Two different fighting game tournaments ran into issues last weekend that discouraged competitors and drew complaints from the larger community. But where one tournament organizer says the event is looking for ways to improve in the future, the other responded with mockery, such as photoshopping fake tears onto a player’s photo and decrying them as a “sore loser” and idiot.” After three days, this organizer deleted those messages and finally made a statement acknowledging players’ concerns. Discussion of these two tournaments and their very different approaches to criticism has rocked the fighting game community over the last few days.
As its name suggests, Canada Cup is one of the biggest fighting game events in its host country. Established in 2009 by founder Lap Chi Duong, the annual tournament tends to attract talent from across the globe thanks to its international five-on-five Street Fighter competition. Canada Cup has also been a part of the Capcom Pro Tour since 2015, making it a late-schedule stop for players looking to pick up a few more qualifying points for Capcom Cup.
Canada Cup has also had its fair share of controversies over the years. In 2011, the event charged Twitch viewers a subscription fee of $8.95, a number that remains a meme within the community. Last year, a Marvel vs. Capcom competitor was able to cheat his way into a second tournament position after already being eliminated, which earned him a lifetime ban from the event.
This year’s Canada Cup, which was held last weekend at the Enthusiast Gaming Live Expo (EGLX) in Toronto, Ontario, ran into trouble almost immediately. On the first day, Northern California competitor Long “LPN” Nguyen found himself completely disqualified from the Ultra Street Fighter IV tournament after arriving late to his pool. Strict tournaments have been known to disqualify players for showing up after a pool starts (everyone needs to be ready to play at the allotted time to ensure the event runs smoothly), but usually, a player arriving late will simply have to cede the game to their first opponent and get sent to the losers bracket.
According to Nguyen, the person running his Ultra Street Fighter IV pool disqualified him right away. Nguyen admits that he showed up 10 minutes after the first round of competition started, but his tardiness shouldn’t have held anything up due to him having a bye in that stage, which is backed up by the online brackets. When he checked in with the Canada Cup staff member in charge of the group, Nguyen says, he was immediately disqualified from both his first match and his losers bracket match, eliminating him from the tournament entirely despite him being there and ready to play.
“It’s been a rough weekend here in Canada and I’m pretty exhausted with everything in general,” Nguyen told Kotaku through private messages after the tournament ended. “I haven’t heard anything about the staff member who ran my Ultra Street Fighter IV pools after the incident. The only thing Lap Chi said to me after I told him the situation was ‘sorry bro.’ I paid good money out of my own pocket to travel out here to compete, enjoy the event, and most importantly support Lap Chi and his brand because I’m a consumer and competitor at the end of the day, but I haven’t gotten a refund or any compensation for the DQ mishap.”
Nguyen described numerous other issues with Canada Cup, which he called an “unfortunate shitstorm.” In his words, some of the biggest problems included “horrible time management, not enough transparency and communication, trash scheduling, lack of resources, and inexperienced staff,” claims that other attendees echoed on social media as the tournament progressed.
At the end of the last day of the event, Capcom abandoned its scheduled English broadcast of the Street Fighter V finals, stating that “due to delays and a hard schedule at the venue,” the finals would be recorded and aired at another time. Today, Capcom posted that the time and date for the re-aired broadcast had still not been decided. (Capcom did not return Kotaku’s request for comment.) The lack of a live stream is an unheard-of move in the era of the Capcom Pro Tour. Due to the issues he experienced, Nguyen said he doesn’t see himself returning to Canada Cup any time soon.
Canada Cup released an official statement two days after the event, citing “major growing pains” and the tournament’s move to the EGLX convention space as the main culprits behind these issues. “Canada Cup has always been about the community and we’re taking to heart the constructive feedback we’ve seen,” the statement concludes. “We will learn from this year and come back stronger than ever. Thank you, as always for your support.”
Canada Cup founder Lap Chi Duong echoed these sentiments in an email to Kotaku, saying that “working in a convention space for the first year, it became quickly obvious that the trade off for a bigger production is losing the leniency you enjoy in a hotel conference setting.” He added that if any future partnerships were to occur between Canada Cup and a large-scale convention like EGLX, more consideration would need to be given to the “unique nature” of running a fighting game competition.
Another major fighting game tournament last weekend had a much simpler problem, but its organizer responded in a very different way.
