It looks like a bomb went off in my house.
SoCal Regionals ended Sunday night, and while there were some landmark moments—Kokonoe and Firebrand both taking their first major, for example—I won’t remember those as well as the times spent outside the venue. For three days my house was a crossroads for players; old friends mixing with new ones, stories about the Midwest intermingling with tales of California. There were good games, complaints, a sizable amount of empty beer containers and too many dirty towels.
A month and a half ago, Patrick Miller wrote about growing older in the fighting game scene and what that meant for him as player and as a person. He talked about aging out of active competition, and how our roles in the community can change as we pick up new experiences. For me, it’s much the same: although I can still devote more time to playing than Miller can, it’s easy for me to see the difference in how much I play now versus the time I spent playing a decade ago. My time is simply spent elsewhere: whether it be writing about the scene (like this), talking about games with the Super Desperation Radio cast or even simply attending to my personal life there just aren’t enough hours in the day anymore.
What Miller didn’t really touch on, however, is how the social aspect of gaming changes the longer we have been playing. Players in the FGC often like to comment about how major tournaments are a reunion of sorts, bringing people back together after an arbitrary amount of time has elapsed. When you’ve been playing games for more than a decade, that effect is magnified. And when you stop being able to attend every major tournament, the effect kicks into high gear.
Only being able to attend less than five majors each year makes every moment at those tournaments a possible “class reunion.” Whether it’s running into old Guilty Gear players who I haven’t seen in years or just talking to people I normally only communicate with through Twitter, each moment seems important. There are always too many people you want to see, games you want to play, beers you want to drink. You can never do it all, but for those three to four days there’s almost never a dull moment.
While some people will walk away from SoCal Regionals talking about the great competition, just as many will walk away with stories that happened outside the games. Maybe they were like me, watching Justin vs Khaos on a cell phone from the Anthill Pub upstairs while trading stories and talking about how “you don’t bet against Justin Wong.” Perhaps they caught up to an old friend they hadn’t seen in years and grabbed In-N-Out across the street. Or maybe they made some new friends bonding over a game they all liked.
That’s what makes days like today so depressing. The return to “real” life, complete with responsibilities like a work schedule or even just cleaning up the house, is always a letdown. There’s always someone who you wanted to talk to more, or someone you didn’t get to see. And you know that it’s going to be several months before you have that opportunity again, if not a year or more. That’s the real reunion aspect kicking in: while you know there’s another one coming up, you’re not sure just who is going to be able to show up even when you can.
As I survey the damage done to my house, I notice more the people who aren’t in it anymore. Yeah, there are dirty countertops and blankets are strewn everywhere, but those are minor annoyances. And while we’re always ready for a little peace and quiet, or time to heal from the newest FGC cold or flu outbreak, soon enough we’ll be wishing for this weekend back.
Because there’s never enough time.