Interview with the Maine Fighting Gamers Alliance

Interview with the Maine Fighting Gamers Alliance
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Gaming communities can be an incredibly interesting thing: They can cover any genre, any game, involve all types of people and take gaming to place you’d never think to find them.

Last Thrusday, I attended an Injustice Tournament being held by the Maine Fighting Gamers Alliance in honor of the premeir of Man of Steel I had the opportunity to interview Steven Santerre and Antonio Williams, two of the organizers at the event, who provided some insight into the drive behind this group, and talked about some of the issues associated with it, as well as nerding out over DC and video games.

Tell me about the MFGA, how did it get started and how did you get involved?

Antonio: It pretty much all started off as a Facebook Group Experiment. We were all in Facebook Chat and how we wish that there was more of a scene. We constantly read about it outside of Maine, and wondered why, I mean, you know, We game. We are gamers, I’ve been playing fighting games since I started playing games, and I wondered why there wasn’t more. So, we thought why not do something on Facebook and see where it goes. Then, it just kind of snowballed. I was like ‘ Well, we got to throw and event!’ and we tried putting together a tournament. I just took references from every tournament that I’ve ever been to that I didn’t like, and said “Lets just do the opposite of that.”

Steven: For me, Tony contacted me on Facebook the day after he came up with the idea, and he knew I played games a lot, didn’t know how much I liked fighting games, but he had seen that I played Mortal Kombat recently, so he was like “Hey! You want to help me with this community?’ I’m always down for helping out communities, so I jumped on board day one.

What are the challenges you run into while running this kind of group or tournament?

Antonio: The challenge is that a lot of people up here are not aware of fighting game culture and due to the immediate gratification often provided in other genres, and how there aren’t very many gaming recreational centers here where groups can form, people don’t necessarily want to put in the work for something they’re not sure that they can be a part of, more than just meeting up with somebody once a month. Fighting games, more than any other genre, take a level of dedication that a lot of people either don’t understand, don’t want or they are completely intimidated by. So, what we try to do is find other ways to make it acceptable. Yes if you put in the time and work, you won’t be as good, but at least you know how much time you want to put, and at least come to our events, have fun as possible, and root on those people who do put in the time. We have a lot of high level players who have put in a lot of time and are traveling. After this interview and this even tonight, we’re going to be traveling to The Games Underground Tournament in Massachusetts. That’s going to be a big event. We were at the first one, and now we’ve got more members from Maine going to the second one. We know the community can only grow so big, and so what we’ve done is taken the people that have played with us from the beginning and made it a traveling team, making sure that we can push them as far as we can get them.

A Shot Mid-Tournament

A Shot Mid-Tournament

Maine isn’t exactly what we might call a bustling urban center. It’s pretty remote at times. How has this helped the MFGA?:

Antonio: We have players in Southern Maine that have a similar problem. In the beginning we didn’t even get along with each other. We we’re purely on a rival standpoint: who was better Northern Maine versus Southern Maine. While that rivalry still exists to a degree it doesn’t have to be there to drive us now. We are now, a lot closer together. It’s more like a group of friends and family. We’ll fight against each other in Maine when we are against each other, but as soon as we leave Maine, we’re Mainers. It doesn’t matter; If you’re from Maine, your with us. I’ve tried to offer something that didn’t exist when I first started [the MFGA].

Steven: Because it’s so tight knit, its’s pretty much a brotherhood. We all root for each other when its needed. Another part of this, another example is that Southern Maine, for a while, we’re or straight up rivals, where as now, we’re finally part of the same organization. When we play in tournaments [in Maine], we’re of course still rivals with Southern Maine, but when we leave Maine, we are team mates. We are all the MFGA.

What is it about the fighting game genre that you like so much?

Antonio: I like how there’s different reasons for entering the genre. You can get into a game because you saw an anime of Ken and Ryu once and thought ‘those characters are cool and I want to play the game.’ You can play another fighting game because you read a comic book and thought ‘Wow, I want to fight on a team fight Spiderman, Wolverine and Thor.’

Steven: Or, because you heard about how controversial the gore was in Mortal Kombat

Antonio: Yeah, or what actually, I’m really proud to say, that happens quite a bit is, I love the fact that a lot of people have joined our organization because they have seen what we do and are interested. We have a lot of supporters who don’t even play, but they love what we do so much, that they will come and cheer on those who play anyway.

Steven: We’ve had people come and pay the venue fee just to watch!

One Thing I Did Learn: Aquaman Seems OP

What is it that you like in particular about Injustice?

Antonio: I like Injustice because it stood up to kind of the snobbery side of the gaming community. The older, more veteran side. The people who have been instrumental in its growth but slow to change. They are the kind of people that write a game like this off because its not like the normal game they play. The thing they did well with injustice is that they didn’t dumb it down, they made in accessible. Fighting games, up until recently, and still now, do a piss poor job of telling you how to play the game. Arcades are dead. We can’t teach each other the way we did 10 or 15 years ago. These games have to do a better job of instructing people how to play or the genre will suffer for it. [Injustice] got it and they made the game cater to all different degrees of skill level.

Steven: I actually reviewed Injustice when it first came out, and like Antonio said, everything about the game, the game has good depth but it also has a lot of new elements. Like the intractable elements. I mean it’s not necessarily new, but it is a new take on it. Its where it opens the door to those players that can’t pull of the gnarliest combo but if someone pulls one off on them, they can come back form it by hitting them through a wall and doing extra damage, and opening up a new stage. Like Antonio said, its very accessible. When you go into the menu, it shows details that veterans would understand and it give a way for those non-veteran players to see it before they have to understand it.

Antonio: It honors the genre, while not bending over backwards to please a small group of elite players.

When you’re not training for a fighting game, what other games are you playing?

Steven: I was literally playing Animal Crossing right before this interview!

Antonio: I play a good number of action games, the Batman Arkham games especially, when I get one of those, I’m gone. I also dabble in some RPG’s, I got Ni No Kuni started, then I had a bunch of tournaments, so I’m excited to return to it. I’ve pre-ordered my PS$ and I’m looking forward to The Order: 1886. That looks pretty sweet…

Steven: My favorite game series, as of right now are, well, will always be, The Legend of Zelda, as well as the Souls series; Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls. Love ‘em!

So, to wrap this up, and since we are at a DC Comics premier, Who would win in a fight? Batman or Superman?

Antonio: I think, I’m a bigger Batman fan, not gonna lie, and unfortunately one of the things in the mythology of the Batman character is that he plans a lot, its made him kind of a running Chuck Norris joke. That being said, given preparations and the right scenario, Batman could pull it off, but in a direct 1v1 conflict, Superman wins that fight. On a personal level, I will always side with Batman…

Steven: Batman takes it. WE’VE SEEN IT! We’ve seen it before!!

I’d like to thank Antonio and Steven for sitting down and taking about there time in the MFGA and Injustice. As someone who doesn’t really play fighting games all that much, it was eye-opening to see them played from a competitive side of things, and I was impressed with the level of dedication and finesses each competitor brought to there match.

For those of you interested, you can find the Maine Fighting Games Alliance on Facebook, and might also consider looking into 207 Gaming, a Maine-based community group run by Steven Santerre.

P.S. Man of Steel is really good. Story may lack, but any movie that has a fight like the one that goes down in Smallville is worthy of your time!

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Written by
Editor-in-Chief of IndieHangover.com. With a soft spot for epics, sagas and tales of all types, Jacob approaches games as ways to tell stories. He's particularly interested in indie games because of the freedom they have to tell different stories, often in more interesting and innovative ways than Triple A titles.