Gaming has had a huge impact on the world today, and even more discretely in our daily lives. It is not uncommon to find rappers referencing the signature ability of the cool-headed protagonists of the Street Fighter franchise, the Hadouken, and more recently having video-game characters represent an entire nation.
Fighting games and the FGC – A step into the ’80s
Fighting games are well-known around the globe for their addictiveness and competitive scene. Originating from games such as Heavyweight Champ, fighting games made their splash in the early gaming scene in 1984, when Karate Champ hit the arcades. As time progressed, more and more titles were released, some undeniably changing pop-culture and history itself. Amongst these were Street Fighter, Tekken, Mortal Kombat, and Soulcalibur. Despite this, however, the gaming scene (the FGC or ‘Fighting Game Community’ especially) varies in size from country to country.
In the United States of America, the FGC is alive and well. Tournaments are often hosted monthly by large corporations (called ‘Majors’) and ‘esports’ organizations. Twitch streamers are live twenty-four-seven, showcasing the best and worse of players in the community. Viewers eagerly watch and cheer their teams and players on.
As for the United Kingdom and other places in Europe, things are not quite the same.
The sad reality of video games in the United Kingdom
Although possibly anecdotal, the visibility of the FGC in Great Britain is almost non-existent. The possibility remains that this may all be false, and I hope this is the case. In the past, arcades and complexes such as Trocadero London could be reckoned with landmarks, attracting thousands of loyal gamers of ranging ages. The word ‘arcade’ is deprecated, having fallen off as years have progressed. Now, it’s steadily becoming more known for its primary meaning rather than its secondary, more thoughtful, and historical meaning.
Simultaneously, actual arcades have been closed down and sold off, becoming souvenir shops or accommodation. For many years, Trocadero London had been in the process of shutting down. No longer were elevators carrying fans to the higher floors of the building which had even more tabletop cabinets and arcade games to boot. Instead, they rested still, grey dust covering the steps which were cordoned off. A few of the machines remained on, but the arcade staff were no longer present. As such, the traditional gaming scene in the country game to a standstill.
FPS (first-person shooters) games gradually took over, becoming the forefront for video games. A single question remained, however. Was this all that there was left for video-games?
Enter, the new age of the internet
Online communities have been present since the dawn of the interwebs, particularly those related to geek culture. Recently, more online communities have adopted newer communication services, expanding their capacity and influence. My favorite? New Challenger.
Adopting a retro-inspired name, New Challenger is my playground. Admittedly, we all like to rewind a few years at the most spontaneous times, and my shameless self joins any one of the multiple lobbies of my choosing. There, I can complain about having my butt-kicked on the popular Street Fighter V or even discuss the latest changes in the tier lists. Tournaments are held weekly for different games, including the ground-breaking Injustice 2 and the new, critically-acclaimed 3v3 fighter, Dragon Ball FighterZ.
As a self-proclaimed fighting game veteran who grew up playing Alpha 3, I often find myself running into trouble in online matches, be it due to my ego or skill level (or lack-there-of!). This isn’t too much of a problem anymore, however, as New Challenger offers to coach in lobbies or one-to-one for any problem and for almost all of the hottest fighting games. Luckily, I was able to contact a few of the gears that make New Challenger work and stand out from other fighting communities.
Introducing the coaches, content creators, and broadcasters of the New Challenger community.
All things have a beginning, and NCH sprouted from Reddit post written by Vinager, offering people to play and learn Street Fighter V. Without warning the post gathered tons of replies, Vinager soon consulting a friend from work to figure out a way to accommodate all of the responders. And thus, the New Challenger Discord server was opened (called BID at the time: beginner-intermediate discord). For a solid year, Vinager worked to set up nightly activities for the server, consuming all of his evenings. With the addition of new staff, Vinager was able to focus on other important areas while his responsible team of Moderators, TO’s and Coaches covered the flank. Outside of administrative work, Vinager hosts two SFV Twitch shows, being the Thunderdome first-to-ten and professional exhibition matches! Already, he’s hosted TS|sabin, deeancer, fgc_jesus, ohtruegod, idom, brian_f, and neon on stream, with more to come soon.
