The Arizona FGC. Not a region that gets brought up often in conversation. It’s unfortunate, because the state has plenty of cemented talent such as Velociraptor, WTlYousif, The Mocha Latte and old-school veteran Sabre representing the Street Fighter series, as well as one of the best Super Smash Bros. Melee players in the world, TempolAxe.
Devastation–which was the premier tournament series during the Street Fighter IV era–was last seen in 2011, and ever since then there has not been a major tournament for the AZ scene to show what it’s made of. Last year however, Nick “Driftwood” Going–who made a name for himself with his Fei Long play in the SF4 series during Wednesday Night Fights–has taken the mantle of tournament organizer to create “Rewired”: a new major tournament series to revitalize the AZ FGC.
“After moving back to Arizona from California, seeing that mainstay tournaments like Devastation were no longer running, I wanted to bring a home for competitive fighters to not only the FGC events, but Smash as well,” Going said. “I see events getting more expensive and less accessible to players who don’t live in esports hot spots, so I decided to build Rewired along with my partner Justin Bruce Van Horne.”
Timothy Lee (left) and Nick “Driftwood” Going (right). Photo credit: Techmode Productions
Taking place at the Double Tree hotel in Tuscon, AZ for two years straight now, Rewired is a two-day mini-major with a grassroots heart at its core. The event is helped set up by the Arizona FGC, providing most of the consoles, monitors and TVs. Nick and his staff provide the venue space and production values for the event, and it is streamed through his TheFighting99 channel on Twitch.
When I attended Rewired last year to compete in Ultra Street Fighter IV, it felt welcoming and intimate. Since the venue space was a lot smaller in 2015, you couldn’t help but run into people constantly, but in a way it helped form bonds and create new friendships with your fellow competitors. Still, it was cramped in the end and it was hard to move around the venue.
This year–much to my amazement–the venue space more than doubled in size, with bigger main stages not only for the players to play on, but for the rest of the attendees and stream monsters to watch their favorite players compete. Stephen “Sajam” Lyon, who commentated at Rewired last year, returned once again along with fellow SoCal commentator, James Chen; attending for the first time to co-commentate, further legitimizing the growth this tournament series is experiencing already. The number of games increased as well, which included Street Fighter V, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Killer Instinct, Guilty Gear Xrd: Revelator, Super Smash Bros. Melee, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and Project M. The three Smash games alone made up more than half of the nearly 600 competitors (not including spectators) at Rewired, since AZ has a huge community for it.
Isaac Guijosa–a Tuscon resident who used to live in Pasadena, CA, and a seasoned SFIV veteran who made his mark with Adon and Evil Ryu, and who now is trying to make his name in SFV with Ryu (he placed 9th in SFV this year)–was impressed at how Rewired has grown since last year.
“Rewired this year was insane,” Guijosa stated. “When I walked into the ballroom, I was pretty surprised how huge it grew compared to last year. It reminded me a lot of SoCals’ Revelations tournament by how many people [attended] and the production values.”
Roch Mirabeau, another Tuscon native who has been involved in the AZ scene since 2002, and placed 13th in SFV this year with his unorthodox Laura play, had good things to say about the event despite some minor issues that popped up.
“Better production value, better venue, better hype, same love,” Mirabeau said. “All in all a success, considering budget constraints I overheard. The small niggling issues, power outages and old PS4 USB disconnects do not outweigh the overall increased value the event presented.”
Roch Mirabeau (left) vs. WTlYousif (right). Photo credit: Techmode Productions
Of course, with growth comes even bigger challenges. For Nick Going who is still licking his chops with his new role as a TO, he realizes the difficulty this poses. Despite that, he still seems to have a positive outlook.
“Since we have a small budget, it’s always a struggle to make the event as cool and as fun as possible without breaking the bank,” Going said. “I love the custom badges we let the players design, I’m happy with the stream backdrops that prominently display those badges in collage form–anything that highlights the AZ community, I’m a sucker for. The community reception to that always seems very welcome. I also am very proud of running an event that finishes on time–even if it starts an hour late.”
Nick adds that he wants to have more control of the electrical power at the venue, to prevent any future blackouts–like the brief one they had at the tournament.
“It really bugs me when a player’s experience is disrupted because of something like that, and so we will make sure to have UPS power supplies everywhere! We had a much more spacious venue this year, so people could find casuals whenever they wanted all weekend long and the 24-hour venue (though we had to kick people out at 4:00 AM so we could get three hours of sleep) was a big hit.”
In only its second year, Rewired has undergone quick and tremendous growth thanks to Nick’s and the AZ community’s efforts to make this event an enjoyable experience for both competitors and spectators alike, as well to put their scene back on the map as a force to be reckoned with. As far as SFV is concerned, Nick is determined to have Rewired be part of the Capcom Pro Tour in the future.
“In the years to come we expect Rewired to grow through word of mouth–as we didn’t advertise much last year and still managed to double in size to 570 unique entrants, we know there will be more growth next year when we advertise on top of it. What really makes Rewired special though is that our focus isn’t on growth, but rather the player experience. We work hard to make sure players can get in as many games as possible, feel included and have a great experience. I think by continuing to focus on that and maintaining our status as one of the most affordable, fun and warm events around (shout outs to Arizona winters), we’ll have more and more people realize Rewired is the place to be in years to come.”
Roch concurred with Nick’s feelings about the growth of the AZ FGC.
“Arizona is a hidden gem perhaps among many burgeoning scenes,” he said. “We have players with international notoriety and regular weeklies in multiple cities. These weeklies, coupled with a few charitable members of the community, allow us to send players to other scenes to represent and compete.”
Nick adds: “As far as the AZ scene, I think we are one of the strongest in the Southwest. We have numbers comparable to California when we can gather in one place, and lots of character diversity. Just recently the winner of SFV at Rewired, WTlYousif represented Arizona quite well at WNF, and many of the other AZ players have represented at the Vanguard series.”
“In my honest opinion I rank the Arizona scene just behind California and New York, and ahead of anywhere else in the United States,” Going said. “Don’t believe me? Come out and see. We talk a lot of trash, but we’re extremely hospitable and we’ll put you up in a home for free during your stay.”