Street Fighter Club, San Francisco, 2009
It all started with Street Fighter IV. See, the period before the Street Fighter IV launch is widely regarded as the Dead Era of Street Fighter when it comes to Capcom’s involvement–the Evolution series of tournaments happened with minimal support from Capcom, and they didn’t really seem to care that they had a small-but-dedicated fan base that kept on playing their ten-year-old games. (For reference, Third Strike was five years old by the time the infamous Daigo Parry happened.) Once Street Fighter IV arrived on U.S. shores, however, Capcom decided to go big. So they rented out an 18+ venue in a sketchy spot in San Francisco, stocked it with free soda and pizza, and set a few hundred gamers loose with the first console version of Street Fighter IV as well as Super Street Fighter: HD Remix.
The party was very Fight Club-y–so much so that you had to Know Someone to get on the guest list, and the venue wasn’t disclosed until a day or so before it actually happened. I got on the guest list, thanks to a buddy who had a sister who had a friend who worked at Capcom. Except I didn’t get on the guest list. I did know about 1/3rd of the people in line from my days in the local tournament scene, though. That guy over there used to live over by Bayfair BART–I went to his house once for a gaming session. Those guys came down from UC Davis for the Berkeley BEARCade’s University Battles every year or so.
So I got lucky–just one “Honestly, I swear I’m supposed to be on the list, guys…”, and I was in like S.I.N. Climbed down the steps, grabbed the goodie bag, and rushed down the free pizza. I don’t recall a DJ present, though there might have been, and there was a projector playing some combo video or something on the wall. Amusingly enough, the amount of video game-themed T-shirts was rivaled only by the amount of MMA-themed T-shirts. Apparently I’m not the only one who got into both.
It was a lot of fun. Obviously, a night with free pizza, old friends, and Street Fighter is kind of hard to fuck up, and the traditional Passing a Bottle of Jack Daniels Around in Line didn’t hurt. There were plenty of good local players there, and plenty of scrubs, and plenty of gaming stations to make sure nobody waited too long in line. I seem to recall that the machines were set to kick you off after a five-game win streak, to encourage a less-serious vibe. I played until they closed out, and I remember marveling on the ride home that there was someone, somewhere, that thought that renting out a club so a bunch of nerds could play Street Fighter was such a good idea that they paid for it.
The Goodie Bag: That red Ryu headband that they gave out at pretty much every Street Fighter IV event for the following year, a limited-edition Street Fighter comic, a cool red T-shirt with the Shadowloo logo, and a pink bar of soap with the Street Fighter logo. Yes, soap. Whoever packed those bags has a sense of humor. And more importantly, they know what a poorly-ventilated room full of adult men playing Street Fighter smells like.
Marvel vs. Capcom 3 Launch Party, San Francisco, 2011
MAHVEL BAYBEE getting its proper time in the limelight was big news to all veteran Street Fighter players, so when my old arcade buddies and I found out that the launch party was happening in our backyard, we had to go. I got a bunch of my co-workers hyped to go too–they had heard about how fun the previous Street Fighter Club events were–so we drank a bunch of beer at the 21st Amendment and sauntered down to the Tenderloin venue about an hour before opening. (For those of you who have never been to the Tenderloin, it looks like the first level of Final Fight with crackheads instead of power-ups.) We weren’t quite sure how to get there, so we just followed the guy with the Captain America hoodie on.
The line was ridiculous. Hundreds of people were milling about along a fence, being shepherded about by bouncers who probably didn’t play Marvel. My co-workers asked if I was on the VIP list. There’s a VIP list for this kind of thing? Oh well, no matter. Some of the co-workers headed home, since they weren’t hyped enough about the new Marvel to wait in line for an hour or so. The rest of us cut into line with my arcade buddies, made a few jokes about how uncomfortably packed we were, drank some more cheap booze, and talked shit until we got in. Cosplayers got to cut ahead. Except for this poor Captain Commando. No one told him he was cut from the roster.
It took a while, but we got in–ID checked, hand stamped, we were in Street Fighter heaven. Marvel vs. Capcom 3 demo kiosks full of players who had patiently studied the Comic-Con footage and come prepared with hour-long combos. Street Fighter 3DS setups showing off an as-yet-unreleased-console. DJ Qbert providing the rockin’ soundtrack, and a Beat the Pro corner where someone (I think it was Justin Wong) taking on all comers for a chance at a few bucks courtesy of Sprint. One of my co-workers (the Facilities manager, of all people) got into the VIP section, where the booze was free and the Marvel stations were plentiful–which stood in stark contrast to the General Admission section, where the average wait was something like 20 minutes or so. DJ Qbert was nice and all, but it was a bit too loud to talk shop. We hung out for about an hour, then we went outside and got a bulgogi burrito. I got to talk to Seth Killian, which was nice.
