2016 was a big year for myself and the fighting game community full of memorable moments. I’ve already talked about why I’m grateful for the FGC in 2016 but I really want to talk about some of my personal highlights and important moments of 2016. This is the first of three posts that covers finally making the leap from freelance writing to working in esports media full time and a majestic failure while working with a fighting game legend, who claimed my soul as a result.
Yes, Kevin “Burnout” Kim, I’m probably going to get sentimental in this post again.
I mentioned this in my recent gratitude post. Yahoo Esports came along at a time I was feeling a little lost. I considered myself a successful freelance writer. I had been doing it a little over two years and had been published at numerous wonderful gaming outlets, including IGN, Games Radar+, Pixelkin, Playboy, and Red Bull eSports.
Fighting games have always been my favorite genre of video games and I love the competitive scene. I carved out a niche in fighting game coverage and I burrowed myself in deep. But my goal from the time I decided to get into games media was to work somewhere full-time. I needed video or on-camera work. As a full-time freelancer, I had so much on my plate, I couldn’t add learning video editing and starting some kind of YouTube channel to my resume.
Yahoo Esports took a shot on someone with zero on-camera experience. My first video was with Andrea Rene and she’s the best. I have people tell me I look like a natural on camera and for the most part, it’s easy talking fighting games with other people, but some days are rough and when I’m struggling, the shooters/producers/editors use witchcraft to make me look like I know what I’m doing. I’m nothing without my team, the FGC, my family, and the people who support me.
Right about now, Jebailey is hitting CTRL+F and searching his name and CEO 2016. That makes three hits total.
CEO was my first time in Florida. The heat + humidity in June is disgusting. I don’t know how anyone can live in those conditions. I’m guessing nobody goes outside, which thankfully, I didn’t have to either.
A few people know this story so I guess I’ll finally share publicly. Shortly before CEO, I teased on Twitter that I was working on something big.
I can't say what I have in store for you at CEO and Evo for @YahooEsports but it's the biggest thing I've been involved with yet.
— Michael Martin (@Bizarro_Mike) June 3, 2016
It was intended to be a sort of mini-documentary style project focusing on Daigo Umehara, beginning with his return to the Capcom Pro Tour in North America at CEO 2016. We hired a translator from a service in the area and I was probably the most nervous about a project I’ve ever worked on.
Anything that could have gone wrong, did. My worst fear regarding the translator was we’d get someone who had no concept of video games, especially fighting games. The moment I saw our producer walking in with an older Japanese woman, I knew we were doomed. We tried to shoot the video in the ballroom. It was too loud for the translator to hear. Daigo couldn’t hear her. We wasted an hour trying to ask questions the translator didn’t understand and she was trying to translate them in a way it made sense to her. It was a clusterfuck.
Daigo rarely shows emotions at a tournament. If anything, he’ll smile for a picture or after a win but that’s about it. Based on his body language, I could tell he was uncomfortable and irritated. After an hour and a half or so, we all were. I should have just shut the whole thing down sooner and reconvened later but we tried to salvage something out of it.
In the end, we got zero usable footage from that shoot on day one at CEO and I was a mental wreck. I didn’t know how I would even survive that fiasco. I was on the phone immediately with his manager, apologizing profusely for the mess and wasting his time. Daigo took Yahoo Esports’ souls at CEO 2016 and we wouldn’t get them back until a month later at Evo 2016.
One person managed to save that entire weekend for me. Immediately following Daigo, Infiltration walks up and asks if I’m ready to do an interview. Inside, I’m like “Hell no I’m not ready.” But I had a job to do, so I did it. Infiltration has an amazing, happy, funny personality. If it had been almost anyone else, I might not have recovered from the Daigo experience. In hindsight, Infiltration saved my ass.
One other highlight from CEO 2016 was Tokido. I’ve gotten to know many players in the FGC, including Tokido. I realized something was different in him that weekend. He was meditating more, which I didn’t recall seeing before. He wanted to win, badly. He had to face Infiltration in grand finals for about the fourth time already in 2016. It was an intense set and I had so much anxiety watching it because I really wanted to see him win. Of course, he did, and afterward I congratulated him. He gave me one of my favorite winners interviews of the year, especially when he fanboyed over the Urien reveal.
Follow Michael Martin on Twitter @Bizarro_Mike for tweets with far less words than these posts.