Why I’m grateful for the FGC in 2016

Michael Martin interviewing LI Joe after getting into top 8 at Evo 2016

I’m overdue for my usual November gratitude post but since I just returned home from Capcom Cup/PlayStation Experience, I thought I’d do it now.

2016 has been an incredible year for me. I’m fortunate to have traveled to many new places to watch and talk about people playing fighting games for a living.

There are so many people I want to acknowledge but I know I won’t get everyone, so apologies in advance.

First, the FGC. I wouldn’t be here without you. It truly is like a family. There are people I’m close enough to I consider them family. Others are good friends or acquaintances. And yeah, there’s a little dysfunction in there too but without the FGC, I don’t know that I have the career I have right now.

Michael Martin shares a Korean group hug with Kevin "Burnout" Kim and Seon-woo "Infiltration" Lee at Capcom Cup

Michael Martin shares a Korean group hug with Kevin “Burnout” Kim and Seon-woo “Infiltration” Lee at Capcom Cup (Michael Martin)

I took the biggest step of my life this year when I joined up with Yahoo Esports. Before Yahoo, I was freelance writing for various video game outlets. I was making enough to exist and keep my family fed, clothed, and under a roof but I was beginning to burn out. Eighteen hours a day, seven days a week will do that to you. I started to worry I wouldn’t get into the games media industry full time and considered coming up with an exit strategy from freelancing if I needed it.

The same week I voiced my concerns about it, Yahoo Esports contacted me. I knew exactly what it was about because they launched just a few weeks prior. The team is wonderful and I get to work with some amazing and talented people, including the badass video team that manages to make me look like I know what I’m doing on camera.

In the last couple of years, I’ve traveled more than I have in my entire life – Atlanta for Final Round, Los Angeles three times for West Coast Warzone, SoCal Regionals, and Capcom Cup, Orlando for CEO, Las Vegas for Evo, and Singapore for South East Asia Major. Five of these events I had never attended before. I also got to cover two more in my own backyard here in Seattle – Northwest Majors and Red Bull Battle Grounds.

I didn’t think I’d go overseas again. Last year, I went to Japan for Tokyo Game Show, checking one of my goals off my bucket list. Singapore was an incredible experience and I can’t thank Cameraman, Xian, and Gamestart organizer Elicia Lee enough for it. If it wasn’t for them proposing to get me out there with Yahoo Esports, I wouldn’t have come back with my favorite piece of content ever – Food Run.

Xian and I first met back at Evo 2015. An interview with him turned into one of my favorite stories and was the first time I felt like I had accomplished something major covering Street Fighter as an esport. Since then, we’ve hung out at multiple events and I consider him a good friend. Yes, he’s also one of my favorite players to watch, which makes it even harder to see him lose now.

In Singapore, I spent an entire day with him and his lovely significant other Jen. We ate food. He showed me some sights. We ate more food. I hope I can return to Singapore someday sooner rather than later.

Oh yeah, this year I got to work with a legend in fighting games. I teased a project that would feature Daigo Umehara before CEO and Evo. At CEO, we tried to do a video shoot and everything that could have gone wrong did. For weeks Daigo owned my soul. At Evo, we made good with a much better shoot. Unfortunately, because of various circumstances, the mini-documentary we put together didn’t launch until months later. And yet, we still pulled off a great video. One I’m proud to have had a hand in creating.

2016 was also the year I felt like I took a bigger step towards getting to know players like Tokido and Infiltration. Shout outs of course to Kevin “Burnout” Kim for being willing to translate for us at so many events. It means a lot to this old, sentimental half-KoreanBoi.

This was the first time I’ve had a job where I needed to be in front of a camera, talking for a living. I was nervous but excited because it’s hard to stay in games media if you aren’t an on-camera personality. Thank god Andrea Rene was around to carry me for my first few videos. She’s one of the best professional hosts I know and I look forward to catching up with her at every event we’re at.

Surprisingly, I ended up doing pretty well in videos. At Yahoo Esports, we started up a weekly show called Tilted. Unfortunately, I only got to be on one episode in person. That’s probably my favorite episode.

I’ve seen so many players and organizers grow and mature the last couple of years. I’m proud to be a part of their journey. I’m not always on the clock 24/7. I build relationships. That’s important to me.

I’ve made some mistakes this year. With each one, I tried my best to make amends, even if it meant taking a giant bite of humility. I’m okay with that. I’m the kind of guy that wants everyone to like him, but I know that won’t be the case. If nothing else, I want to know I put out my best effort to be a better person every day. Progress over perfection.

Thank you to every player and organizer in the FGC for your time and effort. I know it’s not always easy having to do an interview when you’re tired, cranky, or processing wins and losses. Thank you to all the people who support my content, Yahoo Esports, and the content the FGC media is doing. We’re all out here working hard and every view, like, share, retweet, and subscription counts. I wouldn’t be here without you all.

Thanks to anyone who has ever stopped to talk to me at an event about freelancing or working in games media. I used to be you. There was a time I didn’t know what I was doing so I had to be the one asking for help. If there’s any advice I can offer, I will, just ask.

Thanks to Seattle FGC for putting up with my scrub ass Ryu, and LI Joe and LI Dad, Alex Myers, LPN, and Kyle P for being like family to me. Of course, thanks Capcom and especially Ono-san for creating something that allows me to work in the space.

Lastly, I’ll share with you the best piece of advice I got from a good friend at IGN. If you’re serious about doing work in games media (or hell anything) keep grinding.

Let’s all go kick some ass in 2017.

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