The road to EVO, this weekend's massive fighting game tournament, appears to be paved with the good intentions of others. Three different cases have popped up of strangers and/or surprise sponsors swooping in to ensure that some desperate gamers can attend the Las Vegas event.
One case, covered by the Penny Arcade Report's Andrew Groen, involves Simon “Popi” Gutierrez, the possible world's best in Super Street Fighter IV.
The Swedish player had a problem, Groen wrote earlier this week: "Champion or not, he was still a broke 20-something with little hope of affording the thousands of dollars required to travel from Sweden to Las Vegas to compete at EVO." And yet with just a handful of days to go, Gutierrez secured sponsorship from organizers of the Dreamhack event and Rockstar Energy Drink to get him out there.
Sommeling: "Our thoughts at first were that we were screwed and had to sleep on the streets of Orlando."
Sponsorships are common in competitive gaming, so, happy as that story is, it's not quite as unusual as the one that Dutch gamers LLL.MBR and LLL.Momi are living through. These guys flew out to Orlando to compete in the CEO fighting game tournament at the end of June but then, through some miscommunications and missed flights, found themselves stranded in the U.S. "Our thoughts at first were that we were screwed and had to sleep on the streets of Orlando," LLL.MBR, real name Roy Sommeling, told Kotaku. That's when help arrived.
Instead of sleeping on the streets of Orlando, the Dutch gamers got put up in a room by CEO organizer Alex Jebailey. Their manager suggested they either get a new flight back to Amsterdam or find housing in the U.S. and stick it out until EVO in the hope of getting a cheaper return flight. They chose the latter. They credit fighting gamer SherryJenix with putting the word out on Twitter that they needed somewhere between Orlando and Las Vegas to crash, and they credit a group of fighting gamers in Utah—the 801—for giving them places to stay.
"We (the 801) had already befriended these fine folks at Canada Cup 2012, and CEO 2013," Utah-based fighting gamer HadoukenMD told me. "After seeing their tweets, we immediately retweeted them offering a place in Utah to live before EVO. Specifically, Dana [Graham] stated she would drive them from Utah to Vegas for EVO. Lucas picked them up from the airport and they crashed there for 2 days. Later on, they would crash at my place for the next 5 days. I got them beds, clean sheets, groceries, clothes, took them out to dinner,and bought 3 different xbox to ps3 converters as EVO is PS3 only (Momi uses xbox pad). It has been great times to play against the best Akuma and Fei Long from Europe; we had 6 setups at my house and even the OG Utah SF4 players came to play."
Things have worked out pretty well:
"The USA FGC has been so kind to us," Sommeling told me. "We weren't expecting this much
hospitality, to be honest." They'll be competing in Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition 2012 at the tournament and will be flying back to Amsterdam after EVO, their hotel and return flight paid for by their sponsor, LowLandLions.
The best kindness-of-others road to EVO story might have turned out to be the one involving Kevin "Di3mini0n" Landon, the world's premier Guile player, though that one took a non-storybook twist and switched its happy ending at the last minute. As of this past weekend, it seemed that Landon was going to be going to EVO thanks solely to a surprisingly successful crowdfunding effort.
Just last week, he had Tweeted:
Due to circumstances , I am announcing with great sadness that I will not be participating at the Evolution 2013 World Finals .— Kevin Landon (@Di3mini0n) July 2, 2013
But then he got the idea that other enterprising gamers have had to get themselves to PAX and other big gaming shows: crowdfunding.
And it worked:
Cue the plot twist. Landon now says he doesn't need the money and will return it. While he did not respond to a Kotaku request for comment about his adventure, his manager, Isaiah Triforce Johnson did, saying that his gamer preferred to stay out of the limelight.
According to Johnson, Landon's difficulties in getting to EVO were due to a work-related scheduling conflict. Johnson believes that Landon was encouraged by other members of the fighting game community to run the fundraiser instead of clarifying with Johnson's team about whether one of their sponsors was going to be able to fly him out there. The sponsor, VXG, will.
"It was a misunderstanding," Johnson said. "It happens. So now, I said, 'We will return the money to the community.'"
Since Landon's crowd-funding effort was successful, he actually has the $1500 from the community and can't simply flip a switch to undo and return the donations. Instead, according to Johnson, all 58 contributors will be e-mailed and asked to provide information for getting their money returned. If any decline, Johnson said their money will be given to a charity or to the prize winnings of an upcoming match.
Landon will compete at EVO in three games: Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition Version 2012, Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 and Street Fighter X Tekken.
EVO 2013 kicks off on Friday from Las Vegas. Much of the event will be streamed, and we'll be carrying those streams here on Kotaku for all who want to enjoy the virtual combat in the year's biggest fighting game event.