5 Ways To Get Newcomers Hype To Watch Fighting Games

If you’re a part of the Fighting Game Community (FGC), you are probably no stranger to watching tournaments. Whether you’re an active tournament attendee or a stream lurker, you love watching the game and being a part of the community. Hype matches, funny and insightful commentary, and seeing your favorite players win gives you a great experience without even having to touch that controller.

But not everyone shares the same passion you might have for these games. People who don’t play fighting games (or even games in general) might give you a strange look when you say that you’re going to be watching a tournament. Whatever reason they have against fighting games, there’s always a chance that they can become open to them if they start with watching some people play. Most of the times they simply just don’t understand what’s hype about fighting games. So the best bet they have to get hype for fighting games is through you.

Here’s five ways you can convert your non fighting friend into a raving fighting game fan.

#1 — Explain Fighting Games

Most people when they see fighting games, at the worst they will think, “this is just a mindless game”. They may think of it as child’s play or just something that doesn’t require much useful skills. We know, as fighting gamers, that this is far from the truth and that it takes great skill and mental ability to play well. So we need to convey this truth to people who may have that prejudice.

One way we can get through to newcomers is to correlate fighting games with something that the person understands. Use things like sports, martial arts, music, cooking, and other games that a newcomer is familiar with and can relate to. Having an easy and relatable frame of reference helps people to understand what is going on and why they should appreciate what’s happening in front of them.

For example, you can correlate Marvel infinite combos with playing an instrument. Just like you need to practice a guitar to get the notes and timing right, you need to practice the timing of the commands to get the combo right. You can go further into talking about the neuroscience of how muscle memory is involved, or talk about how the pressure to keep the combo going is just like playing music in front of a crowd on stage.

If you’re watching a game with a newcomer, it’s great to explain the match alongside with them (if they’re ok with it of course). Explaining these moments with simple correlations helps them to start seeing how the game works. You don’t want to bombard someone with terminology and details about frame data, just give them the general gist of why any moment is important. Make sure the explanations are quick and simple, so you won’t miss any action and hype moments. And encourage questions from whoever you’re watching fighting games with.

You’re the expert, so you need to be the one to hold a newcomers hand through the experience.

#2 — Listen To The Commentary

As much as you can help with explaining what’s going on in the match with your friend, somebody already has that job. Fighting game commentators add a great layer of entertainment and education to watching fighting games.

Commentators do an amazing job with sorting out the important moments and explaining what’s going on (basically #1 of this post) for a general audience. They add hype to the big moments and can cover for times when not much is going on. Commentators like Xie [@xieplus] give great insight as to what the players may be thinking and provide useful information on the game mechanics. Commentators like Beautiful Dude [@beautifuldudegg] has such great charisma and are downright hilarious and make the viewing experience way more fun to watch.

Listening to the commentary won’t always work well for new viewers. Most commentators will gear towards the majority who probably know, play, and watch fighting games already. The terminology may fly over a newcomers head and leave them confused. A viewer may wonder why the crowd is getting hype over a baited burst, or other things that are taken for granted as common knowledge. Also with the face paced nature of the game, there’s not enough time to explain everything, so a viewer’s questions may go unanswered. This is where point #1 comes back into play and you can help fill in the gaps for people if they don’t understand what’s going on.

For the most part commentators are great for bridging the gap between the viewers and what’s going on for the game and keeping them entertained.

#3 — Tell The Stories of The Players

Another thing that great commentators can help with is to tell the stories of the players. We’re all part of a community of real people with our own stories. Everyone loves stories and the FGC is chock full of many classic storylines. The “underdog against all odds” or even “good vs. evil” are tried and true story archetypes that almost everyone understands and enjoys.

It’s great to find stories that have details that the newcomer may resonate with. Things like where the player is from, what their background is, or even who their favorite character is. These details help newcomers connect with players that have traits they can identify with.

Explaining something like how Knee [@holyknee]is one of the best Tekken players in the world that hails from Korea, can grab someone’s attention simply for his nationality. Couple that with explaining that Bronson Tran [@brnsntrn] is a long time Tekken veteran from Northern California shows that even the older generation still have a lot of fight in them. And tying it together with the story of how Knee and Bronson Tran met at Grand Finals for Evo 2013 could get someone interested to learn more. Bronson apparently was going in with the mentality “I’ll play to have fun, like it’s casuals” for the entire tournament. With that attitude he was able to climb to the grand finals against the very best in the world and face off against Knee. This classic story of the retired vet getting back into the fray one more time definitely had me excited when I watched that grand finals match.

