One of my earliest gaming memories was standing in the arcade at the old underground GameWorks here in Las Vegas when I was maybe six or seven years old playing Street Fighter II: Tournament Edition. Every year my mother would host a game night for the ladies in her friend group on the Air Force base and my dad would take me and my brothers to the Strip. It was a "guys night" that would often lead us to the Forums Shops, exploring the M&M ,Store and ending up playing arcade cabinets at GameWorks.
I would love sitting there, playing as Ryu and Sagat against my brother's Chun-li as we would strive to see who was better between the two.
Fast forward a few years and this same scene would play out at Sam's Town's bowling alley arcade when they put in a new cabinet: Soul Edge. The arcade version of what would initiate the long-running Soul Blade and Soul Calibur series, these moments instilled a sense of competition in gaming in me that carries through even to this day.
Hours I would spend pouring over frame data in Soul Calibur 2 and Super Smash Bros. Melee, especially as my high school started to host tournaments for the games every month. You can easily say that fighting games, along with real-time strategy titles like Civilization and Total War were my first real gaming loves.
I fell out of them by and large as MMOs started to take over my gaming life, though. Trading in my Hadouken's for Heartseeker in The Lord of the Rings Online, I found myself craving that same level of competition and player rivalry that would be present when I would smash - or get smashed - in a fighting game.
I tried to fill that need in other titles like StarCraft 2 PVP or even large-scale multiplayer matches with friends in The Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle-earth, but it wasn't until I started to explore MMO PvP in RuneScape and, eventually, in The Lord of the Rings Online where I found something as heart thumping and instill the player fueds that I missed when I would frequent the arcades here in town.
The early Ettenmoors battles on Nimrodel, my original LotRO server (rest in peace, Nimrodel) were full of massive back and forth battles. Entrenched Creeps would fend off waves of unorganized Freeps until my Kinship and another on the server, There and Back Again, would join forces to coordinate our attacks.
As a result, we came to know which Monster Players were the real deal, as well as which Free People's we wanted to group with in order to stand the best chance of winning. We'd troll each other on the forums, talking about our escapades and a battle that took place the day before, prepping ourselves for the next jump into the Moors.
It reminded me of the arcade scene, where I would tease local players on the AFB after beating them down in Soul Calibur. Or even my friends in the local Smash Bros. scene at school, unable to stand up to my Marth, though I was equally unable to deal with my friend Brad's Kirby.
This extended into Age of Conan initially, as I tried my hand at PvP there, and then into the early days of The Elder Scrolls Online's promise of hectic Cyrodiil PvP (please ZeniMax, fix Cyrodiil). I found myself more and more gravitating towards full loot PvP games like Ark: Survival Evolved and eventually diving deep in the thrill of EVE Online.
I have been searching for that same feeling I would get when I would compete in a fighting game tournament growing up: that sense of feeling a room explode with excitement after I would punish an opponent for pressing their buttons too early, or maybe get that dodge roll into the Marth counter just right. In EVE I would find that replicated some during Fanfests and EVE Vegas where PvP stations would be set up for players to compete right then and there.
As an aside, it was fantastic to see the Fanfest Global Finals in person at EVE Fanfest this past May. Hearing the crowd in person reminded me why I love offline PvP events.
In fact, some of my favorite gaming events are centered around this type of gameplay, whether it was a Heroes of the Storm championship here in Vegas a few years back, the recent League of Legends Amazon Prime event at the HyperX, and most notably, EVO.
The atmosphere at EVO reminded me of why I love competition in games, whether online or offline in person. I joked with my fiance that we were at an "MMO" event - a massively multiplayer offline tournament. Obviously, I'm not saying that Street Fighter and EVE Online are the same. Far from it. But some of the same feelings I have when playing Street Fighter V and jumping into Nullsec in EVE crop up: the excitement of pitting my skills against those of another player.
It's made all the more pronounced in person when the crowd is right there with you. Hearing the "Cell Yell" during Dragon Ball FighterZ or seeing them go crazy when the last American hope takes down three Japanese Gods of Street Fighter bring back fond gaming memories for me that have only been replicated when on a call with friends in PvP in my favorite MMO.
I remember back in early 2008 when my Kinship and I were in the Moors fighting an epic battle outside the middle keep, Tol Ascarnen. We were struggling to gain a foothold as the Creeps army was massive that night, outnumbering us and bringing out their heavy hitters to play.
It was an outrageously fun night, mostly because it brought me and my friends together through this shared competition. We were all enjoying working towards this common goal against real players, not simply NPC AI that we could easily predict.
It dawned on me this weekend while at EVO that this absolute love of PvP in games is easily traced back to that arcade at the old Las Vegas GameWorks. The reason I love full loot PvP games and don't want to see that aspect of our genre completely die out? I love the challenge to see who is better: me or the player across from me. It's that passion that fueled my practice in Smash and other games like it when I was a teenager, and it carries over to min-maxing my ships in EVE Online so, if I do lose, I at least hold my own in the process.
As a closing, it seems that this is starting to take hold of my daughter. She loves to play games with her friends, and while I've been bringing her to EVO with me for years, she's finally old enough to understand what's going on. After watching the Melty Blood: Type Lumina Grand Finals in person, she turned to me and asked if that could be her someday. I told her "absolutely," beaming with what was turning into a core memory moment for us.
She then kicked my ass in Tekken 7 at the Victrix booth 20 minutes later, cementing herself on the path towards PvP greatness.