My First EVO - The View From Behind the Players' Seats

10:15 AM 0 Comments A+ a-

I... Where do I even begin?

This is the most low-key yet most exciting conventions ever. I've never experienced something like this in my so far short con-going life. I've gone to many events but I was never this excited, overwhelmed, lucky, ~blessed~, and grateful. I'm going to sound like a total weab but holy shiz, guys. EVO is definitely something else.

My only other experience with something like this is the Capcom Pro Tour Finals 2015 in San Francisco. We decided to go to that on a whim and oh boy, nothing prepared me for that. I thought that was enough "preparation" for a future EVO experience. Well... yes and no. I expected epic gameplay, witnessing great moments, and having a ton of fun. It was all that times a million.

I was so impressed by the fighting game community, not only with the "regular" people playing but also with the pros. They were so nice, unassuming, humble. Hey, they're people too. We, including myself at times, seem to forget that. Especially when you're sort of new in the "fandom". I fell off that when I was in high school because PS3 came out and we couldn't afford one at that time. Now we have one and then there's Twitch, Youtube, social media, online shopping, and two Madcatz fight sticks... bring it on! My brother is such an influence and an enabler. And I'm thankful for it. He had me watching a random tournament about two years ago on stream and since then, I'm hooked. The FGC has been one of the best - if not THE BEST - communities that I joined and it's been so amazing.

You know how Facebook does those "On this Day" kind of things? Well, the day after we got home from EVO, the memory of that day was my status update about EVO 2015. And it went something like this:

Dear EVO 2015,You've drained my Ultra Combo gauge. That Street Fighter grand final was more than I could've expected. I'm exhausted now. See you next year... hopefully, in person.

We went from stream monsters to being on the stream for about nine solid hours. You want proof? Here's the pudding: PLAYLIST.

We ended up right there behind the Vertagear chairs by sheer luck. We didn't really have a plan for Day 2. We even talked about leaving the venue early. But as uneventful as the start of Day 2 was, it ended up being the best 9 hours of my life! XD You can't miss us, if you watched the stream. We even took care of the Player 1 chair a couple of times. I can't... omg, to be there to witness a couple of EVO moments first hand. I wish the microphone caught the hilarious commentaries from the crowd! At CPT 2015, we watched the players live but from a distance. At EVO2016, any closer and I'll be on the players' laps. XD

But let's rewind to Day 1. We got there late afternoon-ish. Like I said, it was so low-key; no flashy signs, nothing. Not to mention the floor space is so bare compared to other cons. It was just a small vendors area and the rest are gaming stations. But it was still so overwhelming. We picked up our badges (my brother passed by Haitani by the men's restrooms) and made our way to the main floor. Seriously, not 20 minutes after arriving at the LVCC, I met one of my favorite players.

Nemo. He was just sitting there on the floor by the main entrance to the gaming floor. My brother and I saw him at the same time and he laughed as I had a mini freakout. I had to muster courage to go up to him and ask for a photo. I half suggested that my brother ask him in Japanese but between him and me, I was braver when it comes to encounters. So hey, I did it anyway. To our surprise, Nemo shook our hands after we thanked him for the photo! Um... OMG! (#^.^#) That's my EVO ticket and we were barely an hour into our day. XD

(Dude, I love his Rolento play. Now, his Vega. And his fashion sense. LOL.)

As usual, we did an initial walkthrough of the convention floor. Like I said, there wasn't much in terms of different sections but there was one artist that we wanted to see. I saw this artist's tweet on some gamer's feed and oh boy, I knew I had to get it. I won't post the art here so just click on this tweet to see a gorgeous sample. Each piece went for $3 each. Whut? For srs? You know I got all of them. They were also selling stickers, which I picked up. Not to mention Daigo Umehara's manga series, which the artist illustrated. We managed to get the last copies of both volumes. So yeah, we didn't get Daigo's book but we did get his manga. Good thing my brother could read Japanese so he was able to tell me what it was about. I can't wait for more!

People were playing not just the games advertised. The "AnimEvo" area became one of my favorites. The Gundam game was fascinating. It reminded me of Armored Core. And a lot of the Japanese players (and a seiyuu) hung out there a lot. And it looked like a game that I could actually play. We dropped by a lot of stations to see what they were playing, who was playing, and what was going on. I didn't have any expectations apart from watching awesome matches. And yes, meeting players. I admit, I had my wandering eye in full effect.

And my wandering eye never failed me because the very next person that I spotted was Tokido

You guys. Y'all have no idea how fcking elated I was. Tokido is my favorite player. On the tippy-top of my list. I could tell that it was him from the back of his head. Hands were definitely shaking and my face grew hot. Yes. Only a handful of people can get that reaction out from me. (*^^*) So with meeting Nemo and then Tokido, that's my EVO experience right there. I could go home. LMAO.

(I was honestly surprised at how ~short he is. I mean, everyone is taller than me but when I see him on stream, he seemed much taller. Same with the other players. Hey, it's them being larger than life on the screen! I could attest that Daigo has this certain untouchable aura around him. To see him play live is such a joy.)

