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 part two of a three part series. You can read part one here. Part two covers regaining our souls from Daigo at Evo 2016, the most inspiring moment of the year in all of esports, and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go to Singapore.
For years I wanted to attend Evo. I finally got the chance for the first time in 2015. It’s one of those events I don’t think I could miss even if I weren’t working in games media. Evo 2016 was the big one for us. We had to make good on the do-over we were getting with Daigo.
We arranged for another shoot, this time in a controlled environment with Fubarduck translating for us. Nothing crazy happened here. We asked the questions. He answered them. It went well. He even commented to his manager that he was impressed with the questions.
We got our souls back from our demon, Daigo.
I was invited to go on his live stream to talk about his new book, which I had read an advanced copy of, after our shoot. I did that and it rolled into a Reddit AMA. You rarely get an up close look at Daigo the person, rather than Daigo the competitor. I really wanted to show people the person. I don’t know if we accomplished that but five months later, after a lot of edits and hard work, we put out our Daigo video.
There is a lot that goes on at Evo and I absolutely love meeting and hanging out with players, fans, and other folks in the industry. But one event made such an impact on me that it will have a lifelong effect, and I couldn’t be more grateful.
I met LI Joe at Evo 2015 only briefly. I spoke with him some time later for a story for Red Bull eSports. We caught up at CEO 2016 again.
As the crew and I were wrapping up a very long day, LI Joe was still competing in Street Fighter V. He ended up in the last match of the night against Kazunoko to determine top 8 at Mandalay Bay. I watched the match, sitting about three rows back from the main stage. When the match was tied up 1-1, the realization hit my very tired self, “Shit, he might actually do this.”
I jumped up, got as close to the stage as I could, and prepared my phone for video of the possibility. LI Joe didn’t disappoint. He beat Kazunoko, the crowd went nuts, and we all shared in this moment. Little did I know what it would mean to me until a day later.
— Yahoo Esports (@YahooEsports) July 17, 2016
Before Street Fighter V top 8, I found out LI Joe’s father flew in from the East Coast on a red eye to watch his son play at Evo. The journalist in me wanted him for an interview on camera, of course. But ultimately, I just wanted to talk to him, even for a moment to tell him how proud I was of LI Joe.
I walked the arena looking for Bill Ciaramelli. When the broadcast showed him watching, I figured out where he was sitting. LI Joe had already won his first match against Eita. Thank God because it would have sucked to see him eliminated right away in top 8. Sadly, LI Joe was eliminated by Yukadon. He was immediately interviewed and whisked away by the powers that be for what I assumed was interviews.
I took that opportunity to introduce myself to Bill. I’ll never forget his first words to me.
“I know who you are.”
It blew me away. We had the most amazing personal chat. He thanked me for all the hard work I did and the support of his son. I thanked him for being the kind of father who would take his kid to the arcades and let him enjoy the things he loved. My father is a great man but we never connected with the things I enjoyed like LI Joe and his father. I realized that’s something I always wanted. We both cried and hugged and to this day, LI Dad texts me every so often and I’m a better person for having him and that kind of support in my life. The FGC has given me so much more than a job. It has given me friendships and relationships I consider as strong as family and I will always treasure that most.
I wasn’t sure I’d get to go anywhere overseas again. Once you get a taste of that, you want as much as you can get. I’ve traveled more in the last few years than I have my entire life. Any chance I get to go to Asia, I’ll take it. So the opportunity to go to Singapore presented itself and, much to my surprise, Yahoo Esports agreed to go.
Having endured the Daigo experience, I knew we’d be much more prepared for something challenging and more special than your average tournament coverage video. I checked with my good friend Xian to see if he would be up to doing a video that would highlight him and Singapore.
We spent an extra day in Singapore. Xian took us all over the place. He and his lovely girlfriend Jen are incredible hosts. We ate awesome food in an open-air market alley, visited an arcade that sadly shut down recently, and took in some sights like a massive Buddhist temple you’d never know was around unless you did a little exploring. These are once in a lifetime opportunities for most people. My biggest hope is I can return to these places in the future or repay the kindness Xian, Jen, and Yongde (or Cameraman as some know him) have shown me.
They were responsible for one of the my favorite projects ever and I will never stop sharing it.
Follow Michael Martin on Twitter @Bizarro_Mike for tweets with far less words than these posts.