By: Sara-Jane Ong

The Evolution of Street Fighter

When we were younger, we would tug at our mother’s hand whenever we walked past an arcade, and our eyes would widen at the sight of arcade machines. The bellowing “horrible noise”, as described by our parents was a signal to us – a signal for us to stare pleadingly at our mothers and beg them to give what spare change they had in their purses, just to enjoy a few rounds of the renowned arcade fight game, playstat.

The game that used tokens in the arcades has evolved, shifting to consoles such as the Xbox and PlayStation (PS) in the recent years.

“Arcades are not doing so well right now, so people have migrated to consoles because the [startup] cost is lower,” explains Zhi Liang Chew, a host in Cross Counter Asia, a YouTube channel that posts episodes of SF.

As arcades are becoming obsolete due to the rise of smartphones, SF still lives on strong at Local Area Networks (LAN) shops. Many SF enthusiasts find playing at LAN shops easier on the wallet. In a poll done by HYPE, 60 per cent of 100 arcade-goers spend more than $5 an hour in an arcade, and merely $3 an hour in a LAN shop.


The Rise of Tournaments

As SF makes a gradual switch from arcades to LAN shops and consoles, tournaments such as Evolution Championships (EVO) and Community Effort Orlando (CEO) have sprouted up all over the world, attracting people to come prove their worth in SF. And they’re getting more popular amongst players, with a sharp rise from 1000 participants in 2009 to 5008 in 2012.

“People like to feel the palpitation [and] the adrenaline rush, and that’s why tournaments are hosted,” Zhi says, with a laugh, “When there is no money or stake on the line, you just play for fun, but when you add the competitive edge into SF, people start getting hyped up for it.”

Singapore isn’t lagging in the gaming scene. Having hosted the South East Asian (SEA) Majors from June 21 to 23, a preliminary tournament for EVO, the country saw local player Xian beating 100 over players from Taiwan, Australia, and Japan, successfully breaking into CEO, which is the competition leading to EVO.

“I’ve been playing it since [I was] young, it’s more like a hobby to me. A hobby that allows me to travel the world,” says Xian, who does not see himself as a professional despite being known as one of the top 10 SF players in the world.


Singapore’s Fight Game Community

Through fan’s love and support for SF by pitting themselves against each other in arcades, LAN shops and tournaments, a community of players has slowly grown in the world, with Singapore having its very own group of SF players called the Fight Game Community (FGC).

Using online platforms, FCG arranges SF gaming sessions, posts tournament results, and organises gatherings for members to support their fellow players in tournaments.

“You go to the arcade [or LAN shops], play games with people, get to know them, then go for a meal and start developing friendships. It’s not just about the game alone anymore, it’s about the relationships formed through the game,” says Zhi, who has been a member of the FGC since 2011.


Exposing Singapore Through Street Fighter

Despite popular belief that video games are detrimental to an individual’s social life can never be cemented, it’s indisputable that these video games are in fact widening Singapore’s very own “social web” through the gaming tournaments.

“There was once in Canada when Xian won a tournament, and we were so happy that we started waving the Singapore flag around,” says Zhi, chuckling, “That was seen [by] 20, 000 people, whether live or through streams.”

Inevitably, the burden of carrying the country’s image now falls on these players’ shoulders; they’re now the representatives of Singapore.

“Now that there are more streams, there are more people watching us, and I guess we have to learn to deal with this newfound publicity,” Zhi says.

“If we’re going to adopt the old arcade mentality of bashing on buttons, swearing, and cursing on each other’s mothers when we lose, it’s not going to look good on us.”