I Went 0-2 at EVO. I Had An Amazing Time

It’s been a month since EVO, and a month since I put “write about EVO” in my to-do list. What’s new. While there’s plenty to say about my time in the overwhelming adult playground that is Vegas, I just want to talk about the event.

TL;DR: I was absolutely destroyed, losing my two games in the double elimination bracket. Despite that, it was a blast, and I’ll be going back.

The Practice

On the first day of EVO, I didn’t have to worry about my matches (though I still was). The Guilty Gear bracket had over 2000 entrants, and so the starting pools matches were split up over two days, with mine being on the second. Leading up to the doors opening, Conlan and I were able to get in plenty of practice. We both brought our Steam Decks, and with some messy setups in the hotel room, were able to play on our arcade sticks. On top of that, one of the casinos had an eSports arena inside, where there were tons of fighting game players gathered. The two of us were able to enjoy a handful of casual matches against people there.

We started the first day with Conlan’s sets. He had a killer run, getting 5 wins under his belt before getting knocked out at the very end of pools. After that, we had the rest of the day to wander the floor. We played through an awesome collection of indie fighting games, some already out and some upcoming. We bought some great art from the Artist Alley. And I got to throw down in the casuals section, which I think is where I learned the most about Guilty Gear, better even than my time on the tower.

This was my first time ever playing the game in-person, and while I had looked up the “locals etiquette” beforehand, it was still intimidating. It’s simple: after a match, you go up to the two sitting at the system and say “Hey, can I get next?”. They’ll either tell you yeah, or tell you someone else nearby is waiting, or match your awkwardness with their own and just kinda shrug and mumble. Eventually, you’ll be able to sit down and play some games.

In each and every game, the awkwardness melted away the moment we started playing, and at the end of each, after the person kicked my ass, they’d always tell me how I could improve my game. It was never in a rude way either. Each person seemed to genuinely want to see me improve at the game, and that was fantastic. I stayed there playing for a few hours, nervous for my sets in the morning, but feeling better with each game I finished.

The Sets

Saturday morning. 10 AM. I was sitting down next to my first opponent, who I had definitely looked up beforehand. They were a Ky player on the Celestial floor, far beyond my own skill. Despite that, I was feeling great, especially after all of the casual games the day prior. I was focused on getting the win, even if the odds weren’t in my favor. I ended up playing a phenomenal neutral game – where you and your opponent are dancing back and forth trying to find an opening –, but whenever I would land a hit, I just didn’t have the proper knowledge to carry that into a high-damaging combo. This meant I would have to win those neutral face-offs far more than my opponent, and that didn’t happen.

The second game was an even worse beatdown. It was a Giovanna mirror match, and they knew the character far better than I did. As soon as I lost ground to them, I never got it back, and I never even took a single life off of them.

That was the end of my EVO run. It wasn’t the end of my Guilty Gear run though. If anything, the results of EVO have further fueled the fire in me, and now I’m determined to come back next year and get some wins of my own.

The Aftermath

After my tournament sets, I went back to the casuals area to get more games in, and hopefully to learn more. I continued to meet extremely friendly gamers, make new friends, and learn new moves. All of that together has translated into me being an even stronger player coming home from EVO.

Since the event, I’ve skyrocketed on the Tower. I now regularly bounce back and forth between floors 9 and 10, and no longer flail in my matches doing the same 3-move combos. Just look at this combo I’ve been working on. At this point, I’ve managed to even use that in an actual game, much to my own amazement.

Coming away from the whole experience, I think the community around fighting games is phenomenal. While I had some awkward interactions here and there, none of them were bad. After each game, I felt even better about Guilty Gear and about myself as a player. I can’t wait to do it all again.