If you know of the annual Evo fighting game tournament in Las Vegas, it’s likely because the event is a massive gathering of the greatest virtual pugilists on the planet, assembled with the sole purpose of destroying one another via Hadoukens and Shoryukens. What you might not know about the event is that its participants (despite their affinity for pixelated characters beating each other to death) are generally pretty socially conscious, upstanding people. This is why the past eight years of Evo have featured a fundraising event, and this latest edition of the tournament is no different. All told, the fighting game community pulled in $225,744 this year, which will be donated to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
That’s great news by itself, but the really clever bit is how the organizers of this fundraising effort put the whole thing together. Instead of just asking for donations, the hosts opted to tap in to the competitive spirit of fighting game fans by pitting their favorite titles against one another. Evo 2013 has been slated to feature eight different fighting games, but instead of deciding on each of the games from the get-go, Evo officials only publicly selected seven games, and tasked the fighting game community with selecting the final eighth game, not by voting, but by donating cash toward whichever title they feel most deserves a spot at Evo. In the end, the victor was Super Smash Bros. Melee whose fans managed to raise an impressive $94,683. Melee will now join such titles as Tekken Tag Tournament 2 and Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 at this year’s Evo tournament, which is scheduled to take place on July 12-14 at the Paris Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Great news, right? Everyone hates cancer, so who could possibly cast a negative cloud on this tale of generosity? Unsurprisingly, the fighting game community itself. Despite the victory earned by Super Smash Bros. Melee in this fundraising drive, it remains one of the most controversial fighters among members of the fighting game community. Devotees of more technical series like Tekken and Street Fighter largely consider Nintendo’s franchise to lack depth and nuance; it’s too simple and is thus boring, both to play and to watch (or so goes the common rationale).
Supporters of Melee however see it as a title that’s simple to pick up yet can take months for players to rise to a proper competitive level. Then there’s a third faction that just sees the Smash Bros. series as intensely fun party games that are best served alongside alcohol and a room full of close friends. Whichever side you support, expect the jovial, self-high-five attitude currently flowing through the fighting game community to quickly devolve into squabbles over whether or not Melee is a legitimate fighting game. Like it or not, these battles appear to be inevitable.