The FGC has thrived because of a competitive scene that is unparalleled by any other community. The same will be true for Guilty Gear Strive.
There is no doubt that even if Guilty Gear Strive gets a sequel maybe 8 years into the future, if the main community has moved on to other games, Guilty Gear Strive will see competitive play kept alive by small tournament organizers and pocket communities.
What makes Guilty Gear Strive an even more potent game than its contemporaries is the netcode. It’s far more viable for a TO to host a Guilty Gear Strive online tournament today than for many other games simply because the chances of connection issues are lesser.
What are the implications of this? It means that now the idea of becoming a TO to support the competitive community is not over-ambitious anymore. Combining this with the availability of streaming software and cheaper hardware to document, broadcasting as an independent tournament organizer has become much easier.
Guilty Gear Strive has too many exciting online tournaments to look forward to
Daigo Umehara pulled off a ridiculous play against Justin Wong in EVO 2004, during a time when EVO wasn’t nearly the giant it is today.
That moment is called EVO moment 37. The reason for this wasn’t that it was the 37th greatest play made in EVO history, but because EVO and the community wanted to symbolize that moment, as an example of how often crazy things happen at these tournaments.
Fast forward to today, the question arises. Why is it that only the plays that happen at major events like EVO and Combo Breaker get documented and recognized so thoroughly that they become pillars in the community? Surely, crazy things are happening at other tournaments too that are worth talking about.
The answer is quite simply that it’s a stereotype at this point that only the greatest players in the world will attend EVO or Combo Breaker, and therefore only the greatest matches take place in said tournaments.
Once upon a time, the lack of documentation in smaller tournaments was the reason many great matches weren’t recognized. But today it’s a community phenomenon that a player, no matter how exceptional they are, will not get recognized unless they get top 8 in a tournament that the community considers “major.”
At best, maybe, a clip of one or two of their greatest plays will trend on Twitter for two days, and that’s it.
But tournaments are becoming more decentralized due to the rise of independent online tournament organizers. Some of these organizers are incredibly competent, and are willing to invest in production that can rival EVO.
And we’re already seeing online tournaments for Guilty Gear Strive that have incredible players, production quality and most importantly some super bombastic matches. What this means is that the people who have stayed hidden, lacking the resources to attend offline majors can now finally be recognized.
Many tournament organizers that have fought to make their tournaments recognized, have in a symbiotic fashion helped players who never had a chance to shine get recognized as well. This phenomenon has boomed for Guilty Gear Strive.
We’re already seeing so many new Guilty Gear Strive professionals doing some absolutely crazy plays, new options have opened up to make professional gaming a viable career for these people. Their Twitch channels, which were once passion projects, now have the potential to be a sustainable source of income.
To put it shortly, it’s time to stop putting EVO, Combo Breaker and so many other tournament series on the pedestal they’ve dominated for so long and start looking at independently organized online tournaments as exciting events to look forward to. Celebrating independent tournaments benefits the community as a whole.
This doesn’t mean that EVO should be neglected entirely or disrespected. They too have clearly shown their understanding of today's circumstances and have decided to host online great tournaments themselves.
But it’s nice to see them not as goliaths, but just as regular fellow TOs today (their online warm-up series layouts were hilariously bad though).
With that being said, what tournaments have gone under the radar? And what to look forward to?
What tournaments took place so far?
LEVO, a Guilty Gear Strive tournament organized by William “Leffen” Hjelte, of Super Smash Bros. Melee fame has had some extremely good participants, production and matches. Do check the VODs of LEVO, as to say that the matches were good would be an understatement.
Rise Tournament that normally gets involved with Super Smash Bros. hosted a fantastic Guilty Gear Strive tournament last month for their Playing for Pride tournament series, in an effort to raise money for the LGBTQ+ community.
TNS (Tampa Never Sleeps) hosted their 9th Guilty Gear Strive tournament yesterday that Punk, of Street Fighter V, fame took part in. The list goes on. The intention of this article is to encourage people to find more tournaments like this, not list every one of them.
What tournaments to look forward to?
Well, the following week there's an incredibly anticipated online Guilty Gear Strive tournament hosted by DreamHack (on the 24th more accurately), and there’s going to be some pretty big names including SonicFox himself participating.
So independent TO activity for Guilty Gear Strive has been reduced, either way, though in a rather bold move, Leffen will be hosting a sequel to his highly successful LEVO on the 24th as well.
But since all these tournaments are online, it’s easy in some ways for contenders to juggle between them perhaps.
With the rise of independent TOs, there’s also a rise in people attempting to scam pro Guilty Gear Strive players so either way, it's crucial to learn the reputation of a TO before deciding to invest time in them, whether as a participant or a spectator.
A good platform to browse through to find tournaments for Guilty Gear Strive is Smash.gg. They have some pretty advanced search functionality too, allowing users to find tournaments with ease.
Clip great plays, support under-appreciated pro players and go nuts with all the great tournaments being hosted today.
There are some more nuanced opinions that can be talked about. But hopefully people will take the core message of becoming open-minded enough to support up-and-coming players.
Hopefully in the future, people are going to talk about plays made in tournaments besides EVO, in the same way they talk about EVO moment 37. Maybe something like TNS moment 29.
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Only the future can tell.