Battle Arena Melbourne (BAM) is Melbourne’s major in the Australian fighting game tournament circuit, and will be celebrating its 5th anniversary this year with an expected attendance of over 300 competitors. This weekend, competitors from all over the country will congregate in one place to test their minds and skills against each other in a grueling three day long tournament.
At stake will be the crown of games such as; Super Street IV: AE v. 2012, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Tekken Tag 2, King of Fighter XIII, Virtua Fighter 5, Street Fighter x Tekken, Dead or Alive 5, Street Fighter III: Third Strike, Injustice, and Super Smash Bros. Melee and Brawl.
Fighting games are the granddaddy of competitive gaming, and the beauty therein boils down to its simple purity. Two players, two characters. No teammates to fall back on in a moment of weakness; it’s just yourself and your character- one that you’ve spent years mastering.
Every single decision has to be calculated in an instant, every pixel of space fiercely contested, and every hit confirm and combo executed with surgical precision. For me, what makes fighting games interesting is not the flash of the modern games or the incredible dexterity that the players demonstrate. It is the mind-to-mind war that fascinates me; where it’s not that you know what I know, it’s that I know that you know what I know, and now we must attempt to fool each other.
Jose Torres, the great light-heavyweight champion, once wrote in his book Sting Like a Bee: “Champions and good fighters are champions and good fighters because they can lie better than the others”. This same principle is carried over to fighting games. You must deceive, and you must conceal your hand. And sometimes, you can even play a trick on your opponent by simply going with the most honest option: that is the beauty of fighting games. In short, Street Fighter is discourse, debate. We’re conversing to each other through our characters, our language wordless and at hyper-speed.
To be at a fighting game tournament is to witness the full gamut of human emotion: the agony of a simple mistake on the verge of victory leading to the most painful of losses, the exultation of an incredible prediction jumping so many levels of logic it seems almost like mind-reading, and above all- the hype of the crowd as fierce egos and hometown pride are put on the line, 99 seconds at a time.
The first BAM happened in 2009 after the release of Street Fighter IV, the game that sparked a volcanic resurgence in the fighting game community. CouchWarriors, the brainchild of Brendon “Loki” Watson and Brendan “Zan” Tomkin quickly became the primary fighting game console tournament organisation in Melbourne, and they took it upon themselves to create BAM as the natural Melbourne counterpart to Sydney’s OzHadou Nationals (OHN), which is traditionally held earlier in the year.
BAM has since grown from strength to strength, and one of the central narratives of BAM this year was how the Melbourne contingent led by SSFIV: AE champion Genkibot did exceedingly well at this year’s OHN. Now it is time for Sydney to run it back in Melbourne!
To further excite matters, Johnny “Humanbomb” Cheng, the best Street Fighter player in Sydney for many years and a central figure in the Melbourne-Sydney wars, left Australia last year to reside in Hong Kong. Shortly thereafter, Johnny placed top 8 at Evolution 2012, merely the largest fighting game tournament in the world, held in Las Vegas and with a Street Fighter bracket of over 2000 competitors. There’s a snarky joke to be made here about how leaving Australia makes you better…
In short, the prodigal son is returning. Only this time he is now a world-beater. Will Australia be able to defend its shores against someone who was once Sydney’s favourite son? There will be some juicy matches, that is for sure.
Is this your first time at BAM?
If so, here’s a quick checklist of things to do:
Bring your own controller. Professional tennis players wouldn’t play on anything but their own racquets, which is what they’re most comfortable with, so why should you play on somebody’s borrowed controller which might fail and cost you your match? Be sure to label your equipment as well. (If you don’t have a controller, you’ll have to make do by borrowing one off people- which someone will be happy to do.)
- Take note of your pool times. Fighting game tournaments run on a very tight schedule, and if you’re late for your match the TO (tournament organiser) will not hesitate to disqualify you. So the first thing you should do is write down when your pool is starting and show up around fifteen minutes early. Once you’re there don’t wander off! Try to stay within earshot of the TO running your bracket. If you have to leave the building for a toilet or smoke break be sure to let the organiser know where you’ve gone. Plan your meals and breaks around your pool matches.
Drinks lots of water. The room will be noisy, full of people and it might even get stuffy at times, so be sure to hydrate and have a good meal early in the day to keep yourself going when you lose track of time having a great time playing games!
If you lose, don’t fret. You have two lives. If you lose your first match in tournament, you simply go into loser’s bracket with all the other people who’ve also lost their match. While being in loser’s bracket means you have to win a lot more matches to get back into grand finals, just remember it’s not the end of the world if you lose your first match. Don’t get depressed and leave for home thinking that was it!
Finals day is awesome. That’s when everyone stops playing, and grabs a drink or a can of Pringles, and we all sit in the mosh pit and watch the top 8 for all the games. That’s the time to cheer, yell, weep, boo and get crazy. Be sure to get in a little early to grab a nice spot close to the main stage.
What should I do to enjoy myself at BAM?
This is a fighting game tournament. So what you should do is play some games! Seriously, the best thing about the weekend other than the tournament itself and getting hype is the chance to be in a room full of hundreds of people with the exact same passion and interests as you.
Sit down, play a few games with the person next to you. Complain about the cheapness of the newest top tier tactic, or gush about a character that you both like, or even the Guilty Gear soundtrack that you’ve wanted to share with someone for years. This is your chance. Personally at BAM, I find it’s the people that I meet, or the conversations that I get to have that stick in my head far longer than any the matches I might have played.
So walk around, let the atmosphere soak in and talk to people!
With your new friends, get some context from them. Find out who the big names are and why these matches matter. Just watch the crowd- if there’s a massive crowd gathering in the casuals section on in the tournament area, there’s a good chance there’s a big match going on. Go head on over and be part of the moment!
And don’t be afraid to fail in tournament- almost everyone goes 0-2 in their first tournament. There’s nothing more delicious than the nervous tingle you get in your stomach as you wait for your match on stage, and the buzz you get when the room ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ when you’ve done something awesome on screen.
Putting yourself in that situation might feel daunting at first, but you can look at it as an opportunity to learn a lot about yourself and how you personally deal with adversity. Best of all, you get to ask your opponent afterwards, about what you did wrong and how you can improve, and almost every player will be very happy to sit down with you afterwards and chat. Everyone here simply wants to improve, and the sharing of knowledge makes our scene stronger.
Battle Arena Melbourne 5 takes place from May 17th to 19th. For more information on BAM head to the official website.
A big shoutout to Shadowloo / Shadowlogic for the photos featured in the article!