I Got Bodied at Evo and Felt Like a Champion
I entered Evo 2019’s Samurai Shodown tournament with passion and glee and quickly exited much the same. Losing isn’t a downer when joining the fray is itself a wonderfully bold act.
I’ll likely be walking the Mandalay Bay’s Bayside C and D rooms—the home to Evolution Championship Series 2019—when this article publishes. The Saturday Night Fever-like strut, the extra pep in my normal step, will surely be openly mocked by anyone who notices the gait. Yet, I won’t care. I’ll still be riding high from participating in the first Evo tournament in which I made an extremely early exit. And that’s perfectly fine.
For those who aren’t controller deep into the fighting game community (FGC), Evo is the World Cup for fighting games. Players from around the world flock to Las Vegas once a year and face the stiffest competition on the planet. The goal is to prove who is the best of the best in players’ respective games and walk away with a prize, sizeable check, or simply bragging rights.
In the player pool you’ll find sponsored professionals, semi-pros, local kings and queens, scrubs, and people who’ve decided to experience the show in person instead of watching it on ESPN or Twitch. Evo is a grand mish-mash of people, interests, and missions.
My interest? Samurai Shodown. My mission? Just show the hell up and compete. That statement may come off as an extremely low-level goal, but there’s something to be said for having the will (gall!?) to make an Evo tournament appearance when you’re not a professional or dedicated player. The show can be a high-stress, challenging environment if you’re going for the gold; personally, I jus love the genre and welcome said challenge.
First, as there is money on the line, Evo tournaments skew heavily toward people who absolutely grind lab time. I knew going into the Samurai Shodown tourney that there was a very good chance I’d get wrecked in the opening pools. Second, and more importantly, I can count on one hand the number of times I played SamSho, as I don’t own a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One (I’m eagerly awaiting the PC version that’s slated to arrive late this year). Last, there’s a widely held belief in various gaming communities that media members like me are garbage-tier players. It’s a stereotype, of course, but not one that’s totally without merit. Those elements form a layer cake of additional weight that many other attendees do not carry.
The esports event is a marvelous showcase of skill and unrivaled hypes moments, a topic that I touched upon in an earlier Evo-focused Pop-Off. I’ve watched Evo from home damn near every year since the livestreams started. There are only so many times that I could passively observe the show from my living room before buying a plane ticket, booking a hotel room, and paying the entrance and tournament fees to partake in the digital fisticuffs. Besides, I wanted to knuckle up with others who love the fighting game genre—and all the strategy that comes along with it—as much as me. That love made the loss far more tolerable.
My first opponent was Trill Clinton. We dapped up, and his Haohmaru beat the breaks off my Darli Dagger in a clean two-match sweep. In fact, it was over so fast that I had to inform Trill that he moved on to the next stage in the Winners Bracket.
I, on the other hand, took a trip to Losers Bracket. I fared better there, pushing my opponent with a lengthy name that I can’t recall to a third match. My Earthquake just lost to his Galford by a hair.
My Evo tournament experience was a short, but oh so sweet affair. I entered and exited in quick fashion, and, really, there’s no shame in that. In any other locale, that loss would’ve come with heaping spoonfuls of salt, but at Evo, the place where the fighting game family gets together to celebrate the genre, that critical beatdown felt like home.