One thing Vinager enjoys about NCH is seeing improvement in players, moving from low tiers of bronze to Underdog tournaments. The companionship of the fellow volunteers in the server lights a fire in his soul as well as the regular charity matches sponsored by matcherino.com to help those less fortunate.
Although managing New Challenger is a hobby to Vinager, he takes it seriously and has pride in his community and staff, endeavoring to see it grow to its full potential.
An important gear in the New Challenger Machine, Eduku is an Administrator for the community. Eduku started playing games during the Mega Drive era as a child, often competing against his brother in Street Fighter. Now, he mains Vega in SFV, gaining inspiration from the FG professional, Nemo. The Admin gained his position due to coincide while the server was in its fledgling stages. As an EU resident, Vinager naturally appointed the Admin role to Eduku while Eduku continued to grow the EU side. Nowadays, the staff member brainstorms ways to grow the server while holding discussions around events such as tournaments. From partnerships with groups such as Capcom UK to recruitment, Eduku and co. work diligently.
Eduku believes New Challenger to be beginner-friendly (the irony in the name) and a place where everyone can ‘belong’ and find their group. Instead of plenty of small circles, NCH is one big circle of friends – both old and new. With New Challenger having over 10,000 members with a large portion of them located within the EU, Eduku is proud of the FGC.
A veteran gamer who has been indulged in cyberspace from young, Taozenforce commenced their journey by playing Pong and dabbling in other games, including the first Street Fighter. Nowadays, Taozenforce works as a Character Technical Director, as well as a coach and content for New Challenger. When asked why Taozenforce became a member of the New Challenger coaching and content creation team, it was revealed that both activities allowed Taozenforce to scratch an old itch from when he used to teach at a college.
Education seems to be important for Taozenforce, as one of his favorite things about coaching is the expansion of his knowledge base as well as new discussions and intriguing questions that arise. Seeing new people every day learning how to play and have fun in fighting games always brings a smile to this member’s face, so expect to see Taozenforce active in the community.
Through studying fighting games without game guides, Frabisaur quite literally mashed his way to the upper echelon. His interest in video games arose from his SNES-era gaming experiences, however, he wasn’t always so competitive. In 2013, Frabisaur’s competitive mentality grew after witnessing EVO MvC3, inspired by the cinematics. Due to this, he began to play Street Fighter 4 AE to improve, and even read a fighting game book!
The SF4 AE player joined the New Challenger crew to help others improve. During his climb, he witnessed how difficult it was to improve alone, and even created a club at his school for fighting games! Frabisaur noted that unlike other games where rules can be read and applied, fighting games are different. In fighting games, players are required to experience the same situations multiple times.
A key theme runs in the New Challenger crew, and that is the importance of FGC education. Being able to see the growth of players after he’s coached them drives Frabisaur as well as seeing gamers overcome struggles they previously weren’t able to. Above all, his favorite quality of New Challenger is the community. Everyone is welcoming, nobody is beyond help and no question is stupid!
One of the very voices of New Challenger, Mountlover was formerly responsible for broadcasting New Challenger’s streams as a Tournament Organizer (TO). Nowadays, he commentates on the streams. Having gamed since the Super Nintendo days, Mountlover has Street Fighter II experience to boot. Often times, Mountlover is creating content for the NCH YouTube or hosting.
But it’s not all fun and games!
A lot of work goes into being a TO, and Mountlover and the other broadcasters have to make sure everything is just right. Workarounds for problems in popular fighting games have to be made, and countless Google Sheets forms are created. Through all of this though, Mountlover loves New Challenger. More than playing games and running tournaments, Mountlover loves seeing new people join in. Seeing people turn from newcomers to skilled players is a reward for Mountlover, and adds to New Challenger’s niche.
