When people in the fighting game community think of long-running tournaments, the Evolution and Final Round series usually come to mind. The Texas Showdown tournament series–co-founded by tournament director Javier Moreno–has been going strong in Houston since 2001, however; becoming the biggest annual tournament in the southern United States as well as being part of the Capcom Pro Tour as a ranking event for the past three years. If Moreno and his staff have anything to say about it, Texas Showdown is not slowing down its tremendous growth anytime soon.
Moreno–who is also a software engineer outside of the FGC and enjoys baseball, football, and exercise–discussed with SRK how Texas Showdown came to fruition, and how it continues to grow every year. He also talks about his humble beginnings in the FGC, his challenges as a tournament organizer, his absence from the FGC from 2006-2012, and what his future goals are to improve the Texas scene.
Marcos “El Cubano Loco” Blanco: Tell me about the history of Texas Showdown and its significance in the FGC. How long have you been TO for this event?
Javier Moreno: Texas Showdown is one of the oldest tournaments in the FGC, dating back to 2001. It came about when Marvel vs. Capcom 2 and Capcom vs. SNK were just released. People were hungry for a tournament, so I decided to hold one at the University of Houston in March of 2001. The tournament wasn’t named “Texas Showdown” until 2002–Peter Kang approached me in throwing a tournament in Austin, in conjunction with SXSW, in order to screen Bang the Machine. In the promos, he called it “Texas Showdown” and it stuck.
I’m the co-founder of the event, and I ran the tournament directly from 2001-2005. I took a leave from the FGC from 2006-2012, and came back to head the event from 2013 to present.
El Cubano Loco: How has it changed over the years to accommodate players and spectators?
Moreno: For the first couple of years, it was held in arcades. First at the UH, and the legendary Stargate arcade. I remember that we used to start games at 12:00 PM and end the last tournament past 2:00 AM. For MvC2 and CvS2, we were lucky to have two arcade cabinets at the time, or who knows when the tourneys would end! Around 2005-2006, arcades started to die out in Texas. We then began a relationship working with Planet Zero in 2006 with running the event in conjunction with Anime Matsuri. The event made the transition from arcade to console, and thus the transition from the arcade setting to the ballroom setting.
El Cubano Loco: How did you get into fighting games? Did you used to compete?
Moreno: I personally got into fighting games by playing Street Fighter II. I was always at the arcade as a kid, but when that game came out, I was playing it everyday. If it wasn’t at an arcade, it was at a grocery or convenience store. There was an amusement park called Astroworld back in the early ’90s, and I would buy a season pass every year to play SFII since I knew that every kid around the Houston area would eventually go there.
In 1996, my first year of college, I found out about the internet and Usenet, and found agsf2. It astounded me that there were people talking about Street Fighter. Not in terms of the strategy sense, but more in a competitive environment. And at the same time, the University of Houston had a good Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 scene. So every time I wasn’t at class, I was at the arcade playing that and Street Fighter Alpha 2. My true competitive origin started with Street Fighter III: 2nd Impact. I found that I loved to compete due to having a great player base to start with, and I started to travel in 1998 to tournaments to see what the scene was about. Back in my time, I played Second Impact, Marvel vs. Capcom 2, the Capcom vs. SNK series, Super Turbo, and Guilty Gear XX right before my leave of absence from the FGC.
El Cubano Loco: Why did you take a leave of absence from the FGC from 2006-2012? What made you come back?
Moreno: In 2005, I got married. Texas Showdown 5 was the week before the wedding, and my involvement in that tournament was really limited. I lived in another city at the time, and I was busy preparing for the married life. My ex didn’t approve of the FGC at all, and I decided to forgo it because I thought it was the right thing to do. And hey, I was in love. I still kept an ear to the wall when it came to the FGC, but I was mostly out of it during that time.
In early 2012, my marriage was crumbling. I started to reflect on my life and where I was, but I needed a distraction during that time. That’s why I went to Texas Showdown in 2012. There were old friends that I lost touch with–and maybe being back to attend would do some wonders for me.
