Skullgirls designer: ‘We don’t need Evo to be a fighting game community’

Skullgirls is hoping for an Evo berth (Marvelous, Autumn Games)

Skullgirls designer Mike “Mike Z” Zaimont isn’t happy about the vote for Evo 2017’s final main game.

While the vote is for a noble cause — proceeds go to charity — Mike Z believes the structure of the vote is flawed. Because the new vote heavily favors more popular games, not every vote is created equal, and that’s a problem. And for the second time in four years, Skullgirls finds itself on the outside of Evo looking in.

“The main reason I have a problem with the vote – aside from it not being a fair way to gauge interest – is whoever wins, whoever loses; this is how you build animosity between people who should be part of the same group,” Mike Z told Yahoo Esports.

Back in 2013, Skullgirls wound up caught in the middle of a player vote dogfight. Alongside Super Smash Bros. Melee and Super Street Fighter II Turbo, Skullgirls was vying for a spot in Evo’s main game lineup. While Evo may have had good intentions, it pitted communities against each other, which was highlighted by Smash versus Skullgirls. The two games raised over $170,000 alone, with Melee winning the vote by less than $20,000.

Steven “AceKingOffSuit” Jurek summarized how things went down in 2013 on Twitter.

Skullgirls appeared as a side tournament at Evo 2013, but was not included in the main game lineup the following years. Some within the Skullgirls community were angry about the slight, and to add insult to injury, Evo added Injustice: Gods Among Us a couple of months after the conclusion of the 2013 player vote. This decision effectively negated the idea of voting for a game to be included because the perception was that players were voting for the final addition to the lineup. Injustice wasn’t included in the vote because it wasn’t released at the time.

Since then, Melee has gone on to become one of the biggest esports in the FGC. Skullgirls took a very different path as a niche anime fighter.

“Things would have been different if the vote turned out differently. There’s no point on dwelling on any of that,” Mike Z said. “It’s been a very strong community since then. It hasn’t died or gone away. We don’t need Evo to be a fighting game community.”

We’ll never know what might have happened if Skullgirls made it into Evo as a main title. However, Mike Z said the Skullgirls community remains passionate and strong, despite its smaller size compared to other more popular games.

The community was just visible enough for Skullgirls to be given another shot at Evo, with a new player vote for the last game to be featured on finals day.

Evo 2017 Player’s Choice list (Twitch)

This new vote makes little sense. For some reason, non-fighting games like Windjammers and ARMS for the Nintendo Switch were included in the list. ARMS (and the Switch itself) isn’t yet available, but here it is vying for a coveted spot at Evo. Considering how important making Evo can mean for a game and its community, throwing in a random, unreleased game that has yet to demonstrate a following is a slap in the face to games like Skullgirls.

Skullgirls’ biggest competition in this new vote are games that have been included in past Evos and that have larger communities, like Killer Instinct, Pokken Tournament, and Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom. Because of the size of these communities, they have much bigger personalities and voices, and those personalities will naturally campaign to ensure their game makes it into the event.

“One person with $1,000 is a thousand times more important than one person with $1 or is as important as 1,000 people with $1. That’s not how you find out the opinion of the community,” Mike Z said.

Immediately following the announcement of the Evo 2017 vote, individuals from various communities campaigned or griped on social media about the inclusion of specific games. Members of some communities believe Marvel has been at Evo long enough, and that it is time to give another game a chance, while others feel an Evo without Marvel just isn’t Evo.

Despite its good intentions, Evo’s vote encourages the division between communities. Instead of being a fighting game community, the FGC is a contentious catch-all for a bunch of games: Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, Marvel, Smash, Anime, and so on. The vote creates a situation in which a community like Skullgirls must seemingly abandon Evo because Evo voters appear as if they don’t want it.

“I’d rather have a community of a thousand roses than a community of a million weeds. I don’t care how many people see us. I care about the good people that are fair to each other,” Mike Z said.

Currently, Skullgirls sits at $672 in the vote, which ends February 8. That amount hasn’t changed for days and it is a far cry from the $30,000 between UMVC3 and Pokken Tournament. A late surge in the vote to overtake these games seems unlikely. It’s possible it could show up as a side tournament at Evo 2017, but for now, Mike Z and the Skullgirls community don’t seem particularly concerned with making it in Evo’s lineup.

Instead, they have other events to look forward to, like Combo Breaker, where they don’t need to seek approval. According to Mike Z, out of 18 games hosted at Combo Breaker 2016, Skullgirls had the sixth most entrants.

“We have the support of Combo Breaker. It has been absolutely amazing supporting us the entire time. It made us closer as a community because we realized we only had to rely on ourselves,” Mike Z said.

In trying to do a good thing for charity and the FGC, Evo made the vote for the final game at Evo 2017 about money. Whoever votes the most with their wallets wins and that’s not what the FGC should be about. Here’s hoping Evo organizers look back on this vote and learn from its mistake. With FGC experiencing growing pains as esports, the communities need to come together, not be driven apart.

Michael Martin covers all things FGC. Follow him on Twitter @Bizarro_Mike.