One hand clenched tightly around the arcade stick with the other floating just above the buttons, ready to react at a moment’s notice, this is the signature pose of the fighting gamer. Southern California is home to one of the largest and most intense competitive scenes for fighting games in the nation, its practitioners approaching the video game so intensely that you expect to hear Michael Buffer’s signature "Let’s get ready to rumble" along with the ding of a bell at the beginning of each of their matches.
The roots of this scene can be traced back to arcades across the state in the '90s. For decades, these arcades were packed with people invested in bettering themselves at their game of choice by challenging the top players of fighting games like "Street Fighter" and "Mortal Kombat," slapping a quarter onto the arcade cabinet to declare their challenge for the top. With the advent of the Internet in the '90s, video game competitions transformed with the newfound technology, gamers transferring arcades to living rooms hosting local area networks. Arcades began their rapid decline into obscurity as more and more gamers stayed at home, Internet gaming becoming a more convenient way to engage opponents. It seemed that the competitive scene for fighting games was singing its swan song.
But, the languishing fighting game community would find its revitalization with an influx of new gamers. Because of the egalitarian nature of the Internet, more and more new gamers were entering competitive scenes without the physical boundaries formed by cliques within the arcades discouraging them from entering – the implicit rules of how to conduct oneself within the arcade were set in steel after all. Passionate individuals took it upon themselves to host tournaments and streams to continue interest within the fighting game community, forming their own cohesive society around the nebulous center caused by the displacement of the arcade. The Fighting Gamers @ UCI is one of the established blocks at the forefront of maintaining the cohesiveness of the fighting game community in SoCal.
Fighting Gamers is a student organization at UC Irvine devoted to cultivating a place where anyone with an interest in fighting games can find competition to help them develop their competitive skills. First created by a small group of friends that played fighting games in empty classrooms and at Zot Zone, the local arcade on campus, the club grew exponentially soon after creating its Facebook page, attracting many of the top-class players within the SoCal region to their weekly video game sessions. With its growing reputation, Fighting Gamers @ UCI has used its considerable clout to hold events on the UCI campus to benefit the fighting game community, hosting high-profile tournaments with hundreds of competitors and streaming these events online to thousands more. In 2011 they managed to secure and host the annual SoCal Regionals. They’ve also done their fair share of charity, hosting the tournament Fight for Relief to raise funds to aid victims of the Japanese tsunami in 2011. With these efforts, Fighting Gamers @ UCI is quickly growing into one of the most esteemed components of the fighting game community within Southern California and is devoted to using this recognition to promote this sense of community amongst players old and new across the region.
Weekly sessions are held on Tuesdays during the summer from 5 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. in the Woods Cove B room at the UCI Student Center (check site for updates on day and time). The gregarious members of the community welcome all players of any skill level as long as they bring their own controller. More information can be found here.