Starting a Fighting Game scene

14th February 2018 by James McPherson

This is a revised version of a Facebook post Dougie ‘Ruffdawg’ Brechin made in the group UK FIghting Games. Given the upshot in people looking to attend fighting game events due to a crop of new games such as Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition, Tekken 7, and of course Dragonball FighterZ, it felt like the right time to revisit the ideas within it. In addition Versus Scotland is taking some time to rethink things and focus on the various Scottish scenes, and what better way to do that but to look at how you (yes, you the reader!) can help found their own scene?

In the years since this was first posted, I (James ‘Smoothjazz’ McPherson) have gone through a bunch of life changes, some good and some bad. A lot has changed, but the Fighting Game Community that I helped develop in some small way has always been there. I can say that getting involved with events organisation has been one of the best things in my life in the past five years or so.

Recently I decided to write up a quick guide about starting an offline scene for fighting games. This could be for any game(s) of your choice, and here we’ll focus on city-sized scenes.

Starting out

Initially you want to find out if there is interest in the game(s) you want to play in your town. Most people tend to just post in a few forums and/or Facebook pages asking if there’s any interest; but in my experience these posts go unseen by the right people, or are seen months after posting. However, that’s not always a bad thing; if you can link up with even one other person with the same idea in your area, you’re off to a good start.

I’ve found the best way to gauge interest is to just go balls out and run a small tournament for your game. In my experience the phrase “If you build it they will come” has never been more true.

Games and Kit

Making sure you have the right equipment is the most crucial aspect, and the thing you should definitely have sorted before you proceed any further. Ask yourself the following questions;

To run a small double elimination tournament you would need four setups at the minimum to run the actual tournament. However, you will obviously going to need more than that for people to play casual matches throughout the day that you run the tournament on.

What we have found is that the more people who sign up to your tournament, the more people you have willing to supply kit on the day. Remember, it’s likely that people who sign up to your tournament are looking to join, or have been hoping for an offline scene but haven’t been in the right place to do so. It’s much easier to help an event than to run an event, therefore you’ll (hopefully) find plenty of people willing to supply you with setups to help make the event a success.

Side note: you may wish to cap the amount of entrants to your tournament. Capping will stop you being overwhelmed with too many entrants or in the event it doesn’t go so well you’ll be less disappointed. I had visions of 4 of us sitting around unhappy, but fortunately that turned into 34 happy tourney players, plus guests.

Venue

A snapshot from Rushdown Edinburgh’s recent event Battle in the Burgh. Notice the bar in the background.

Finding a venue for your event can be easy or hard depending on your location and budget. However, most towns and cities have function rooms that are free to hire, require a deposit or just straight up charge money. It’s best to avoid the last of these while you’re just starting out unless you can afford the potential loss.

Set a concrete date for your event, and then set out to get in contact with the venue owner. You could phone or email the venue, but it really is best to go along in person. It’s good to make contact and hopefully build a rapport with people who can help in your endeavour, along with being able to get a look at the space you’ll have to use, and make the enquiry on availability and cost for your date right there and then. People are much easier to speak to when you are there in front of them.

The thing with function rooms or spare areas of establishments, is that the owners aren’t making money from them sitting empty; they’ll be glad to have some business come their way, so you telling them you’ll get 50 people drinking from their bar and eating their food will usually end up in a positive result.

Try to keep your location as central as possible for ease of transport and for attendees who don’t have local knowledge. Your venue should be easy to find for people who may travel to your event.

When you’ve found a potential venue and have had a quick look at it, you need to check it’s suitability.

 

Ask yourself these questions, take pictures, make a note of the shape of the room, draw a little floor plan. Preparation is key.

From Battles in Glasgow, an event regularly held by BattlefieldGG.

Promotion and advertising

You’ve sourced a decent amount of setups and you’ve found a venue. Now let’s get some bodies through the door.

Facebook event page / signup page

Make one ideally 1-3 months before the event and post it to any and all groups you feel are relevant. A common mistake is to post exclusively to FGC groups; believe it or not, there are people out there who don’t even know there is an FGC.

Post it everywhere: gaming groups, tabletop gaming groups, local comic groups, college/university gaming societies, etc. A rule of thumb I use is “If there are geeks there, it’s worth letting them know about it”. Post frequently but don’t be too spammy to the point that you begin to annoy people. Judge how different communities are accepting to your advertising.

Once people start posting/signing up,interact with those people. Let them know what it is you want to achieve, how hopeful you are that it all kicks off, how happy you are that people are interested, and ask if anyone can/wants to help contribute to the cause. GET HYPE! GENERATE HYPE!

Note: in the years since this article was written, Smash.gg and other services have emerged for signups and registration.

Posters/flyers

Fire up Photoshop and make a poster for your event. It doesn’t have to be anything special, but it should be eye catching and contain all the information people need for your event: times, dates, cost of entry, and anything else you feel is vital.

Get them printed out either locally or online (relatively inexpensive) then get yourself into town with a packet of blu tac, a roll of posters and get them up in every place you can think of that will allow you. This also lets you start a dialogue with the people who run these places, and you’ll undoubtedly find someone who is as hype for the idea as you are. The big videogame chain stores won’t put anything up in the shop, but I’ve found they’ll put one up in their staff room, and since they employ gamers that’s still your core market! Again, check out small local game stores, comic shops, and university/college campuses. Anywhere geeks hang out should have one of your posters in it.

A poster from 2012 for Giant Attack Dundee. The original image quality was much better, but you can see how simple the poster can be. Name of the group, a picture of a nice fighting man, enough details to get the viewer interested.

Hopefully by now you’ve got a decent amount of signups from people in your local area and you have a plan on how your tournament is going to run.

 

Now let’s start a scene.

Reset Aberdeen ran out of various pubs for years. Recently they’ve been able to relocate at Engage Gaming.

Assuming you have a decent amount of people coming to your tournament from the local area, around 4-6 weeks prior to your event your Facebook event page should (hopefully) be buzzing.

Suggest a local meet up of the players who’ve signed up to scope out the competition for the tournament and test your kit (and anyone else’s) in a ‘live’ environment.

Bear in mind that gear people may be willing to supply you with might not be up to the standard that other entrants may ask for; do monitors lag? Do all games have the DLC if needed? Make sure you know the needs of every setup you will use.

If you have a gaming café in your town to meet up in, that’s great, but most places don’t. The alternative we found was, quite simply, a pub. Find yourself a friendly central local (not some dive with scary regulars) and ask about the possibility of coming in on an ‘off’ night (basically not Friday or Saturday), setting up a few consoles and playing some games on a weekly basis. Like your tournament venue, the landlords/managers don’t like empty seats in their establishment, so if you can put a few extra quid through their till by bringing people to eat and drink while they play, most places will be glad to have you.

Now you’ve had some GG’s and drinks with the people coming to your tournament. You’re buzzing, they’re buzzing, you’ve made some new friends and the amount of help being offered to you has hopefully grown exponentially.

You have a weekly venue, and found people who want to come and play games in a fun environment. Create a Facebook group for your weekly sessions that you now have in the pub, add all your tournament attendees to it, advertise your sessions with smaller tournaments, ranbats, and anything that creates community involvement.

 

Get hype, generate hype, and keep at it.

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