On Saturday, Jan. 9, I had the exciting opportunity to geek out for an entire day - not by cozying up in my place to watch a show marathon, but by doing something away from Northwestern: I attended the fourth annual Frosty Faustings, an annual fighting video game tournament in Chicago, one of my few chances to play with people as passionate about fighting games as I am. It's a simple premise: sit down in front of a TV, bust out your controller or arcade stick and dish out punishment in games like Mortal Kombat 9, Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 and Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition.
The organizer of the tournament, "Elven Shadow," teaches English in Japan but returns to the States every January to host the event as both an avid player and tournament winner. The venue, Nickel City in Northbrook, is an arcade with a hefty number of classic games that can be played either free or for the steep price of a nickel. It's somewhat cramped, difficult to navigate and has just enough light to enjoy the lined up arcades, but it had the perfect climate for playing and was a fairly short car ride from Evanston. Selections range from Dance Dance Revolution to various shooters like House of the Dead, older Mortal Kombat and ancient-but-not-forgotten Super Nintendo-era games like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. In contrast, all the tournament games were on current systems in a large room with tables along the walls.
The first thing that struck me upon entering the game room was the crowd, even though it was a familiar feeling from last year. It was packed with mostly male 20-something-year-olds, some the size of football players, who clutched their arcade sticks, bunched around TVs and eyed games, discussed strategies, cracked jokes or practiced friendly trash-talking. After paying the 10 dollar venue fee, I signed up for individual tournaments in Guilty Gear XX Accent Core and Blazblue: Continuum Shift Extend. Entrance fees weren't cheap - 20 dollars for each tournament - but half of the fees were awarded to the winners, plus a set amount.
Unfortunately, I lost very quickly in Guilty Gear. I wasn't able to practice the old PlayStation 2 game beforehand and the old veterans, who have regular friends they can practice against, definitely had the upper hand. There was better luck with Blazblue, but some factors still hindered me: the game's version was the newest import from Japan - which I haven’t played - so I couldn’t play to my full effectiveness.
Turnout for the Blazblue tournament was surprisingly low with only eight combatants, which I think was due to the hefty entrance fee and new version. In comparison, Street Fighter IV had a 128-man bracket. The tournament overall had just over 256 entrants - the exact number is hard to determine because many people played in more than one event.
Frosty Faustings is a great opportunity to be among players who are into the game. I always hope to meet some participants whom I could get to know and play, since online play is not nearly as enjoyable as going head-to-head and reacting, laughing or cursing. Overall though, the tournament was quite exhausting, the event ran from noon to around 8 p.m, with many people staying after just to play friendly games. To play, watch and listen to intense duels while making friends and competing is a great getaway experience - something I definitely want to do regularly.