Shortly after his big win at the SBO quals, Live On 3 took a few minutes to talk with Combofiend about the event. At one point, DJ Wheat referred to him as a pro fighting gamer, a description that Peter took issue with, clarifying that he is not paid to play. Street Fighter is his hobby, his passion, but it is not how he makes a living.
To hear some people talk, fighting games should look to more popular competitive endeavors for direction. First-person shooters tend to be a prime example, perhaps due to the shared “e-sport” designation. Counter-Strike, Quake and Halo tournaments are often large-scale events, complete with live coverage, professional players and corporate sponsors. The latter are particularly important as large monetary incentives ensure that the stakes are high and the tension is real; this forces more cut-throat competition and ostensibly better performances. Putting people’s livelihoods on the line is a surefire way to create hype.
Interest in fighters has dropped off severely since their heyday in the early to mid 90s and it is a safe bet that most fans would like to see some of that popularity recaptured. However, I have to question whether big money is really the best way to go about increasing attention. The only reason the genre survives to this day is love of the game; money matches and cash prizes are a large part of the scene, but they are not la raison d’être. Not to say that is the case with FPSes, but I feel as though the fighting game scene, though small, does a great job of sustaining itself on the dedication of the community. Evo is not a monetized event, it exists and thrives solely because people like Seth Killian, Joey Cuellar and the Cannon brothers work to create a place for enthusiasts can come together and geek out.
It would be a real shame to lose that sense of community by introducing threats to players’ living wages. There is enough pressure to represent yourself and your character as it is, why add the stress of fulfilling an endorsement? Money introduces a greater incentive to hide information and strategies, stifling growth of the general knowledge base and further scaring off new players. Friendly rivalries would turn bitter. Dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria.
I understand the draw of expanding the genre to the point where professionals can exist; hell, at times it sounds like a dream job. Keeping the games we love healthy obviously requires funding on top of all the commitment. I just hope that this current fighter resurgence and push to make them more mainstream does not sacrifice some of the things that make the scene so great.