On September 10th, I had the chance to check out the Red Bull Proving Grounds Fight For The 6ix, held on the University of Toronto campus. The main game being played was Street Fighter 5 and the competition was fierce but so was the comradery. Tons of matches were played but only one player could be the recipient of the single qualifying spot and win the trip to Santa Monica to compete as the Canadian representative in the finals.
For those of you who don’t know, downtown Toronto already has a rather large and lively fighting game scene. However if you didn’t know where to go to find it, you would never know it is there. This is mainly due to the fact that there are no arcades in Toronto anymore (which totally breaks my heart) and the scene is very much, for the players, by the players mainly. Many fighting games are popular in this circle, such as the latest Super Smash Bros, Pokken Tournament, Mortal Kombat, Virtua Fighter 5,Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 and more. However the most popular and most competitive of these games in the scene by far, is the latest game in the long running series, Street Fighter 5 on PlayStation 4.
Upon entering the Medical and Sciences building on the University of Toronto campus, I made way to where the tournament was being held. It was in two large lecture auditoriums each with three massive screens on the front wall, displaying the main game being played and streamed live on Twitch.tv at the same time. The first and main room of the event only had stations for Street Fighter 5. This means there was, the front main three screens with the streaming setup, then about a dozen more PlayStation 4 consoles for competitors to compete at. An announcer at the front of the room would call out the next matches and direct the players to the proper stations for them to play. At first to my eyes it appeared pretty hectic, but everyone involved or playing knew what to do and where to be for the most part it seemed.
The second room had a similar setup but had a bit more of a variety of games. The main game being played and streamed online was The King of Fighters XIV. There was also several stations set up with Super Street Fighter II arcade boards, so not full arcade machines but original PCBs connected to a computer. It was the first time I have personally seen this kind of setup and I thought it was pretty cool as I am definitely an arcade enthusiast. In this room there were also a few more PlayStation 4 consoles setup with some other fighting games, such as BlazBlue: Central Fiction and Guilty Gear Xrd.
So the whole reason for this tournament was to crown a Street Fighter 5 winner here in Toronto, who would win a trip to compete in the Red Bull Proving Grounds Finals in Santa Monica. There was hundreds of players all fighting for the single spot. If you would like a much more in depth breakdown of the players and upsets that happened at the event check out the official Red Bull Proving Grounds page here.
As far as my experience with eSports go this event was a little different from the previous events I have attended. This was very much an event put on for the community, by the community. Almost everyone attending was there to play and had some sort of arcade stick or gamepad they carried with them. These arcade sticks and controllers ranged from top of the line Mad Catz Street Fighter V Arcade FightStick Tournament Edition 2+ for PS3/PS4 to the regular PlayStation 4 DualShock 4 controllers. Even though it was a competition with space for one winner, the vibe was very friendly and you could tell most people there knew each other as friends or through the fighting game scene in some way or another.
If you want to get into the fighting game scene I highly recommend checking out your local game store or arcade (if you are lucky enough to still have arcades in your area) as there might already be a community there for you to join. If not you can also go online and sign up to compete in all sorts of online tournaments, such as the Red Bull Proving Grounds series of tournaments here. Keep in mind you will need a PSN or Xbox Live account for most of these online events. You might also want to get yourself an arcade stick, as most fighting games are designed to be played with one of these. The Mad Catz Street Fighter V Arcade FightStick Alpha for PS3/PS4is a great entry level stick or if you aren’t sure you can pick up a fight pad. A fight pad is more like a regular controller but has the buttons set up more like an arcade stick. They cost a little more than a regular controller but offer more control for fighting games in my experience. The most important thing of all though if you want to be a contender is, pick your fighting game of choice and practice, practice, practice.
Don’t forget to check out my video from the event.