We continued out walkthrough and spotted a few more players. Looking back now, I wish I wasn't the overwhelmed chicken that I was on Day 1 and asked MOV for a photo. His Ibuki play is fascinating and he reminds me of Takeda Kanryu in the live action Rurouni Kenshin movie adaptation. We also saw Justin Wong, Floe, James Chen, and ChrisG but they were busy with interviews and such. We also spotted Kindevu

Squint and you'll see Dogura, Tokido, Haitani, and Kazunoko
CRT. Yes.
Throughout the day, my brother and I also met Kazunoko, Daigo Umehara (!!!), Fuudo, Momochi, Poongko, and Keoma. Before leaving the venue for the day, we saw Bonchan practicing. My fangirl heart was on overdrive because everywhere I looked, I saw either Fuudo, Nemo, or Tokido. Too much, universe. Too much! 

Also, I have to thank James Chen for making my day. I've met him twice before, most recently at Anime Expo 2016. I credit Okamoto Kitchen for this awesome moment. My brother and I were at the Killer Instinct area talking about calling it a day when I saw James Chen coming our way. He was probably checking out booths. When he saw us, I was prepared to shake his hand or simply wave "hello". Nah, he gave me a huge hug. I was shocked but it totally made my first EVO. We talked a bit about how this was such a huge thing for the FGC, being at an actual convention center and being broadcast on ESPN2, how it was our first EVO... it was great. I was pinching myself after. 

Day One was short but it was more than I could've ever imagined. We were excited for Day Two. We planned to just be stream monsters, parking our butts on seats for 10 hours, watching matches on the big screen. My brother did that at CPT Finals 2015 and he was okay with doing it again.

What really happened was 1000x better.

Day Two started off so well. We didn't know where to begin and my brother only wanted to watch matches. So we gravitated to those with crowds. We saw PR Rog and then those three above, Momochi, Fuudo, and Chocoblanca. They were watching Momochi's student, Haku (on the left), during his match. His M. Bison was pretty solid. We saw him again when he played at the streaming station. As for Fuudo... we saw him EVERYWHERE. At several stations, AnimEvo, Tekken stations, even the restroom. Hah! 

After that restroom stop, my brother read a tweet that Sabin (Arturo) will be going up against Momochi in 30 minutes. We wanted to see that but we had no idea where that match was held. We then saw Momochi and company at the streaming station. Since both my brother and I are on the short side, we inched our way to the front. The taller people in front of us were super nice and let us through. They were waiting for their friend to play. When we got there, Haku was playing. I found myself standing beside Momochi. After that, SonicFox came on, defeated some guy before going up against Kazunoko. Right then and there, I knew that I wasn't going anywhere. I also realized that the GoPro Hero4 in the middle was the camera on broadcast. And I was right in front of it. (=^▽^=)

Sabin vs Momochi
And thus started the best nine hours of my fangirly life. NINE. HOURS. Not even a red carpet premiere could surpass this.

Momochi ended up losing this match. You can see that moment on stream. But what you didn't see was how poor Eita got pushed further and further back into the crowd by Arturo's chair. He was exchanging MiFi passwords with Reiketsu while sitting on the floor when Arturo won the match, popped off and that launched his chair back. I had to make room for Eita until he could push the chair away from him. I will then have a special connection with that chair. 

Another epic chair pusher is Itabashi Zangief. He prefers being so far away from the screen. At one of his later matches, he kept pushing the chair back but there was this dude to wormed his way in front of us and then sat on the floor behind the player 1 chair. Dude had to move away. Heh, he got what he deserved for squeezing in when Infiltration's posse came to the front. He wasn't one of them but he ended up there anyway lol. 

Eita (on the floor), Itabashi Zangief vs Chris Tatarian

The matches were awesome but what was going on behind them was pretty good too. The commentators were a bit to the back. We couldn't hear what they were saying that's why I justified watching back the archives. Other players randomly dropped by to say hi to their friends or hangout before their matches. Daigo was there a lot and when he's there, the other Japanese players would be there too. Apart from Fuudo, I didn't see much of Team Razer but I managed to get a selfie with Infiltration and Xian. In between matches, I also met Ricki Ortiz and Bonchan. And oh, Lupe Fiasco made an appearance as well.

Lupe Fiasco with Skisonic
I would recap everything but then again, most of it was recorded on stream by Capcom Fighters. Although, I wish there was a mic recording the crazy shit that happened and said by the crowd behind me. It consisted of exchange of ~cupcakes with presidential flavors~ and funny commentaries. 

Whenever a Karin player was on, someone in the crowd went, "Jimmy Choo please!" referring to her expensive heels. And of course, "Oh-ho-ho-ho..." They would start off a bet by saying, "Who likes Laura? I got 5 on Laura." Or when a popular player is on, they would say, "Who likes [player]?"

