The Evolution Championship Series broke entrant records in 2019

Fighting games are one of the oldest and purest forms of competitive gaming, where two players duke it out until there is only one left standing. The Evolution Championship Series, or Evo, provides an opportunity for the fierce and dramatic rivalries that result from fighting games to grow and evolve.

Street Fighter V on the main stage of Evo 2017. Photo courtesy of the Evolution Championship Series Facebook page.

Evo has a long and storied history, which Usgamer has written about. They interviewed several organizers and participants who were present for the first tournaments in 1996, when the event was called Battle by the Bay and in 2002 when the event was first named Evo. Some of the interviewees still compete in the event. 

The annual Evo event took place this year at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nevada from Aug. 2-4. It hosts the largest fighting game tournaments in the world. There were 14,321 entrants over nine games. Evo also hosted an event in Japan for the second time from Feb. 15-17 this year. 

Nine games take the stage every year, culminating in the final night with championship matches for the games with the most entrants. This year Super Smash Bros. Ultimate had the most with 3,492 entrants, according to Joey Cuellar, President of the Evolution Championship Series. This could be due to Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and Super Smash Bros. Melee not being present for the first time in five years since the former was released. It was also the first appearance of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate since it released in December of 2018.

Although the games at Evo change from time to time due to new releases or a drop in popularity, viewers are likely to recognize popular titles in the Street Fighter and Super Smash Bros. series. This year, the games played at Evo were: Street Fighter V Arcade Edition, Tekken 7, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Mortal Kombat 11, Soulcalibur VI, Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late[st], Dragon Ball FighterZ, Blazblue Cross Tag Battle and Samurai Shodown. 

Evo is no stranger to drama and intense celebrations, often referred to as “pop-offs.” These are moments that don’t require viewers to have any knowledge of fighting games because someone just took their shirt off and it’s clear that it’s about to get serious. 

SonicFox celebrating after a win at Evo 2018. Photo courtesy of the Evolution Championship Series Facebook page.

There were many stories that came out of Evo this year. Arslan Ash, a Tekken 7 player from Pakistan, made history by winning tournaments at Evo tournaments in the U.S. and Japan. SonicFox, a mainstay of Evo, remained dominant in Mortal Kombat, but was defeated in the grand finals for Dragon Ball FighterZ

MKLeo holds up his trophy after winning the tournament for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate at Evo 2019. Photo courtesy of the Evolution Championship Series Facebook page.
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Some members of the UAA Super Smash Bros. and Fighting Games Club spectated and even attended the event in Las Vegas. One of the members who attended the event was the president of the club, Shawn Fugere.

“I personally watched most of the finals and I must say, I really enjoyed them all. Being at the event in the giant arena, [it’s] like nothing else. Seeing entire crowds do the Dragon Ball scream when a match starts is something you won’t forget,” Fugere said. 

Learning to play a fighting game may seem daunting to a player when they realize how much is expected of them, from memorizing move lists to terminology and mind games. However, it’s still possible to start playing fighting games, thanks to local events and online tutorials. 

“Do I think anyone could get started with playing and learning fighting games? Yes, yes, yes, one million times yes,” Fugere said. “Fighting games are amazing for the casual to the most competitive individual. No matter how you like to play, there’s a game and character for you.”

The Super Smash Bros. and Fighting Games Club meet every Friday in the Eugene Short Hall room 214 from 7-12 p.m. 

“The [fighting game] communities in Alaska and most other places I’ve visited have been very accepting and just excited to have more people involved. So, feel free to introduce yourself and swing by one of our club meetings on campus,” Fugere said.