Monday, April 18, 2011

Professor Killian @ NYU

This past week, NYU's Game Center held its second annual Spring Fighter series of events. This year's endeavor was sponsored by the folks at Capcom, who were nice enough to send Seth Killian to the three-day extravaganza. Though you might be aware of the tournament portion (thanks to Team Spooky's stream) or the fact that Arcade Edition was demoed on console, Spring Fighter comprised several amazing — but less publicized — events.

The festivities began Thursday with a screening of Ian Cofino's I Got Next, a documentary about the competition and camaraderie driving the dedicated Street Fighter community. The movie was not only enjoyable for fans like myself, but also would be a great introduction for anyone unfamiliar with the fighting game community. The night concluded with a Q&A session with Seth Killian and notable fighting game player and organizer "Long Island" Joe Ciarmelli. The back-and-forth chat with the audience of about 30 people focused on community. Topics covered included online versus offline competition, how to improve your game, and how games are evolving to meet the needs of the exponentially-expanding community. Seth and Joe were frank and honest in their answers, and you could feel their honest love of the games and the community surrounding them. It was clear that this was not a PR mission; this was for the benefit of the fighting game community.

Friday's session was a lecture on game theory in fighting games by Seth Killian. Professor Killian explained how he has a fondness of dissecting how competitive games are played, dating back to his days as a poker player. You see, before he was playing Street Fighter, Seth was trained in poker by none other than 1996 World Series of Poker Main Event Champion, Huck Seed. For Seth, the transition to Street Fighter was just a natural progression. Every action in a fighting game, he said, is like a bet. You are putting yourself at risk in order to force your opponent to react. If you play wisely, your risks will pay off and your opponent's will not. To illustrate his points, Seth presented a Street Fighter 4 match between Daigo and Nemo (viewable below) and broke it down almost frame-by-frame. He had actually discussed the match with Daigo, so he was able to tell us exactly what was going through Daigo's head at any particular moment. It was a phenomenal insight into the moment-to-moment decisions made as each successive gambit was launched. Seth literally has fighting games down to a science, and he is clearly capable of communicating their allure in a very scholarly manner. After his lecture, the audience got a chance to ask questions. Just as he did the previous night, Seth truly shined during the Q&A. This session, however, focused more on the games themselves and the mechanics that make them interesting. It was once again a friendly, PR-free chat between a room full of fans and another fan — who just happened to be Seth Killian.

Seth reassured us that the fighting games we love are only going to get even better in the coming years. Despite all of the amazing games that have come and gone, he is confident that the perfect game has yet to be created. I'm proud to have Seth Killian working for us, the fans, and cannot wait to see what the future holds.

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