With so many kinds of people within the community, it’s hard to find someone you can’t relate to. There are players, commentators, teachers, streamers, producers, tournament organizers, and the list just goes on. The community itself is a treasure trove of great people that we can relate with, connect with, and play with.

#4 — Teach Them The Actual Game

Much like how a sports fan or a poker fan may casually play the game that they love watching, most fighting game fans play their own game to some degree. Playing the games helps bring understanding to the rules and difficulties that the game presents. In turn, it helps people to understand what is happening in a game when they are watching. With all this, it’s easier to appreciate when something extremely skillful or smart is done in the game (and laugh when something hilarious happens).

To get people started to play, you’ll want to ease them in and teach them the most basic rules and let them explore the game a bit on their own. Teaching people to something as basic as attacks and movement will help them understand the game overall.

For example, you might want to just stick with the basic Smash concepts of hitting opponents, moving around, and staying on the platform. Show them what buttons they can use to hit and a few of the easy to use moves. Then you can show them that you can double jump, and even use other moves to help you move around. And to that end, show them that you need to use all this to stay on the platform and not fall off or get blown off the screen.

Once you teach them a few basics, you can lead a newcomer down the path to check out supplementary material to learn the game. You can have a them check out match videos and tutorials from 2GGaming(@2GGaming / @2GG_BAM) to help them up their game understanding.

Helping newcomers achieve higher levels of play, no matter what level they’re at, will help them come to love the game more.

#5 — Get HYPE

Enthusiasm and love for the game is what will help people understand why fighting games are even worth watching. People need to feel and see that you’re excited for your favorite game or your favorite players. This excitement will make people curious and gives you the opportunity to explain why you get so hype over fighting games.

Especially get hype for when any crazy moments happen. You may need to explain very nuanced moments, but other moments (when Guile’s theme gets turned on) are just obviously hype for anyone spectating. And being excited about it will give a newcomer social permission and energy to get hype with you. Help them to get invested in the things that you’re invested in like cheering on a friend that shows up on stream or someone from your hometown.

A great example of infectious hype is the Street Fighter V (SFV) finals for EVO 2016. It was the very first time that the Sunday finals were in a stadium and SFV was at a fever pitch in popularity. Even ESPN2 broadcast the SFV finals on television and it’ll be on again for EVO 2017! LI Joe (@thisislijoe) was the only American to make it to the top 8 Street Fighter V fighting through over 5000 players. The crowd was electric from rooting on the hometown hero and made the stadium shake with “USA!” chants. Despite such great support, Joe ended up getting 5th in the finals, but he still left as a champion in the eyes of the people. Everyone in the crowd, on twitter, and stream watchers got on board the LI Joe hype train and were swept up in excitement. Even people watching Street Fighter for the first time on TV got swept up in Joe’s performance and his story.

Simply put, if you’re not having fun, someone who is with you probably won’t be having fun either. So do yourself and any newcomer a favor and GET HYPE!

Bonus Stage — Make It Fun!

Most of all, watching fighting games should be fun. You should do all you can to make the viewing experience fun for anyone who is new to the scene.

There are a lot of things you can do to add to the experience of watching fighting games. For a tournament stream, you can make some small or silly bets to add some stakes to the experience. Examples of some fun bets to make are “Odd/Even timer count on first hit” or “who uses their super first”. Bets like these work well because any prior knowledge of the scene or players probably won’t help the outcome, so newcomers would have a fair chance to win.

You can turn watching fighting games into an event and have friends over to have good food and drinks. You can have a station where people can try the games themselves or have other non-gaming things available to do. These extra elements to an event can help distract a newcomer if there are any games they aren’t interested in or simply getting a bit bored.

Try to think of what the newcomer might enjoy and try to cater to that to some degree. Get creative and plan for them have a great experience.

Watching fighting games is a great deal of fun whether it’s with fellow FGC members or those new to fighters. So be sure to help spread the hype of fighting games to those who you think will enjoy it.

Comment below and let me know what you think are some other good ways to help newcomers get hype to watch fighting games.

Make sure to grab a friend and check out the world’s largest fighting game tournament, Evolution 2017 on twitch.tv and ESPN2 this weekend (July 14–16).

Check out the EVO 2017 Stream Schedule to catch your favorite game on stream and on TV!