Attending Defend The North, The First "Major" Fighting Game Tournament in New York City | Fanboys Anonymous
On January 11–12, Team PIE hosted Defend the North, the first fighting game "major" (or large tournament) held in New York City. The event took place at the Sheraton LaGuardia East Hotel and hosted over 300 gamers. I was only able to attend for the last day of the event, but that was enough time to meet new people, play some casual matches, and spectate at high-level matches.

Featuring games such as Injustice, Killer Instinct, Tekken, Street Fighter 4, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and King of Fighters
People who wish to attend a fighting game tournament can either register for the entire tournament, or buy a spectator badge that grants access to the venue to watch matches, play games, and buy merchandise. I missed the first day, so I was only eligible for a spectator badge—or in this case, a wristband. I walked into the ballroom just in time to see the conclusion of the grand finals for King of Fighters. The competitors shook hands briefly and scurried away to earn more money, either by winning at a different game or by playing money matches with anxious challengers. Moments later, a tournament organizer announced that the top 16 competitors for Street Fighter 4 were about to play on the main stage, so I found an open seat with a clear view of the projector screen. The few people I met before Defend the North were in the top 16, so I ended up sitting alone, but that gave me the opportunity to make friends with strangers while we geeked out during the fights.

Defend The North 2014, fighting game major in New York City
Image courtesy of Shadiq Williams.
High-level play in the Street Fighter 4 series can be methodical and calculated, requiring anticipation and pixel-perfect precision to maintain an advantage. It can also suddenly turn into a game of cat and mouse because of one mistake that puts you two 50/50 guesses away from death.

Watching the tournaments from home through a computer and being a stream monster is cool, but there's nothing like the experience of being in the audience. Of course, New Yorkers brought the hype train with them to the crowd, which helped some players stay focused and destroyed the morale of others.

Eventually, Team Pie's Zeus won with his patented Vega, the first time a Street Fighter 4 Vega player has won a major in the United States. I think he's the first Vega in the entire world to win a tournament of note. Only players who main Vega would know if this were true, but that's like trying to find a grain of sugar in snow.

Team PIE's Zeus posing after using Vega to win Defend the North
Image courtesy of Luciano Alicea.
Next up was the adrenaline rush known as Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, and its top 16 did not disappoint. Other tournaments had their share of nerves, but the amount of salt was raised exponentially when this game hit the main stage, as is always the case. For example, take this dandy:

One of the screaming spectators after the round ended is me. Don't worry. I'm too short to be seen in the shot.

UMvC3 featured impressive play from some previously unknown players such as Justin White, Dang, and Punisher. Most people watching Defend The North expected Chris G to win. He did just that by defeating Flocker, the Evolution 2013 champ, in the grand finals. In fact, I'm fairly certain Chris G did not lose one round for the entire top 16. His dominance in UMvC3 is likely to go unchallenged until he gets bored with the game. Unfortunately, I had to leave after Marvel ended to go be a family man.

Defend The North was a great event, and I'm sure it will only grow to become an even larger success next year. My next major of the year will be Atlanta's Final Round XVII. I'll be out of town with nothing to do but game for three days. It shall be glorious.

Until then, fellow geeks.

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