Image credit Jkoolpe
I recently competed in a Street Fighter X Tekken tournament sponsored by my local video game retailer. This was the first time I’d ever participated in any sort of officially organized fighting game competition rather than just gathering at a friend’s house. What I took out of it, besides the fact that I need more practice at SFXT, was a reminder that the face-to-face social gaming experience is still superior to any online interactions available today.
Even with the excellent social tools that Xbox Live, Steam, and PSN (kind of) deliver to their user base there is still no re-creating the feeling you get from competing against other people in person. There is a special satisfaction that comes from victory when you’re standing next to your opponent instead of being in an Internet lobby, and failure has far more impact when a group of people is crowded around you intently judging your performance. On that note, there seems to be a more positive tone and far less trash talk when no one can hide behind the anonymity of the Internet.
Another aspect of the tournament that struck me was the amount of strategy and tips that were being passed around between players. Since SFxT had just been released, the community is still discovering all the game’s minutiae. I learned more about what I was doing right (or wrong) in about twenty minutes of total play at that tournament than I did in days of online matches over PSN. There was so much energy watching the fights play out, and seeing the crowd reactions when they witnessed something they hadn’t seen before. It was nice to be reminded that kind of wonderment still exists in an age where you can now get every nearly every detail about a game from YouTube, forums, or wikis a week after it releases.
It seems that with every passing year, the hobby advances towards “connecting” gamers online, but the truth is that connectivity over the Internet puts physical distance between people although we’re playing together. To that end, I’m glad to see events like Omegathon that happened recently at PAX East, and other organized competitions still incorporating the element of putting gamers into the same physical space. There’s a very slim chance I’ll ever be attending weekly LAN parties with my friends to play Diablo 3 like we did when Diablo 2 was released so many years ago, but it makes me happy to know that at least someone will be. Even if they’re all just connecting to Battle.net in the same room together.