When Daigo or Infiltration were up against a "regular" player, the crowd went, "Ah don't worry. It's just another player. It's just another Ryu/Nash." It was so hilarious but at the same time, it's nice to see them encouraging the opponent. I mean, there was no question who was going to win but you'd never know. During one of the Daigo matches we saw, someone asked, "Okay so, who likes Daigo?" Silence. "No one?" And then some other guy answered, "Nah man, we love him." OMG LOL. I think it was the match against Tokido, I can't be 100% on that. But dang, that match!

AKG Supreme JD vs Daigo
Speaking of that Daigo vs Tokido Ryu mirror match... that was intense. Two players that I love, up against each other. They called it a heartbreaker match. I didn't have any nerves left. I literally crashed about two matches later lol. 

After Tokido's win, the crowd went wild. Then someone said to Tokido, who speaks the best English out of all the Japanese players, "You should go and write your own book now!" Tokido was facing the crowd, messing with the wire of his stick and gave a little smirk. Yes, I was dying. Only a chair separated us. Hee! (And he does have an autobiography out. LOL.)

Daigo vs Tokido, finals material
My brother and I held that Vertagear Player One chair steady when players didn't need it. Most famously, PR Rog who preferred sitting on the floor. There were other players but I remember his matches clearly because the first one we saw, Nemo was sitting on the floor with him. The guys behind me noticed him and said, "Oh cool, there's Nemo." Then another guy said, "Yeah, and about $2000 worth of clothes and shoes." LMAO. It sure looked like it.

Another one of PR Rog's matches was against Bonchan. I bet that'll be one of the EVO 2016 moments. It ended with a double KO to PR Rog's favor and the crowd loved that the USA player won. It was wild! But being the nice guy, when the players were hugging, PR Rog apologized to Bonchan because the crowd was being insane. Bonchan smiled and said it was okay.

A moment that people might have seen on stream was during one of Alex Valle's matches. I think the gameplay on the stream just stopped. What happened was the screen got turned off. Someone kicked the connection and the screen in front of the players went black. At the same time, Infiltration was putting his bag under the table where the screens were. I don't think Infiltration was to blame... he was just unluckily at the wrong place. Funny though. When they got back up, Infiltration became a total spectator, sitting quietly on the floor watching matches. Or studying his opponents lol.

Alex Valle, Infiltration, and a bonus Tokido, Skisonic, and Zhi
Speaking of Infiltration, I mentioned above that he had a posse at one of his matches. It was the one against Sako. They were so rowdy - and dressed so well - that Sako couldn't make his way to the player two chair. My brother had to assist him. Before the match, the oppas took a group photo which I bet has me on it lmao. Anyway, at every win, Infiltration's squad would chant his name, "Lee Seon-woo". The crowd picked up on it and countered with "Imhotep", which is insane because Infiltration plays Nash, a zombie. I thought that hilarity was lost forever but here it is - thanks, Red Bull Esports!

But... my favorite moment of my 9 epic hours. Eita vs Nemo, pre-match. As they were prepping, they both wanted to be player one. So they decided to play rock-paper-scissors for it. Nemo won. Immediately, Eita stomped his foot like a child and swatted Nemo on the arm. Nemo laughed. I laughed. My brother laughed. It was amazing.

That's another awesome thing about being RIGHT THERE. How many "EVO moments" were we there for in person? How many EVO finalists and winners sat not two feet away from me? It's been two weeks and I'm still talking about the experience. I'm never like this for any other convention, concert, or event. This was such an overwhelming time and I'm so thankful that what happened, well... happened. Did this inspire me to pick  up the fight stick again and work on my characters? Not really. I'll leave that to the pros. But it did make me want to practice more so I can play decently at arcades. 

My brother and I will definitely be going again. This time, we're including the finals. We had to skip the finals at Mandalay Bay. But not next year. Or at least, we'll try. I doubt anything can top this epic 9-hour experience but if I were to do it again, I'll come prepared. I'll bring food and eat whenever the stream is not showing the crowd LOL. Yup, we didn't eat until 10PM, I think. Hahaha, sorry we had to skip out after Fuudo vs Luffy because we were at our limit. I mean, come on! XD

Overall, it was a successful first EVO. It was special. It was more than I expected. I cannot wait to do it again next year. And get those pictures with Mago and GamerBee. I had so many missed opportunities!

Now, on to the photos!

Zhi and Mike Ross
James Chen and Seth Killian
Fuudo. And I think it's the seiyuu lady playing. The head beside Fuudo is Mago.
Fuudo, Chocoblanca, Poongko
Fuudo and Eita
SonicFox watching Kazunoko's match
Look at those shoes.
Try naming everyone you see.
Daigo borrowing Aru's Twitch jacket!
"call me oppa" Johnny
Alex Valle vs Xiao Hai
Eita also shook Infiltration's hand after shaking Poongko's
Kachigatari TV, anyone?
The Infiltration Squad
I ded.
Justin Wong is free.
Team Razer
Tokido helping Yukadon explain to the tech guy that the player 2 headphones weren't working.
Xian and MOV in a different kind of match.
(I won't be including professional shots that I found online that have me and my brother on it. Really, you can't miss us if you watch the stream archive that I linked above.)

New favorite snapback!
One more for the books.