East Coast Throwdown – Why you should go to your local fighting game tournament

Last Updated September 9th, 2022

Last weekend, I went to East Coast Throwdown, a moderately sized fighting game major held in Connecticut. It was the 21st anniversary of the event, an event I first went to back in 2012 back when Skullgirls first released and it was still held in New Jersey, just a spitting distance away from my house.

I am a different person now. Back then I was just a wide-eyed young gamer trying hard to make some notoriety for myself. Now I am 38 years old with a career in writing about games, my pro-gamer aspirations far behind me.

And yet, my experience at East Coast Throwdown was one of the best experiences I have had in a very, very long time. After what feels like an age of sheltering inside due to the COVID pandemic, being able to get out there and participate in the fighting game community again was just what I needed to remember what makes this community great.

Let me paint a picture for you. You walk into a hotel to a swarm of gamers, just like you, all wearing t-shirts with some obscure reference on them, all playing games… in the lobby. As a child of the arcade era, I miss that ability to walk around, see what people were doing, and say “hey, can I get next?” Well, the participants of East Coast Throwdown turned the whole hotel into an arcade, everyone playing and showcasing their favorite fighting games, from classics like Street Fighter II, new releases like DNF Duel, obscure fan-hacks like 4rd Strike.

And if that’s not arcade enough for you, past the swarm of gamers is an actual arcade, filled with cabinets from the days of old. Capcom vs. SNK2, Tekken 3, Soul Calibur II, and more blared through the arcade room with the same loud cacophony that you were used to if you ever stopped by a boardwalk arcade when you were just a kid. Heck, there were even rhythm games and racing games and even a giant Gundam battle simulator, if that was more your speed. No quarters required.

Head up to the next floor and you get to the main ballrooms, where all the tournaments are being held. Station after station is set up, each one running a different fighting game, pools of people swarming them to get in their tournament matches, and afterward, stick around for casuals. At the front of the room, are massive screens showcasing the headlining games, commentated by personalities you know and love, who would be more than happy to get a few rounds in with you after all was said and done.

Outside, a row of new developers showcasing their new fighting game projects, allowing you to try the latest indie fighting game with builds made just for this event. Across from them, artists and stick builders selling prints and pearlers and raffling off custom controllers. Next to them, there were merch booths galore, selling off hoodies and shirts commemorating the event to a rush of fans eager to have something to remember it by. And if all of this wasn’t enough to get you to go, right across from all of this, was a bring-your-own section, where you could play wacky games like Cho Aniki or Tetris Battle Gaiden.

And when I tell you they had tournaments for everything, you have to believe me that I mean EVERYTHING! From the huge brackets of the main tournaments to small four-man brackets for unknown games. There was some game for you there, and even if you are out of practice, there’s a chance that you’ll grasp that five minutes of fame as everyone cheers for you on the main stage.

ECT doesn’t hit the highest highs of EVO and similarly big events, but it really didn’t need to. Because outside of all this spectacle and stimulation, the real treasure of a mid-sized major like this, is the community. Playing your heart out against a competitor only to be offered to get some dinner with them, is a warm feeling unlike any other. Seeing the entire community goof off, throw each other in the pool, pose for photoshoots, and just hang out, is priceless. EVO and other events like it may be the Olympics of fighting games, but like the actual Olympics, they are so big that you get lost in the crowd. ECT and other majors like it put you on center stage. You matter just as much as every big-name sponsored player. You are the community that makes events like this run.

A big thank you to the staff at ECT who invited me to come cover the event. Take my advice, if you have an opportunity to go to a local major of your own, you should jump on it.