Almost immediately after that Showdown, I was approached by both Chris Chou (co-founder) and the Planet Zero/Anime Matsuri head at the time to help take it over. Chris wanted me at an old, familiar place, the AM head wanted me to raise the profile of the tournament at Anime Matsuri. But I needed time to decide. I told them both that I would decide after going to Evo 2012. It would be the first Evo for me since the very first one.
Before I went, I contacted Alex Valle–someone I hadn’t seen in years–to tell him that I would be going that year. I tell him my story for going, and we’ll be hanging out. I go, and I see a tournament that has grown immensely in size. I see all my friends from the old FGC, and it honestly felt like a high school reunion. Talking Street Fighter. Catching up. Having a good time. Yet at the time, I was still down and sad that I was heading towards divorce, but I was able to strike up a conversation with Valle on some downtime. He basically said this: “You’re like me. I love Street Fighter, and I know you do too, just by being out here. You have a passion for this, and no one is ever going to take that away from you.” I told him I was approached by people about Texas Showdown, and he told me that he would help me bring it back to what it was. I was sold. I came back to Houston from Evo, decided to partner up again with Chris Chou, and make Texas Showdown its own event once again.
El Cubano Loco: When did you first meet Alex Valle and how did you become friends? How has the relationship grown between you two over the years?
Moreno: I first met Alex thru IRC on #sf3 way back in ’96-’97, and finally met in person at E3 Atlanta in 1998. We became friends immediately not because of just SF, but we had similar interests and we liked doing things when it wasn’t time for Street Fighter. I would then take some regular trips to southern California to both level up in Street Fighter (like many did back in the day), take in the SoCal social life, and stayed at his place to hang out with everyone afterwards. We lost touch when I got married (my fault), but always considered him a friend. Nothing had changed after all those years away and when I came back–it was like I never left. I think of him like a brother.
El Cubano Loco: What did you think of the turnout for this year’s event? What kind of feedback have you gotten about Showdown throughout the years? In what ways can it be improved, if any?
Moreno: In its first six years, it was regarded as a premium tournament, one that prominent U.S. players can depend on being a good event. It was considered one of the four major tournaments at the time.
From 2006 on, when I took my leave, I’ve always had an ear in the wall. I’ve heard increasing complaints about the way everything was being run, and its prominence was starting to slip.
In 2012, I was going through a rough patch in life, and knew something was missing from it. I decided to go to Texas Showdown as a spectator to personally to get away from things and revisit my roots. It was held in conjunction with Anime Matsuri (for the final time). What I saw puzzled me. I saw tournaments being held out on the walkways along with much of foot traffic of the anime convention. I heard Mortal Kombat games were being held in the bathroom (yes, the infamous TX Showdown joke). It was relegated to a side show, and I didn’t like what I saw. A couple of days after, I read all the negative feedback about that tournament. I’d say that was the worst of it.
From 2013 on, we’ve been able to repair that negative reputation. Feedback has been mostly positive since then. Any negative feedback does get addressed and we try to correct it for next year.
We were slightly down from last year’s registration numbers, but take into account that three major game releases are occurring just weeks after Texas Showdown, I’d say our turnout this year was pretty great.
El Cubano Loco: What do you feel has contributed to the growth of this event?
Moreno: There’s several things that contribute directly. First, it’s our staff and our partners. In 2012, I took a deep look in who we had working the tournaments in the recent past. I kept the best, and trimmed down the fat to start anew. Since then, we’ve maintained the same core staff since 2013. I initially reached out to Alex Valle to help me out with promotion and to get me back up to speed in the FGC. He steered me in the right direction to help determine who to partner up with and how to grow this event effectively.
Second, we had to repair our reputation. 2012 was the worst year by far. How do you repair that? We start by bringing in some solid FGC personalities to help promote the event. We separated ourselves from being a freak sideshow and started to become our own entity once again. And finally, just throw a solid event. We let people know that new (or old) management was in and wanted to make the event better.
And finally, you’ve got to want to do this and care and believe in this event. In 2012, the convention director at Anime Matsuri really didn’t care about the viability of the tournament–to him it was just something like a nice add-on to his convention.
When I took over, I wanted to care again. I wanted the staff to care.
