My Experience at Toryuken
(Me [right] vs. Rikir [left] on the Toryuken main stage and live stream of Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3)
The ability to excel in a high-pressure situation does not come naturally to most. I, for one, have found this to be the case with everything I do in life – especially in my foray into competitive gaming. I’ve suffered from a seemingly unshakable case of tournament nerves, which has plagued my ability to play to my full potential. It’s hard not to let the nerves get to you when playing for your tournament life in front of a large crowd that is judging your every action.
The cure for shaking nerves? Practice. If you put yourself in a high-pressure situation enough times, you body and mind should get accustomed to the situation. Going into Toryuken – my third tournament to date – I was hoping that this would be the tournament where I could shake off my tournament nerves once and for all.
Toryuken was Toronto’s biggest fighting game tournament yet in terms of scale and importance. Hosted at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, it was the battleground for hundreds of competitors competing in 6 different fighting games for money, fame, and EVO tournament seeding points. Some of the big names on hand included EG Justin Wong, BT Dieminion, MCZ/MRN Wolfkrone, FC Jago and Canada’s own CCG Air.
I was pre-registered to compete in Street Fighter, Marvel and Skullgirls, but I was unable to pre-register for Street Fighter X Tekken because I didn’t have a partner ready. Thinking that finding one person to pair up with me in that game among hundreds of competitive fighting game players, I randomly asked around in hopes of forming a team. Instead, I was rejected at every turn. The disdain the Canadian community has for that game is unbelievable. Everyone I talked to either said they hated it or didn’t play it at all. Inside the venue, there were no stations running Street Fighter X Tekken for people to practice on. When one of the tournament organizers asked if he could set up a station to run Street Fighter X Tekken for warm-ups, everyone booed. Even after I gave up on trying to find a partner, I asked the dozens of people I played with if they were competing in Street Fighter X Tekken, only one person said yes. When he did, he sighed and said his buddy forced him into it. Though I still hold out hope that Capcom will make things better for Street Fighter X Tekken, the people on hand at Toryuken collectively shunned that game.
After my failed attempt at finding a partner, I set out to get some casual matches under my belt. One of the big lessons I learned from last year’s experience was to get in as many casual matches beforehand as possible. It is an excellent way to adjust to the input lag introduced by the monitors, and to help cool your nerves down. Last year in casuals, I only got in a handful of matches, and lost every single one of them. This year, I got to play a lot of great Street Fighter IV matches against some stiff competition, including Nagata Lock II, Toryuken’s live stream commentator and a long-time member of the Greater Toronto Area fighting game community. Being able to win some matches against someone of his caliber really helped put me at ease.
(Justin Wong scouting his potential Skullgirls competition)
A game I wasn’t as comfortable about was Skullgirls. Though I rank within the top 25% of Skullgirls players on the PSN leaderboards, I know that there are people who are orders of magnitude above my skill level. My participation in that tournament was to simply have something to do between Street Fighter and Marvel. When I went to the Skullgirls stations to get in some warm-up matches, I was surrounded by a large crowd of hardcore Skullgirls players who have put in the work to be awesome at it. It’s great to see that this game has earned the respect of the fighting game community. It wasn’t great, however, to see me get smoked by Skullgirls players who take this seriously. Though my expectations for competing in Skullgirls weren’t high, after my time at the Skullgirls station, getting eliminated without winning a single match appeared to be the most likely outcome for me.
After getting in some practice, Steff and I checked out the merch table. They had a number of cool shirts, Skullgirls posters and fightsticks for sale. Fighsticks are not easy to come by in Canada and they had a really good selection, including the hard-to-find-and-highly-sought-after Qanba Q4 RAF, a three-in-one fightstick that works for XBOX 360, PlayStation 3 and PC. I did not walk away empty handed, but I’ll cover that at the end of the post.
Though the wait from warm-ups to actual tournament matches was a few hours, once the tournament started, things were fast and furious for me. For the majority of my tournament life, I was rushing from station to station, as I was one man being summoned to play in three different games at the same time. My girlfriend Steff did an amazing job of essentially being my manager, sorting out my availability between the judges of each game to make sure I wasn’t disqualified from anything because I was obligated to play somewhere else. Towards the end of my tournament run, the judges would go straight to her to work out my scheduling instead of finding me.
(Me [right] vs. Rikir [left] on the Toryuken live stream of Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3)
Being in high-demand by the judges wasn’t just a function of signing up for multiple games. The judges needed me around because I was doing some damage. I got some hard-earned wins under my belt for Street Fighter and Marvel, and even managed to win a match in Skullgirls. As I continued to do well, the judges worked closely with Steff to make sure I’d be able to keep things moving forward. One of the coolest moments of the tournament occurred when I sat down for one of my overdue Skullgirls matches, and my opponent said he heard our match was delayed because I was kicking butt in Marvel.
Some other cool highlights included one Street Fighter match, where I had to fight through my opponent’s friend trash talking on his buddy’s behalf for the duration of the match. Despite the trash talking in my ear, I ended up eliminating his friend from the tournament. Even in the match I lost on the main stage with hundreds in attendance and thousands watching me from the live stream, I still made the crowd say, “Ooh,” when I made a really smart move on my opponent. To me, that’s a huge step up from getting destroyed on the big stage by Marlinpie last year.
How did I perform in the end? By my standards, really well. It was a huge step up overall from my performance last year. Beyond the wins, what I’m most proud of was my ability to contain my tournament jitters. I did not let tough opponents, tough trash-talking spectators or playing on the main stage in front of a large audience impact my ability to play. In victory and defeat, I played every match as best as I could and I have no regrets. I’ll share the final tournament results here when they’re posted. Regardless of my ranking, I’m happy with the overall experience.
To celebrate, I did some shopping at the merch table. I walked out of there with a Toryuken t-shirt, a Toronto-exclusive Skullgirls t-shirt, a Skullgirls poster, a GDLK bag and a Qanba Q4 RAF fightstick. It put quite the dent in my bank account, but to me they’re trophies for a job well done.
Thank you to Toronto Top Tiers for organizing another major fighting game tournament. This was a much more organized and spacious affair, which I really appreciated. Thank you my girlfriend Steff for being supportive and vital to my success. I likely would have been disqualified from everything without her. Also, thanks to everyone in attendance for making this another great Toronto fighting game tournament. I guess it’s now time to start training for the next one.