Most people read books for stories. Others watch films. Penguin, on the other hand, enjoys video games as a medium for storytelling, while also having fun. Despite having a disability that hinders his dexterity, Penguin has found workarounds that allow him to play whatever, whenever; typical of a true gamer. After approached by a friend to play Ultra Street Fighter 4, Penguin fell into the fighting game trap and couldn’t escape, branching off to SFV when it was released. Now, he’s a Tournament Organizer for NCH of two years. After telling a small bluff to have a shot at being a streamer for the community, Penguin soon hit the jackpot as old TO’s left and vacancies opened. More than anything, Penguin wants to give back to this community, and so assumes the role of a Tournament Organizer.
The tournament orientation is manned by two individuals, Penguin and Senzer. Together, the two of them ensure everything runs smoothly on the day of the tournament – Penguin doing the prep work and Senzer being the main TO on the day.
Despite many people joining for coaching, Penguin believes that the majority stay for the friendships they make in the active community. Idle chatter turns into set games and eventually, real friendships. As an EU Lead, Penguin believes it to be his main responsibility to run cross-regional tournaments to see the FGC grow. No matter what game you play, tournaments bring individuals together and this helps in growing the EU community in Penguin’s eyes. His sole wish is to see the community grow for years to come.
Starting off a spectator to video games by witnessing his father play on the NES, Senzer quickly leveled up and took to many of the legacy consoles we know of today. Before playing SFV, the Tournament Organizer indulged in RPGs. While also Penguin’s partner in crime, Senzer joined the NCH team as after his activity was recognized in the server. Curious, he accepted. From sign-up queries to technical difficulties, Senzer is responsible for making sure everything is pitch-perfect for tournaments, while also guiding rookie competitors.
Senzer describes New Challenger as more than a community; he describes it as a ‘family’. The TO is no stranger to beginner’s nerves as he began his fighting game quest with his current favourite, SFV. New Challenger enabled him to be coached while also making friends and participating in tournaments – something he cannot do locally. Now, Senzer regards it his turn to hold the torch and guide newcomers. An inspiring part of the FGC as a whole for the TO is the diversity and lack of barriers despite regional differences, as well as generosity.
The Twitch Breakdown Team
Taking pride in his role as one of the two individuals who host New Challenger’s informative twitch breakdowns, KZA began his gaming career in the early days of Warcraft 1. After his neighbor purchased the video game for his children, KZA was fortunately on the receiving side after they discovered there was too much blood in the game for their children. While also enjoying the many spectacular Nintendo releases at the time, the turning point was in high school when he discovered DotA, and more significantly, Melty Blood. Ever since it’s been non-stop fighting games with a small garnish of League of Legends to finish.
The Twitch mastermind joined New Challenger to put his habit of (over)explaining to use in the FGC. As a broadcaster time isn’t an issue for KZA. Despite this, he constantly has to be up to date with whichever fighting games to help others.
The best part of New Challenger for KZA is “everybody coming together and learning”. With the FGC being about collaborative learning, this strikes a chord with KZA and only encourages him further. As for what he’d like to achieve? In his own words: “At some point, I’m gonna get good enough at Tekken to not go 0-2 at Strongstyle. I’m gonna do it.”
We’ll keep that here for future reference.
A special thanks
When speaking with Vinager, it was noted that multiple individuals and communities have made NCH become what it is today. In his own words:
“I have really got to shout out and thank the r/streetfighter crew. They have been great to me and helped NCH and myself grow. Love them! Joe_Munday, quasimodox, pyyric, soul, johnnydal, aremah, yashoki, pugilist penguin, and of course the new mods they’ve brought in. I hope I mentioned everyone. I also have to shout out all my staff, the TOs, coaches, mods, admins, they are all great guys! Like I said above, I couldn’t have done any of this without the NCH staff and r/streetfighter.“
So what’s happening with New Challenger?
New Challenger runs its popular Underdog Tournaments every two weeks from Friday to Sunday, and they’re free to join! Fight Nights and Coaching Nights occur on random nights, so make sure you stay tuned for those.
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Need to cool off from Fighting Games? Check out our latest post on 3 Good Shounen Anime to watch.