Bring Your Own Controller: Fighting Gamers @ UCI

by | Aug 31, 2016, 2:24PM PDT

The fighting game community is one that has stood the test of time. From the Street Fighter series to Mortal Kombat, these games are very recognizable but not everyone is familiar with their culture.

In 1976, Sega released Heavyweight Champ, the only video game at the time to be considered a “fighting game”. Although it was the first of it’s kind, it wasn’t until Karate Champ came out in 1984 that the genre would get popular. Years later, Capcom released Street Fighter and Street Fighter II, which revolutionized gaming with its combo mechanics and special attack moves. From there on, numerous fighting games were created as they became the dominant genre for competitive gaming in the ‘90s.


During this time period, many arcades were spawning all over the world, and the joystick/controller was becoming an iconic symbol. While joysticks have a deep history of their own, the first ones designed for video games were created back in 1967. Through competition and tournaments, fighting gamers developed a unique relationship with controllers and would bring their own to use at their matches. This has become a gold standard for fighting gamers everywhere.

Two top tier competitive players with their own controllers at EVO 2016. (Justin Wong on the left and Daigo Umehara on the right).

Right here on campus, students also bring their controllers to weekly matches hosted at the Student Center. Whether it’s for a quick session or a larger event, FG@UCI is the go-to for fighting gamers. The club stands as one of the strongest communities for the genre in all of Southern California. With the club being founded over a decade ago, a lot of the older members mentor and help new players get started. Kenny Lennon, President of FG@UCI, shares his experience of joining the club:

“When I started as a freshman, the club was doing a launch event for Persona 4 Arena Ultimax. I had never played fighting games before, but I stopped into the event and entered the tournament. I got destroyed, but I had a great time. I started going to weekly sessions every Tuesday, and got way better at a whole bunch of different games. The club introduced me to some of my closest friends, both at UCI and beyond.”

The club puts a lot of emphasis into creating an environment where players can bond with one another. What’s unique about fighting games is that there’s always the chance that anyone can win.

“You don’t need to be sponsored, you don’t need fancy equipment, or a team of players. All you need is the determination to learn and win. Take Evo for example. Evolution is the biggest FGC event of the year, with over 5000 people competing for the Street Fighter V championship. But it’s always open to the public. No invitations only, no ranking system, no point requirements or anything. Everyone who shows up has the same chance of winning.”

Win or lose, players walk away with more experience than they had before, and with so many skilled players right here at UCI, you can expect nothing short of great sportsmanship and competitive spirit. Players encourage each other to do well especially when they’re friends that practice together. As Kenny states,

“It’s the best feeling when someone you train with does something super smart, or makes an amazing read. It makes you want to jump up and shout, ‘YEAH, THAT’S MY BOY!’ If you know what I’m saying.”

UCI Alum Tim “Wentinel” Wen representing Fighting Gamers @ UCI during NorCal Regionals 2016

It is safe to say that fighting games have been pioneers for the creation of eSports, and we owe a lot to our communities that keep the culture alive. Even if you’ve never played games like Marvel vs. Capcom, King of Fighters or Guilty Gear, FG@UCI will always be willing to show you the ropes. So the next time you walk by a Street Fighter machine and you’re looking for a match, remember that FG@UCI is right here on campus, and they’re waiting for you.