Gaming in Philadelphia
by David Cherry
Philadelphia is one of the greatest cities in the world to have a good time with friends, but it's possibly an even greater city if you’re a competitive gamer. The competitiveness of the arcade has been around for more than 30 years, and although the idea of the arcade may have waned in the 2000's, the competitive spirit has not. Since the 1970's, arcades and competition have gone hand in hand with each other, every kid attempting to be the best at their game and have their name be number 1 in the high scores, dumping coin after coin to do so.
Now, we have gamers fighting tooth and nail before a monitor with sticks in hand. They dump countless dollars into arcades at events and conventions they plan and work toward all year round. Of these games, two franchises survived the test of time and remain popular among gamers with each and every incarnation, both, made by Capcom.
The first is the Street Fighter series, which since Street Fighter II popularized the idea of the player-versus-player fighting game, remains a game series that truly separates the amateur from the professional with franchises main event Evo, the biggest gaming tournament of the year held in July.
The second is Marvel vs Capcom, which took the player-versus-player idea and added popular characters from the respective franchises players know and enjoy. Half of the characters come from Marvel, the comic book company responsible for heroes such as Spiderman, Captain America, and the X-Men. The remaining half of the cast comes from Capcom, with favorites like Ryu from the Street Fighter series and MegaMan from his own self-titled popular series. Today, this “Best of” roster merged with video game and comic book characters along with fun and challenging game mechanics continues to strengthen the Marvel vs Capcom name.
The card game scene is younger in comparison to the competitive video game world, but do not underestimate it. Magic: The Gathering came to be in the early 1990's and spawned several card games and ideas. Their fad-inspiring idea to combine trading cards with a competitive card game evolved and adapted throughout the years to come. Almost 20 years later, card games like its namesake Magic: The Gathering have been constantly growing in popularity with more and more multi-thousand dollar tournaments. Nintendo, Wizards of the Coast and Konami all host large tournaments consistently, with third-party promoters hosting even more. With more and more expansion sets, players, and chances to play, the competitive card gaming scene is reaching a key zenith in popularity among the young, and old.
Philadelphia has one of the strongest bases for both fighting games and card games, hosting many competitive tournaments a year with higher stakes and payouts. When I first started playing Yu-Gi-Oh! competitively in 2011, we had about two regional qualifiers a year and Edison, NJ within the same range. Below are the regional events of the 2013-2014 Yu-Gi-Oh! :
● Eight Regional qualifiers between Philadelphia, New Jersey, and Brooklyn
● A Yugioh Championship Series
● two TCG Player State Championships
● one Alter Reality Game Circuit Series event in Philadelphia with another coming to Atlantic City
A plethora of local hobby shops hosting big and special tournaments include Alternate Universes, Too Many Games, and a bit farther out in New Jersey, All Things Fun.
In the Philadelphia Area, Alternate Universes serves two locations, Blue Bell and Holmes. They are the easiest competitive places to get to and house’s tough competition, with YCS winners like Frazier Smith and former World Championship competitor Steven Silverman.
On the more casual side, if you just want to hang out, meet new players or playtest, duelists are usually always around TNT Cards in South Philadelphia playing Yu-Gi-Oh!, as well as Cardfight Vanguard and the new My Little Pony Card Game (don't down it if you're a TCG Player, it's actually well built). TNT Cards primary focus is trading card games. Despite their size, it’s a nice spot to get incoming cards meet some new friends.
In Northeast Philadelphia, Bustleton Avenue is home to The Garden of Earthly Delights sporting a large stock of comics, collectables, and other cool things. They host weekly tournaments if you’re ever around their area. Drop by and check them out. Now, where do you go if you’re looking for larger crowd of trading card game players...
Philadelphia has a booming card game community, and an active competitive fighting game community. On Fridays during the academic year, Temple University's Student Center Game Room hosts all types of gaming! People usually start showing up around 3pm and stay until closing! In the Temple Gaming Room, weekly tournament sessions are provided by Cuong “Foo” Do, an organizer in the Philadelphia Fighting Game Community. He is also the host of tournament sessions at Drexel University. I had the chance to catch up with Foo about the Fighting Game Community in Philadelphia, and he informed me about any and everything a gamer needed to know about the city’s gaming spirit.
DC: Who started bringing set-ups to Temple/Drexel and when did they start doing it?
Foo: There was a gaming club when I first started attending Temple in 2007. Back then I decided to capitalize on it and turn this into a weekly thing. I have been hosting video game events ever since.
DC: How large have the sessions grown over the last 7 years? What games are always popular?
Foo: It has grown a significant amount. We have players that started out with us from the beginning and new players fresh to the scene, so we are always growing. Usually, the Capcom games like Street Fighter and Marvel were the most played, but we try to play other games as well.
DC: Would you say that Philadelphia is one of the best cities for fighting games? Do you think the local player-base is skilled enough to put Philly on the map on the East Coast like Brooklyn/NYC?
Foo: We are certainly becoming more prominent with our seasoned veterans and our new, young players that are starting to make a name for themselves. People are starting to notice Philly much more now.
DC: How would you describe the personality of Philly’s Fighting Game Community? With all the awesome and funny people, can anyone just sign up, and start playing?
Foo: I feel like we have a unique combination of personalities and we always try to encourage new players to join us, regardless of their personality or game preferences.
DC: You guys share space with the TCG Players at Temple a lot, and a lesser extent to Drexel. There are players that play card games and video games, thus blurring the line between communities. How do you feel about the line-blurring, and do you think the two communities represent a boom of Philadelphia becoming more of a hotspot for gaming?
Foo: It's great that there are players who can play a variety of different types of games and connect the different communities together. This will definitely make Philly more prominent as a gaming city.
DC: One last question! How do you identify in the FGC? Are you more of an organizer, a player, a role model? Is there anything else you have for our readers?
Foo: I used to be an active player, but nowadays, I consider myself more of an organizer and a bit of a role model. I am just hoping somebody else will be able to step up when I eventually retire from all of this. To the readers, it does not matter how much you win or lose, what matters is that you can learn something from those wins and losses. That is when you will truly progress.
If you want to play video games in Philadelphia, you don't need to look very hard for a fight. The ever-popular University Pinball in West Philadelphia is a nest for players always ready to train and play it out. The city is a host to many large Fighting Game Tournaments yearly; Summerjam in August, Winter Brawl in February, and NEC December 5 all organized by Big E Gaming with players traveling from all over to compete.
Interested in playing in the North Eastern Championships or other events? To learn more visit Big E Gaming’s website http://bigegaming.com/events/ and checkout the links below.
Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game
Magic: The Gathering
Philadelphia Fighting Game Community
Philadelphia Card Game Community – EKS Gaming