Devastation 2009: Street Fighter IV Attracts the Country's Top Fighters

Categories: Events
Jonathan McNamara
Devastation players Nicholas Cucio (left) and Brian Valez. Valez runs Street Fighter tournaments at his Las Vegas-based game store "Game Over" and came out to support some of his hometown players at Devastation.
Determined to grasp victory, two warriors step onto an airfield unconcerned that a nearby military transport plane maneuvering to take off may disturb their encounter. On the right is Rufus, a fighter whose undulating belly and spandex outfit masks his deadly potential. On the left is Ryu, a wandering fighter from Japan who can toss enough fireballs to make Super Mario jealous. He charges up and tosses one at Rufus to begin the fight. Rufus counters with a flurry of punches. There were ninety seconds on the clock, but they're clicking away with every block, every connect and every second of fierce determination.
Jonathan McNamara
Justin Wong

Yet the determination on Rufus' face is nothing compared to that of the guy that's literally pushing his buttons. Justin Wong's fingers fly across his arcade stick making Rufus flip and spin across an array of monitors. Next to Wong is John Choi who jerks his arcade controller around in quarter circle after quarter circle to make Ryu throw an unending torrent of fireballs. In reality, Wong and Choi can't throw fireballs or spin through the air pulling off dizzying hurricane kicks. What they can do is play a video game better than just about everyone else in the country; if not the world (see a recording of this match).

To prove it, these two fighters and a few hundred fellow fighting game enthusiasts headed for the Phoenix Convention Center clutching custom arcade sticks last weekend for Devastation a video game tournament focused on fighting games where top players take home cash and fistfuls of glory.

"Fighting games are at their core, the most competitive games ever," said Devastation Coordinator Robb "Jedirobb" Chiarini "It's the first one [type of game] where you go head-to-head with another person to kick their butt. For that not to have the spotlight at a competitive gaming event is a little funny."

Jonathan McNamara
Robb Chiarini (right) competes with a friend to see how many taunts they can make in a single match.
Devastation did have a few representatives from the first-person shooter (Halo, Gears of War), sports (Madden '09) and music simulation (Rock Band World Tour) genres of video games, but one-on-one virtual fights was what lined the tournament area's seats with players.

To make sure there were enough brawls to go around, Devastation had tournaments for several fighting games including: Guilty Gear, Hokuto No Ken (Fist of the North Star) Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom, Marvel Vs. Capcom 2, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Super Street Fighter II HD Remix, Soul Calibur and Street Fighter 3rd Strike. Fighting fans even got a few surprise hits in the form of advanced copies of King of Fighters XII and Tekken 6. Though these games are already out in the arcade, the first crack any gamer had at trying them out on a Playstation 3 required attendance at Devastation.

"We are the first place in the world to have that, [Tekken 6 and King of Fighters XII]" Chiarini said. "Not Japan. Not California. Right here in Arizona at Devastation."

But the game selection didn't end there. In the casual gaming areas of Devastation, guests brought in their own gear to start pick up battles of other rare fighting games such as BlazBlue, Gundam Battle Assault 2 and Arcana Heart.

Yet console exclusives and fan favorites aside, no game could stand up to the hype and excitement of Street Fighter IV. On Saturday the preliminary rounds of the Street Fighter IV tournament drew a thick crowd with some guests hopping up on chairs to get a look.

Jonathan McNamara
A tense crowd watches every move during Devastation's Street Fighter IV finals on Sunday, June 21, 2009
Chiarini said Street Fighter owes a lot of its hype to accessibility.

"A lot of the fighting games that you've seen today, you can't go buy those at the store. So games like Street Fighter IV that are out on console can pick up and play right now."

It's true. If you want to play Marvel Vs. Capcom 2 you'll need a copy of the game for Playstation 2, the original X-Box or Sega Dreamcast, all of which are hard to come by and extremely expensive. Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom is a Nintendo Wii title yet to be released in North America. On the other hand, Street Fighter IV is available just about anywhere games are sold.

Even Justin Wong, who is known for his Marvel Vs. Capcom 2 skills, has switched his focus to Street Fighter IV. He suggested a few more reasons for Street Fighter IV's popularity:

"The way the game is designed, it's pretty and it appeals to people," he said. "Also, the way the game's engine is, it's a lot easier for people to play and get into and not get frustrated."

Gootecks, another top player at Devastation, sees the excitement surrounding Street Fighter IV as a resurgence of nostalgia from players who cut their teeth on Street Fighter II. "A lot of people who haven't played in 10-15 years are coming back into it because now we're all older and we're not limited by things like quarters, mothers and things like that," he said.

Ryan "Gootecks" Gutierrez fights for glory in the Street Fighter IV tournament.
Gootecks agrees with Wong's point that just about anyone can pick up and play Street Fighter, but warns anyone hoping to compete that Street Fighter is a bit more complex than 3D fighters like Tekken and Soul Calibur.

"In those games you can kind of just mash buttons and hit directions or whatever and it looks like you know what you're doing," he said. "If you do that in Street Fighter you definitely don't look like you know what you're doing and it's impossible to put on a good match."

Not to mention the competition was downright fierce.

Gootecks estimated there were about twenty high level players at Devastation. "We had a couple of great players come out from the East Coast; Justin Wong and Marn," he said. "We had a lot of heavy hitters come out from the West Coast too."

Jonathan McNamara
Justin Wong took home the number one spot in Street Fighter IV by taking out John Choi.
Their geography may be different, but the commonality among all combatants was their desire to take home the top spot. On the line (in addition to their egos) were cash prizes in amounts as high as $2,000 for Street Fighter IV, Guilty Gear XX Accent Core, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Tekken 6 and Guitar Hero World Tour.

Hold on. $2,000 for playing a video game?

Believe it. If you speak with Robb Chiarini it's not hard to see why. Five years ago Devastation was a game tournament he ran out of his house. Now it inhabits the Phoenix Convention Center and attracts hundreds of Gamers; a word Chiarini is reluctant to use himself because in a society where the average gamer age is 35 and the Nintendo Wii has replaced your gym membership, the word ceases to be relevant.

"Back when I was a kid you had 'gamers', you had those weirdoes that would play games," he said. "Now it's so mainstream. How many people do you know that have a PlayStation, an Xbox or a Wii in their house? It's Everybody."

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