As some of you may have read, I’m a big fan of fighting games and I’ve played many titles over the years. When I was introduced to the Merseyside Fighting Game Community I felt like I was standing in front of the pearly gates of heaven… Until my ego was beaten back down to earth, rather spectacularly it would seem!
Through the MFGC I met a man named Esmond Fong, now here is a man who has gone far beyond the extra mile for the community he loves. Today I’m writing about his story of how he and his friends formed the Manchester Battle Arena, A side project that has now grown into a major tournament hotspot for the North West UK.
MBA was formed in 2011 as part of Gamerbase Manchester by Esmond’s friend Ying Kit Ma. As the Gamerbase scene began to decline, it was a disheartening blow to the Manchester gaming community. It was during this time that control of MBA was passed on to Esmond.
MBA’s first major event was and is the Warriors Return. It was held in a venue called The Den above Sankeys. Esmond pulled all the strings he could to get local businesses and top UK players to attend the event. Bare in mind at this point everything was done from the ground up. The tables, consoles, monitors, games. Everything to create the event came from Esmond and Ying’s pockets with no government grants or loans. Hard work and passion paid for the event.
The turnout for the first Warriors Return was phenomenal. It generated so much interest that Namco sponsored the second Warriors Return event which was another great success. This year Warriors Return will be, returning, to Manchester and is now officially sponsored by Capcom. If you’re a Street Fighter IV fan, Warriors Return 3 will be the first major UK tournament for the upcoming Ultra Street Fighter IV.
Is that not an amazing story? How one man’s passion for competitive gaming created an event that should be on every pro fighters calender. Of course I couldn’t resist the opportunity to speak to him one on one. I attended one of MBA’s Fight Nights, a gaming meet up for players to meet and test their skills in a friendly environment.
Asking how he felt about the whole thing would be pointless, personally I would feel fantastic if Namco and Capcom decided to sponsor me! The first question on my mind was “what inspired the start-up/creation of MBA?”. His answer was quite simply a love of fighting games and the community that followed it. If you’re reading this and love fighting games then you helped create MBA too!
I then went on to ask about how and why fighting games became his preferred genre. Esmond grew up with great classics such as Streets of Rage and Golden Axe. He also admits martial arts films by Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan contributed. He originally started his pro career with Street Fighter and even though he stands by it as the biggest fighting game out there, he switched over to Tekken because he felt the mechanics gave him a lot more freedom.
While talking about mechanics we sort of revelled in what made fighting games great and I could write a novel on how amazing they are! Esmond highlighted the mind games and how varied the personalities are from player to players. When you’re fighting you’re trying to work out how they fight, do they sidestep a lot, is there a combo they have trouble executing, are there any bad habits they have which can be punished. While all that is happening you’re trying to keeping yourself unpredictable.
Moving onto the topic of pro gaming, I enquired about his experiences. Esmond attends Scotland’s national fighting game tournament called Hypespotting. He said, having an audience of 70+ players in the background is a daunting experience and not being a local player invited some jeers and boos from the crowd. He said, it was easy to manage because he could just throw his headphones on, but having that audience there was better than none at all because everyone cheers for the winner.
Of course we couldn’t finish the interview without talking about the future of fighting games. For those that haven’t noticed, all fighting games are on last gen with the only exceptions being Killer Instinct and Injustice: Gods Among Us. The main reason for this is the tools used to play fighting games at high level. Arcade sticks cost a lot of money, my Qanba Q4 RAF cost £150 with postage and packaging. That’s a lot of money to spend and the new gen consoles have no backwards compatibility. For fighting gamers with intentions of playing on the Xbox One will have to pay upwards of £600 for the console, arcade stick and any fighting game (including a fully paid version of Killer Instinct). Esmond is right when he says that backwards compatibility should be a priority for console manufacturers.
If you want to know more about Manchester Battle Arena head over to their Facebook page and give them a like.
Esmond has kindly youtube videos to give you an idea of what Manchester Battle Arena events are like.
If you want to test yourself against the MBA players, the Sunday Face Off group are hosting a 5 vs 5 tournament in Leeds on the 27th of April. Find out more on their Facebook and event pages.