El Cubano Loco: Speaking of partnerships, Valle and Jonathan Oudthone have been streaming fighting games at your event for quite a few years now. How did these partnerships originate and how has it benefited the three of you?
Moreno: With Valle, we’re personal friends, and when he decided to help me out with raising the profile of Texas Showdown, he gave me a lengthy primer on how things had changed in the FGC since I was gone. Safe to say, the old way of doing things was long gone, and I took eight to nine months on solely playing catch up with the FGC. I looked at videos, I started to look at streams and even pictures–seeing what I can do, and how to put that Texas flair back in our tournament. It didn’t totally surprise me that he was doing this little thing called Level Up–but seeing him transitioning into that famous “Uncle” role was something else to behold. He saw that I was serious about getting back into the TO role, so he decided to offer his services for Texas Showdown 2013. And look at us now: it’s 2017, and he (and Jimmy Nguyen) have helped with the main stream production with Texas Showdown for five years straight.
With Jonathon Oudthone–in 2014, we decided to add another stream that year, (I’m hoping I get this right) and he approached us in offering to be the secondary stream. We accepted, for two reasons. One, we needed all the help that we could get, and two, he was a regional stream producer and I thought that would be mutually beneficial to him and to Texas Showdown. With his help, we could have two games projected onto a large display at the same time, for the first time. We admired Oudthone’s initial offering, and we saw that he was hungry to help raise the production quality of the stream by every event that he does. Every year since, the production of quality has increased. I also consider Oudthone a friend, and I was very happy to see him taking gigs like he did at Evo last year, along with other gigs like KiT, Absolute Battle, and his own Mid-South Championships.
This year, it was a true collaboration between both Level Up and PandaXGaming to where the production look and feel was unified through all our streams. I believe that the results showed up nicely this year, and we’re hoping for bigger and better things in the future.
El Cubano Loco: It takes a great amount of effort, dedication and sacrifice to run a big tournament such as Showdown. What obstacles have you encountered as a TO and how did you overcome them to make the event a successful one every year?
Moreno: Back in 2012, I noticed that running a tournament had changed greatly. Back then, it was just going to the arcade, take registrations, and run the event. And now? There’s a venue to secure and have it not conflict with any of the other majors. You must have a social media presence. Getting the right staff is key, from registration/administration to bracket runners, to setup/tear down. Negotiation with partners and sponsors. And hundreds of other things that are too long to describe. That was a huge learning curve back then! I went ahead with all that and made mistakes along the way. But to overcome them? As the TO, you learn from your mistakes, try not to repeat them, and you maintain a good staff that can also grow along with you.
El Cubano Loco: What are your future goals for Texas Showdown and the FGC in general?
Moreno: If you look at Texas Showdown from a Capcom Pro Tour perspective, we’re currently a Ranking event for several years running. I want the event to attain Premier status for next year! We were a week after Dreamhack Austin (a Premier event), and we still managed to be only 10 short of their SFV attendance.
As for the event itself–continuing that incremental growth is key. We’d like to include some more exhibitions, a bigger BYOC area, more vendors as well as being a part of some of the new esports leagues like the Injustice 2 Championship series.
With other FGC endeavors, I did run the SFV portion of DreamHack Austin that happened just recently. I also head Space City Beatdown, which is a new monthly tournament series in Houston that’s a part of the Red Bull Proving Grounds circuit. It’s geared for newcomers or for those who are wanting to take that next step in getting sponsored in this new day and age.
El Cubano Loco: Did you ever think you would be a TO? What made you want to become one?
Moreno: I wanted to be a competitor at first. At the same time, I also wanted to bring competition from other cities to Houston. Not everyone has the ability or mindset to do that, so I was willing to make the sacrifice in playing games in a tournament in order to have the best event possible.
El Cubano Loco: What do you enjoy most about the FGC? Why have you stuck around and how long do you feel you can keep being a part of it?
Moreno: Asides from the games, the camaraderie that comes from it. I was in a rather unique position of stepping away from the FGC for an extended amount of time. So I learned to actually miss it greatly near the end of my hiatus. I plan to stick around for the foreseeable feature. If the Cannons can do it, then so can I!
You can see the results for Texas Showdown 2017 here.
[Feature image courtesy of Vann Ath]