After all these years, I think I need to come out… as a gamer—in particular, a fighting gamer.
I have been playing computer games since I was five, when my cousin was given a Nintendo console. My cousin, a year older than me, was a superior gamer in all aspects. He had had more practice, not least because the console belonged to him, and thus had developed a better sense in gaming. Even though I got the same console one year later, I never caught up with him.
The games I played ranged from platformers, such as Super Mario Brothers, to role-playing games (RPGs), like the Final Fantasy series. The graphical quality of the games during that period, of course, would be regarded as primitive by today’s standards. I nonetheless enjoyed gaming immensely. I still remember fondly the feeling when I managed to finish my first game (it was called Hi no Tori, a game adapted from a famous manga series by Osamu Tezuka), and how the game’s end scene looked. Gaming is, indeed, one of my favourite pastimes.
My gaming journey, however, came to a halt when I started studying in the UK. It wasn’t because the university courses were so intense that I had no time to play; rather, my flatmates and I didn’t want to spend money on a TV (never mind a console). Everything in Scotland looked so much more expensive with VAT. Owning a TV (and then needing to pay the TV licence) was too much of a luxury, so we decided against it. Without a TV, then, gaming (or at least console gaming) became an impossibility.
Little did I know that I would go back to gaming after returning home, twelve years later.
Not long after working in Hong Kong, I was introduced to Twitch.tv, a media website on which people broadcast gaming live. Given my interest in computer games, I started watching skilled broadcasters who play games really well. Of all kinds of games, fighting games interested me the most due to their fast pace, and they appeared to be the most exciting among all genres. In the Street Fighter (probably the best-known fighting game franchise) tournaments, hearing the broadcasters scream and shout at every special move was entertaining.
One issue, however, hindered my really enjoying the shows—I did not have enough knowledge of the game to appreciate the skills that the players showcased. I did not understand why a certain special move executed in a certain time was amazing. It was like not knowing why Roger Federer’s one-handed down-the-line backhand was world-class, or why Lin Dan’s well-disguised slice drop-shots earned him two Olympic gold medals. In order to fully appreciate fighting games, I had to understand the games better.
A few internet searches later, I found that Hong Kong had its own Street Fighter gaming community (albeit a tiny one, compared to those in America or Japan), and they were launching an off-line tournament. So I tagged along and observed, and maybe played a couple of games. Despite expecting to see a closely knit clique who were full of themselves, I encountered a welcoming group of people keen to get others to play fighting games. When I awkwardly entered the small room in a factory building where the tournament was being held, a guy called Johnny approached me and introduced himself. In spite of his rather common English name, he was actually a celebrity in the community. With a rather interesting alias—”Humanbomb”—he was the best-known fighting gamer in Hong Kong. Humanbomb was a pro-gamer, and made a living playing international tournaments, including the Grand Slam of Street Fighter—the Capcom Cup.
Given he was a big shot, I was a little surprised by his friendliness and approachability. During the tournament, I also met many other gaming enthusiasts who were all known by their interesting aliases, like Saisak, Hotdog, Almo, and Rockdust (one even called himself by a number—”27″). This was almost like turning oneself into one’s alter ego when entering the community. Of course, some players stuck to their original name (such as Chris Wong, Dicky, Trevor, and Ah Hei), but nickname or not, they obeyed an unspoken rule: when they entered the FGC, they were a gamer and nothing else.
Having joined the community as a novice player, I find that the FGC is the friendliest of all the social communities I have ever observed or been part of. It does not matter whether you are a teenager or in your mid-40s, whether you are a millionaire or you own nothing, whether you are gay or straight, as long as you like gaming, you are one of them. The more experienced ones selflessly share their tips and advice with the more novice players. They are in a competition, but they also help each other to improve. So it doesn’t even matter whether you play well or not. To be one of them, you only need to be interested in Street Fighter.
The tournament I attended was held several months ago. Since then, I have picked up the game and started playing (and I have even participated in a couple of local tournaments!) The game is not easy to pick up, and improvement comes only with hard work and practice. Without such dedication, I am still a novice player today. Yet, I am a happy player (despite all the losses). This fighting game community has taught me how a community should be run. In the FGC, there are no leaders, nor is there a hierarchy. It nonetheless functions smoothly, and members of the community get to enjoy each other’s company. This is anarchism at its best. So, yes, I am a gamer, and am proud to be one.
Just like an average person, Vinton Poon assumes many different identities. To name a few (not in any particular order), he is a son, a lecturer, a badminton enthusiast, an extrovert, an elder brother, a debating coach, a semi-Buddhist, an academic, a friend, a hypochondriac, a volunteer, and a pursuer of good tea. [Click here to read all entries by Vinton.]