by CHAZ PLAGER
One year ago, exactly, I wrote an article about my experience at the premiere Chicago fighting game tournament Frosty Faustings. I enjoyed my time there immensely, and when I heard that Frosty Faustings XIV had begun to accept registrations, I signed up immediately.
“But wait,” I hear you ask, “What’s a fighting game? Is it like ‘Call of Duty’ or ‘Mortal Kombat?’” The first, no. The second, yes!
Fighting games are, in the simplest possible terms, games where you pick a character, and your opponent picks a character, and you duke it out. Each character has different abilities, and you have to utilize those abilities to the fullest to win.
I entered three double elimination brackets for three different games: Under Night in Birth: Sys Celes, Blazblue Centralfiction: and Persona 4 Arena Ultimax. Each match was played in a first to two wins format. So how did I do in representing the Palisades? Let’s find out.
Under Night in Birth (UNI2): There were about 600 entrants. Unlike last year’s bracket, there was absolutely no seeding. This was unfortunate.
My very first round was against a player named Ruric. Who is he? Oh, just the best player in North America. Despite this, I played my best, and almost managed to take a win, but “almost” doesn’t matter in competition.
I was sent to loser’s bracket, where my next opponent made the rookie mistake of failing to show up, which meant I advanced to the next round. This put me up against “Spiro,” an avid enjoyer of fighting games for the last 10+ years.
He promptly destroyed me, and I was out of the bracket. I didn’t feel too bad, though because UNI2 had only been released 24 hours prior to the tournament, and I hadn’t played the original UNIB.
I had fun, and happily moved on to my next competition.
Blazblue Centralfiction (BBCF): There were about 200 entrants. In a repeat of my UNI2 bracket, I was unlucky enough to have my match against Radguy, one of the best players in all of Ohio.
I took the first round off him, but my fighting technique was unfortunately quickly figured out and I was swiftly defeated in the game, sending me to loser’s bracket.
I then took my first win of the day by obliterating a newbie, which brought me no joy (okay, maybe a little joy).
In my next match in the loser’s bracket, I suffered a loss to another excellent player named Ceehill, who happened to be playing the exact kind of way I hate fighting. Ceehill is a patient player who never takes risks, putting the onus on my character Tager to approach. Tager cannot run or approach in any meaningful way, so he calmly whittled me down while barely taking any damage.
It was close, but he took the set 2-1, knocking me out of the bracket. I was disappointed by this, especially considering I had gone 3-2 the year prior.
However, I wasn’t the only one who was disappointed. Top player and consistent tournament winner KillaKob3s, real name Kobe, found himself knocked out at ninth place, a massive drop from his usual second or third place.
“Seeding was crazy this year,” Kobe said. “I still could have done better. I’m disappointed in myself.”
Kobe has been playing BBCF since the game received its last update two years ago, quickly rising to the top of the power rankings and making a name for himself as the best player of the character Bang in America.
“I practice 7-10 hours a week,” he said. “It’s not like you gotta be super talented. You just have to be able to have fun and learn, even if you lose.”
As a player of the character Tager, considered by many to be the worst character in the game, I understand what he means by having fun even when losing.
I redeemed myself by beating 10th place player “MattG” in a friendly match, affirming that no, I didn’t suck. Even top players like Kobe get unlucky, and what matters most is the will to keep playing.
“Anyone can do it,” said fellow 1-2 loser “Smithy.”
“I’m 25, man. I work full time. I still make time for fighting games because they’re just that fun,” he said. “Even when you lose.”
Persona 4 Arena Ultimax (P4AU): There were about 87 entrants, and I had my best performance of the day, I received my highest placement ever: 25th place. I handily won my first match before playing an extremely close set with a player, Wear-Tear-Rust, who would go on to get top 8.
Knocked into the loser bracket, I wasted no time tearing through my next two opponents, one of whom had his girlfriend look on as we played. I considered throwing the match, but I ultimately decided not to insult him and played my best. His girlfriend comforted him after the loss, so he was the real winner in the end.
My next match against another top player, Stacks, was nail-bitingly close, taking us to the last game of the set, but I made a single mistake and allowed him to turn the tables on me, placing me at 25th. I have no complaints about this placing— it’s the highest I’ve ever received, after all.
The real highlight of the tournament was the people. Getting to meet, talk to, and eat with top players and online friends was an unforgettable experience. Especially two players named Nekoze and Shiita.
Nekoze and Shiita are two top Japanese P4AU players, who flew to Chicago specifically to win.
Their flight was crowdfunded by the P4AU community, who hosted paid online events where players could test their mettle against the greats. Nekoze and Shiita received 3rd and 6th place in P4AU’s bracket respectively.
Unfortunately, the two had trouble communicating with fellow players, because of the language barrier. And when someone wanted to interview the two players about their tournament experiences, the P4AU community was at a loss. After all, no one in the Persona community spoke any Japanese.
Put on the spot by my friends, I acted as a translator for the two during an interview.
On the last day of the three-day tournament, several Persona players including, Nekoze and Shiita and I went out to eat.
At dinner, Nekoze hugged me. “I am leaving tomorrow,” he said, tearing up. “But I want everyone to know that I am so grateful to have come to Chicago and met you all. I wish I had won the whole thing, but the memories I made are worth more than any trophy. Let us meet again.”
I think that, for me, encapsulates why I love fighting games. People of every race, creed, age and gender come together to play video games. For some, they do it for money, others pride, but above all for the love of the game.
In a genre of game where .06 seconds is often the line between victory and defeat, the idea that these memories will last forever is wonderfully ironic. I will always love fighting games, and when I win a tournament someday, I will dedicate it to my hometown, the Palisades.
(Editor’s note: Plager is a senior at Palisades High School. During Covid, he began teaching himself Japanese. Since then, he has also continued his language lessons and has also traveled to Japan. He is now fluent in speaking Japanese.)