fighter genre as something that I might be able to get into.
Enter Battle Arena Melbourne (BAM). An eSports competition all about fighting games held annually in my city of residence. So I figured that there was no time like the present to finally immerse myself into the fighting game community and see what it’s all about. As it turns out, it was quite a bit more than I expected.
Now in its 9th year, there are many more participants and spectators at BAM than in previous years. 2017’s event, held at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre May 12-14, saw large crowds attending this action-packed event for fighting game enthusiasts.
Available for competitors to play were genre mainstays, such as various entries from the Super Smash Bros series (complete with Nintendo 64s hooked up to CRT monitors in the centre of the room for fans of the classic original game), games from the Street Fighter series (including Street Fighter V, the series’ most recent instalment), Guilty Gear Xrd and, making its worldwide eSports tournament debut, Tekken 7.
Although the event was open to casual spectators and competitors from Melbourne, BAM9 saw its largest number of professional competitors ever competing for a share of the $20,000 prize pool on offer. Competitors hailing from both Australia and abroad, with international visitors from countries including the USA, Singapore and China made for a full roster across the three days of the event. With over 1000 competitors this year (an increase from last) taking part in the event with even more showing up to enjoy the spectacle and to lend their support for their favourite competitors it made for a full weekend.
The event doesn’t begin and end with games, however: visitors could also participate in the highly competitive cosplay competition for cash prizes, with some incredibly stand-out entries on display as cosplayers showed their dedication to depicting their favourite characters.
There were also some other attractions for casual visitors as well; games of Super Smash Bros were available for spectators to play, and there were even representatives from Vive giving visitors opportunities to try out their Virtual Reality headsets, which, as someone who thinks VR is kind of neat but does not often get opportunities to check it out, I thought was a nice touch.
All in all, I was pleasantly surprised with my first visit to a fighting game tournament. While doubtful I will ever be on even ground with many of the pros in attendance (even with complete in-depth commentary listing fighting move used as part of BAM), this event showed me that you don’t have that level of skill to join in and have fun.
For every group playing professionally and being watched by large crowds, there were several groups of friends just having fun with a round of Smash Bros.
The fighting game community is not as scary and unwelcoming as it seemed at all, and for my part, I am glad to have taken part in this event.