Marvel vs. Capcom 3 & Competitive Fighting Games

With Marvel vs. Capcom 3 on it’s way to all of our eager and sweaty palms, it’s pretty easy to say that this is one of the most hyped up games in recent history. It has the potential for greatness; It also has the potential to rip apart a competitive fighting game community that has flourished in recent years. For those who haven’t familiarized yourself with the series yet, get on your game. Back in 2000, when Marvel vs. Capcom 2 hit, I was at my local Malibu Grand Prix playing a Wolverine/Spider-Man/Captain America combo and pwning my friends with the most basic air-combos-to-supers and actually figuring out how to use the assists from other characters to make Captain America viable. I was so proud of my personal successes, however small, and it turns out the fighting game community at large was sharing in a similar reaction to the game. MvC2 turned out to be a huge title for the fighting game community and we can only hope MvC3 will do the same.

Since the biggest fighting game tournament in the US, Evolution Championship Series (EVO), began in 2003, only two games have been played every year: Street Fighter II: Turbo and Marvel vs. Capcom 2. Ask any random person who has grown up in the 90s about Street Fighter II and they will give you a long drawn out “My old school SF2 Guile was the best!” speech that will leave you reminiscing about your experiences with the game. Ask any random person about their experiences with MvC2, and most of the time they will say that they never played, only saw people playing it at their local arcades. What a travesty. If you did have some experience with the game and were to search YouTube for videos right now, you’d probably say to yourself something like “WTF, Sentinel? Who plays Strider!? Captain Commando, ROFL! My team of Ryu, Sabertooth and Juggernaut will pwn!” Let it be known that people have been fine tuning tier lists and their own personal 3-man teams since the game came out in 2000. People are still crazy about this game. At the most recent major tournament, West Coast Warzone 3, our friends at streamed a marathon first to 15, winner take all, $15,000 money match from two of the best players in the world, Clockw0rk and Neo. The 1:30:17 match (that’s an hour and 30 minutes) has over 85,000 views as of this post. The best fighting game player in the world, Justin Wong, as well as other pros commentate a match that has an entire hotel floor shaking with excitement. This game, which has been played for the last ten years and has developed a huge underground following with tons of hype, is set to go mainstream this year with the release of Marvel vs. Capcom 3.

But will all this hype be good for fighting games?

Think about it. What was the first game that you played competitively? If you had a PC, Quake, Starcraft and Counter-Strike come to mind first. Maybe you had the initial XBOX and you traveled around to Halo LAN parties and tournaments. Or if you’re like me and had a PS2 with the first network adapter, you probably picked up the first shooter with a headset, SOCOM: US Navy Seals. I imagine many people’s first competitive experience is much like mine. Looking back at the game it was not exactly the greatest, but what kept you come back for more was the community. The friendships and rivalries that you created over the years, only to try to reach the FINAL BOSS’, the LiQuid ZeRo’s, the Justin Wong’s or any number of untouchable players you watched. In baseball, the Yankees are hated because they seem to make it to the playoffs every single season. But what would happen if Street Fighter’s Daigo Umehara didn’t make the finals of EVO every year for Street Fighter 4? What if he looked vulnerable for even a single second of that stream?

Now, look back at your game of choice. For most, there was a lull in the level of competition or a community split. When SOCOM 3 came out only half of the community came with it. It killed the franchise and the only chance PlayStation had for competitive gaming at that time.

Will this happen when MvC3 comes out? Will it prove to splinter the community that SF4 has rescued from the “Dark Age of Fighting Games?” This is all speculation, and for someone who has immersed themselves into fighting games for the past year I hope it won’t come true. But I’m a little older now, and a little wiser.

I haven’t competed in a video game since the SOCOM community split in 2006. However, I have decided that I will be a “Christmas Noob” and begin to compete in Marvel. Will I become part of the new influx of competitive gamers that will travel and help the community flourish? I can tell you that I’ll definitely be at EVO. Or, will I help kill the scene that I am beginning to love? Only time will tell, and all I know for sure is:

I can’t wait.