While Canada Cup was running in Toronto, the Dragon Ball FighterZ World Tour made its latest stop in Southeast Asia as part of the annual Thailand Game Show. Unlike the major Saga events, which have more oversight from World Tour organizers Bandai Namco and Twitch, this Dragon Radar tournament was handled by the local group behind the Thaiger Uppercut fighting game tournament series.
Everything seemed fine until, near the end of the tournament, players began to flip coins on stage before each of their matches for an unknown reason. There was no announcement on the official live stream to explain why this was happening and, eventually, the grand finals moved to one side of the head-to-head monitor setup. Previous to the grand finals, players had been competing on two individual monitors, which is common in modern tournament play. The coin flipping and eventual switch to just one of these two monitors was a clear sign that something was amiss. The tournament wrapped with local Thai player Peerapat “nickey_e” Ekpoothorn winning the championship match, but his opponent, Filipino visitor Alden Jacob, soon took to social media to explain the mysterious goings-on in the last few games.
“The monitor that was connected directly to the PlayStation 4 didn’t have input lag but the other one did,” Jacob said on Twitter. “I raised the concern to the tournament organizers, but all they said was we should just coin toss on who gets to play on the lagless monitor.”
In emails to Kotaku, Jacob said that he offered an obvious solution to this problem—moving both players to the monitor with less latency—but he was told by tournament organizers there was nothing they could do according to the rules, an argument that isn’t backed up by the official Dragon Ball FighterZ World Tour guidelines. Despite discovering this discrepancy before the finals bracket started, Jacob continued, the players were forced to accept the coin toss decisions until grand finals, when Jacob refused to play unless he and his opponent were both allowed to use the lagless setup. These claims have been backed up by American expat and fellow competitor Joshua “KamikazeJD” Davis in his own Twitter posts.
Jacob told Kotaku that he made these issues public to make sure things are improved if Thailand receives another Dragon Ball FighterZ World Tour nod in the future, but tournament staff didn’t see it that way. Shortly after Jacob aired his grievances, Thaiger Uppercut tournament organizer Yuvanan “Byte” Yuvacharaskul mocked the competitor on Facebook, calling him a “sore loser” and an “idiot” across several posts and comments. “I don’t want to see your face [at] Thaiger Uppercut 2019,” Yuvacharaskul said, according to community translations of these public messages, which have since been deleted. “I’ve never seen any player that is so treacherous and picky.” Yuvacharaskul also shared a photo from the event in which fake tears had been edited onto Jacob’s face, further deriding the player for asking to play on a competitively viable setup.
After days of back-and-forth, Yuvacharaskul deleted his comments and posted an official statement about the situation at Thailand Game Show. “It is to our regret that some players might have felt that things could be handled better,” the statement says. “As tournament organizers, we try our best to be fair to all players who signed up but we hope for everyone’s understanding that as tournament organizers we have the final say and have to cater to everyone’s best interest at heart.” He also promises to implement back-up plans at future events as well as reserve “better technical setups” for competitors to use. When asked in the comments on his post about his previous comments, Yuvacharaskul apologized to “everyone who felt bad about” them.
We contacted Twitch, one of the organizations responsible for the Dragon Ball FighterZ World Tour, for their input on the matter, but they did not respond in time for publication. When reached for comment, Yuvacharaskul simply directed Kotaku towards his statement.
Jacob is adamant that his experience at the Thailand Game Show doesn’t negatively affect his perception of the region, as he’s had great visits to Indonesia, Singapore, and Taiwan without any adverse playing conditions. Local players, he told Kotaku, were incredibly supportive, a far cry from the earlier mocking he had received from the tournament organizer. “I was just tweeting about my experience because I wanted it to be fixed for next year, especially since people spend their money to travel to their country,” Jacob added. “I made it clear in my tweet that my loss was legit and that all I’m pointing out was the issue with the monitor and how it was handled.”
While many organizers have been running events for years, modern competition calls for a greater degree of scrutiny when it comes to making events run smoothly for both attendees and spectators. Unlike some other esports, most fighting game players are unsponsored and travel on their own dime. Their concerns shouldn’t fall on deaf ears or, even worse, be met with derision from tournament organizers. Last weekend was the perfect example of how badly things can go in the world of event planning, and it’s not the last we’ll see of these growing pains. It’s impossible to prevent every mishap and problem, but the key is in how tournament organizers respond to complaints and grow from these mistakes.
Ian Walker loves fighting games and writing about them. You can find him on Twitter at @iantothemax.