We finished the burrito, warily eyed the club, and decided to go home. Not many of the local OGs were there, and we weren’t really able to play a whole lot. While we walked by the line of gamers, two guys offered to buy our wristbands off us for $20. We gave it to him for $20. The following morning, I found out from one of my co-workers that hip-hop legend Ghostface Killah was the surprise guest. Apparently my co-worker’s friend had dressed up as Spider-Man and got some kind words of encouragement from Ghostface. I wasn’t really sad I missed it. I love hip-hop, but I came expecting a Street Fighter party. Instead, it was just a party. I took the BART back home, wondering where all those people came from, because I didn’t know any of them.
The Goodie Bag: I didn’t get one. Actually, I don’t think they were giving anything out. David Banner was throwing pizza at people in the audience and pouring Patron down some chick’s throat from the stage, though. I think they were selling T-shirts at the door.
Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition* Launch Party, San Francisco, 2011
The MAHVEL BAYBEE launch party was kind of a downer, so when I heard about the Super Street Fighter IV AE launch party in San Francisco, I was determined to make it a fun one. Seth got me on the VIP list, but with no +1 I wasn’t going to be able to bring any of my friends. Oh well–I’ll just run into them there, and anyway, it’s not like I was going to stay for that long, since it was during the work week.
The rain had cleared up by the time I got out of work, so I wandered over to the venue (some club by Union Square) about half an hour after the party started. There wasn’t much of a line, but the VIP access got me a goodie bag and access to a roped-off area with couches and Street Fighter x Tekken for an hour or so. I sat down on one of the couches and played against Redrapper for about 20 minutes. Never met the guy before, but he seemed nice. It’s tough to be a rapper with asthma, but if DMX did it (he told me DMX was another rapper with asthma while we were playing), so can he.
Then they called Redrapper up to the stage, and some dude brought a (very good-looking) girl over to the SFxT setup I was playing on. The dude did not know how to play Street Fighter x Tekken. I asked him if he was a Tekken player. He didn’t answer the question. Instead, he kept on talking about how hard it was to do a Dragon Punch in this game. “It’s just a normal Dragon Punch motion, right?” I nodded. I didn’t want to point out that he was playing Kazuya.
The girl didn’t know how to play Street Fighter either. Occasionally, people watched me from behind the velvet-roped-off section, over my shoulder. It felt a little weird. I wanted to play with them, instead. Anything but feel bad about ruthlessly beating up some random girl in a video game.
Outside the VIP section was a stage with DJ Qbert (they must be able to get him for everything!), a dozen console setups with Arcade Edition and the as-yet-unreleased Third Strike port for XBLA/PSN, and an open bar (well drinks only). I went to the bar and asked for something with tequila. Tipped $2 (which for a gaming audience, is typically above and beyond for most), and got something with plenty of tequila. Then I wandered around the room looking for a familiar face. Nothing.
Local legends John Choi and Ricky Ortiz were there, of course. Outside of having taken my money repeatedly for a good five years or so, however, I didn’t really have a meaningful connection to either of them. They were both surrounded by an entourage, anyway. I said hi to Ricky, but I don’t know if he recognized me. John looked kind of bored. Ricky looked bored too, but he always looks bored, especially when he’s playing fighting games. That kind of too-good-for-arcade-games affect always puzzled the hell out of me, until I found that I’d do the same thing too when I was beating on scrubs in nowhere arcades. Huh.
Skateboards with Street Fighter artwork on them were mounted around the room in display cases. I ran into a colleague from a certain gaming publication standing around one of them–it had Cammy with a come-fuck-me blush on her cheeks. Out came the big camera. “Oh yeah,” he said, “this is great. Gotta put this up on the site.”
Got some more something with tequila, stayed for the Redrapper performance hoping someone I knew would come by. Looks like he was doing okay with the whole asthma thing. Three or four songs about Street Fighter later, I decided to leave. Grabbed my goodie bag on the way out and thought, well, I guess Street Fighter is cool now.
The Goodie Bag: A T-shirt of Evil Ryu and Oni Akuma, plus bobblehead toys of both characters.
(*note: That’s the launch party for the console release of Arcade Edition, not the arcade release of Arcade Edition.)