Thursday, July 18, 2024

The Ecosystem

Original date: 05/11/18

Author’s Note: This was the first article of its kind that I’ve written for Team Unbroken. I’ve always had an interest in the FGC (Fighting Game Community) and writing as well, so it was my first time ever writing for a professional organization. The event I covered was one of the monthlies that Kick Punch Block hosts in Chinatown, NY known as Chinatown Beatdown. I still say that talking to Aphro was probably one of the best interviews I’ve ever had. That man is wise beyond his years.

Picture the scene, it is a Saturday afternoon at a Chinatown backstreet called Orchard Street. The area surrounding is filled with skaters rolling up and down the block, with the occasional young adult prowling around looking for a proper place for the nightlife. After all, it is May 5th, Cinco de Mayo. Tonight, would have been a great time as any to step out and enjoy what the Lower East Side/Chinatown area had to offer. Not far from the skaters and the young crowd, however, lies a venue, filled with at least fifty others, all on the same floor, participating in the same competition and events. The puzzle that must be solved to get to this place, however, is to figure out how to get there.

From the outside, 62 Orchard Street looks like an abandoned storefront and for all intents and purposes, it is. What was once a men’s clothing store is now a closed area with graffiti blessing the gate. Above the former clothing store also advertises a dance studio, which, as you can also guess, is no more as well. What isn’t automatically noticeable is that the dance studio is the point of interest, as the former dance studio has been recently rented out by a card and specialty shop known as XenoZero.


The venue, XenoZero, allows event organizers to host their events at their shop, which, being a dance studio, is large enough to house both a fighting game tournament on one side of the studio and their own business on the other side of the studio. To get into the store, you would need to ring the buzzer to be let in. I remember the first time I’ve ever participated in a Chinatown Beatdown event, which was my first time I’ve ever been to XZ after they relocated to this area, and honestly, I quite like the aesthetic. It gives off an “underground Fight Club feel” where on the outside the place looks abandoned, but inside on tournament night it’s filled with players ranging from all types of games, from Tekken, Street Fighter, King of Fighters, and even Anime fighters.

Venue aside, the monthly tournament series known as Chinatown Beatdown has been a long running monthly local for years, ran by the Kick Punch Block team, a respected fighting game team based in New York. The tournament itself, as mentioned earlier, is filled with many players from various backgrounds, all sharing the same space, yet for a multi-game tournament, everything is always well running. There are setups for general and tournament play, a streaming station, and in the back, there’s the back-of-house dynamics including bracket running, commentary, and where the overall production takes place.

As also mentioned earlier, this would be my second time attending this event, and the competition is every bit as formidable as what you would expect from a major almost. There are a lot of hidden talent waiting to be explored and no one here pulls any punches. In this tournament I didn’t do as well as I would like, but that’s just the case of me getting outplayed. The one who eliminated me was a King player who would go on to make it quite far in the tournament for example. However even in defeat, there is nothing but mutual respect from everyone, and casuals are usually running after tournaments with other players to find out the holes in your own playstyle, what you can improve on, and overall friendly banter. The scene, specifically Tekken, is highly competitive, yet at the same time it’s all about respecting each other, something that the event organizer, Aphro Dynamek, takes into consideration highly.

I’ve gotten the chance to talk to him as the tournament reached its tail end, and after commentating on matches all day while enjoying a smoke break, he was more than friendly enough to talk to me for close to a half hour about his vision for these tournaments, as well as the rest of the team who helps, whether its assistance with the stream and commentary, organizing the brackets, and other behind the scenes work.

Speaking with Aphro, he was as transparent as they come, happily able to tell me about how he feels events like Chinatown Beatdown is important for the growth of the local scene. Since the location is in Chinatown, NYC, it is at a location where it’s ease of access for most attendees. Manhattan is the central hub of New York, and with Chinatown being the heart of Manhattan, it’s a location where it’s close enough to most major train stations, but not far enough to where it’s a hinderance to get th


Ease of travel aside, events such as CB is great for the grassroots of the New York FGC a place where players can train and level up. While CB isn’t the only place where one can achieve this, his goal is to make it so that everyone who does attend is comfortable and encouraged to attend even if they feel like their skills are not the best. “If one has a meltdown, I’d rather it happens here than on the main stage where one caves into the pressure,” he told me, and that line was one thing that stood out for me from the conversation we had. “Meltdown” in this regard meaning if one goes 0-2 or they feel they haven’t performed their best. It’d be best if one suffered a loss like that in a setting where you can always improve, among other local players who are just as hungry as you are, rather than losing it all at a high stakes major and caving in from the pressure.

Personally, as a player, I feel the local scene is the cornerstone of leveling up as not everyone is ready to jump into majors and other premier events. If you lose, then it’s fine as there’s always next time, there are always casuals, and the scene in general encourages you to push yourself. It’s an ecosystem where you naturally gravitate towards those like-minded, and as such it’s not always about winning or losing, but how you can improve yourself as a player and as a person.

Events like CB are the cornerstone to that type of growth, and as such, something that shouldn’t be taken for granted and instead made use of as much as possible. From the staff, to the players, and the atmosphere, everything emphasizes that the local scene is alive and well even in 2018 where we’re moving to a more homogenized state of FGC and e-sports. No matter what may happen with the two, locals are one of the best ways to experience what the FGC has to offer and being surrounded by good people encourages this.


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