Six years ago I ran into a You Tube video on a review of Super Street Fighter 4. At the time I was looking for a new outlet to get involved in. As an OG Street Fighter 2 player I was intrigued again to get back into the game. Through YouTube though I found a community I didn’t even know existed. People took these games seriously. Like $200 fightstick controllers seriously. After a few months of playing and watching video after video I stumbled across the CEO 2012 teaser trailer with a full on wrestling theme. I decided to go, and had a blast seeing the fighting game community in action. Year after year I’ve returned, and this year is the last year before they move it to Daytona Beach. CEO prides itself on being a homegrown event, and it shows with an experienced staff that knows that the little things are what make these events great.
I arrived early Thursday, got all checked in, and went to pick up my badge. As I’ve always done every year, I sought out Alex Jebailey (the man you can thank for the “Jebaited!” icon on twitch) for putting on this amazing event that I’ve been attending for the past 6 years. After that not much was going on so I checked out the venue, got a bite to eat, and was excited for the morning. At 10am Friday the doors opened to all 4 ballrooms they had for the event. There was a separate arcade room with old school fighting games like 3rd Strike and Capcom vs SNK 2 and even a Dance Dance Revolution set up with Guilty Gear and Blaze Blue on the side. The room next to that was Tekken 7, Injustice 2, and Killer Instinct. Another room for Smash: Melee and Pokken. Finally, the main room was for Street Fighter 5, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, King of Fighters 14, Smash 4 for Wii U, and a special kiosk with the E3 build of Marvel vs. Capcom Infinity. So, there is something there for everyone.
Now one thing with me is sound. I like to play with headphones on and for the past few years CEO has included a bring your own headphone option. For someone like me who isn’t too keen on putting headphones on my head that aren’t mine, this is a Godsend. Again, like I said, it’s the little details. I did alright in casuals and was feeling pretty good about my play at that point with Street Fighter 5 so I moved on to Tekken 7. Let’s just say I got it handed to me in Tekken for a bit. Seeing it played at this level though definitely gave me an appreciation for the game and its mechanics.
So, my official tournament started on Friday at 7pm, and I got bounced quick. I’m one of those people that can explain every mechanic in a street fighter game but still not always have the execution to make it work. I’d say I’m a good casual player who can pull a win off when I fire on all cylinders. This was not that night as I exited rather early. Which is fine and really doesn’t diminish the weekend at all once you’re out. Later that night they had the Tekken 7 Royal Rumble. Just like the WWE Pay Per View of the same name its 30 entrants and winner stays. This year we got surprise entrants Kenny Omega from New Japan Pro Wrestling (dude is Hella good he just had an amazing match in the Tokyo Dome), Xavier Woods from WWE, and even Tekken 7’s Director Harada. The event went until midnight and then a lot of people went to the 24-hour arcade in one of the ballrooms and had mini tournaments and set ups.
Saturday I got my cup of coffee from the almost connected to the hotel Wawa and headed back to the ballroom. Tekken 7 was winding down its competitors to Top 8 and the matches were super hype. UMVC3 also finished in the afternoon and was a raucous crowd for that. I even got to chat for a bit with Tasty Steve from UltraChen TV’s Tuesday Show. Basically, it’s a fighting game weekly wrap up show with Ultra David, James Chen, Tasty Steve and, Sajam. One thing you’ll notice in this community is the approachability of everyone. Not once did I go up and talk to someone that wasn’t engaging and seemed genuinely happy to know you were a fan. I ran into Tokido, Harada, PR Balrog, and many others who were glad just to say hi and chat a little. Again, the little things that help make a weekend enjoyable. I got to give Steve credit he even asked me about my Batman 608 (variant cover) tattoo and talked to me about Jim Lee before we talked about Tekken 7 and the scene in general. Melee finals were also that night. Can’t believe that game is still be played and it still brings the hype. Killer Instinct also finished Saturday night and it will be interesting to see where they go with the Steam version being announced.
I also got to try out Marvel Vs Capcom: Infinite. Yes, it’s ugly. It’s definitely not finished either though so it didn’t bother me like it seems to be within the community. It feels really good so far. Different but good and the meta game in it could be amazingly deep when it comes to choosing your characters and gems. Not overly confusing or as just weird as Street Fighter X Tekken seemed to be. I’m anxious to see where the game is headed especially in the competitive area.
Sunday morning started with Smash 4 in the ballroom and its rapid fanbase going nuts. After that was Alex’s announcement of next year the event will be held in Daytona in the Convention Center. It’s a very ambitious move that if anybody has the balls to do it, it’s Alex. After that we had Tekken 7 finals followed by Injustice 2. Injustice 2 was very exciting to watch as well.
Finally, we got to Street Fighter 5 finals with Tampa’s own Capcom Cup Winner NuckleDu ,Punk, and Smug. Snake Eyez took the tournament with his super strong Zangief play that had the crowd pumped up. Also noteworthy is the number of American players doing well in Street Fighter 5. A lot of young and hungry kids are making it up the ranks and challenging the Street Fighter Gods of Japan.
All in all this was the best CEO yet and a fitting end to Jebailey’s reign at the Wyndham. Next year will be new challenges and issues I’m sure. However, watching this scene grow and get larger and larger every year I’m sure CEO 2018 will be a blast as well. The Fighting Game Community is growing every year and with all these new games coming out now is the best time to hop in to get content and advice for whatever you need help with. It’s right at the cusp of being a huge Esport and with homegrown started events like this you can see that the detail to the little things is paying off.