Zavian “mushin_Z” Sildra: Please introduce yourself for our readers!
Sharpie: My name is Sheila, but I usually just go by dapurplesharpie or Sharpie. I’m an event and tournament organizer for Skullgirls, and the lead organizer of the Skullgirls Tour. I’m also the lead organizer/manager of Kick-Punch-Block, and an assistant organizer for House of 3000, a Smash Bros. group.
mushin_Z: How long have you been involved in the FGC?
Sharpie: I started playing fighting games competitively with Super Smash Bros. Melee back while I was in college. I hosted fests in my house during the week after the main organizer graduated. About three years ago, I got gifted a copy of Skullgirls from a friend, and I’ve been playing the game ever since.
mushin_Z: What games do you like to play?
Sharpie: I really enjoy playing League of Legends and Phantasy Star Online 2, but Skullgirls is still my favorite overall. In general, it has helped me improve the way I think about competition, and my reactions overall. I always feel like I’m improving when I play it, even after three years.
mushin_Z: What events do you help run or organize, currently?
Sharpie: The biggest event I’m organizing right now is the Skullgirls Tour. I was in charge of the recent Send the World to Combo Breaker event, which was basically the Skullgirls Tour teaming up with Stream.me. We actually managed to send 7 international players from places like Japan and Sweden to Combo Breaker 2017, to play over the Memorial Day weekend.
mushin_Z: What drew you into the organizing role?
Sharpie: It was hard for me to dedicate tons of time into playing, and because of that I had a hard time picking up some fundamental mechanics in Melee, which frustrated me a lot. Originally, organizing events was almost exclusively because I wanted to practice with people. I’d just hit them up saying “Hey, practice session at my place, bring whoever,” and anywhere from five to fifteen people would show up. After I got better at hosting, I realized that it was easier for me to organize an event than to compete in all the games I wanted to play, so I started focusing on setting up events for other players to enjoy. It was exciting watching so many people have a place to meet up in person, and share techniques or grow as players. I really think that organizers are important in every community, even if it’s a less glamorous, behind-the-scenes role; they contribute so much to their scenes.
mushin_Z: What is your own definition of “community,” in regards to the FGC in particular?
Sharpie: To me, “community” means a group of people interested in the same game, or genre of game. The Fighting Game Community is so different from other communities I’m a part of, specifically League, because it encompasses so many games and so many different types of people. I love seeing all these people of different races, genders, whatever just sitting together and playing the same games. It makes a better community when we don’t focus on our differences, because even when we play different games we’re all in the same community. The sooner we’re able to unify, the sooner we can all just get back to working on improving our community as a whole.
mushin_Z: Tell us more about Kick-Punch-Block.
Sharpie: Kick-Punch-Block is a streaming group based in New York, but has expanded to including team membership as well. Originally, I was brought on as a media contributor, but It became pretty clear early on that I was a better organizer, so they moved me to a management position and started putting me in charge of tasks like recruiting and day-to-day stream management. I’m really happy to be in this group, because I’m able to help communities I don’t usually interact with. It was really exciting at Winter Brawl, for example, to see the love and dedication the Pokkén Tournament community and SoulCalibur community had for their games. I feel really lucky to be able to speak with so many genuinely passionate people while I’m working for KPB.
mushin_Z: Why Skullgirls?
Sharpie: The Skullgirls community was really awesome to me, and very welcoming when I first joined. I was given a copy of the game shortly after the DLC character Eliza had started development, and everyone was playing her in the beta. I actually didn’t have access to the beta version of the game for the longest time, but Mike Zaimont, one of the developers for the game, let me play the beta. That’s personally my favorite thing about the Skullgirls community: everyone is willing to help, even the developers. It’s something that feels unique to the Skullgirls community.
mushin_Z: What is Combo Breaker’s particular significance to the Skullgirls community?
Sharpie: Skullgirls, as a whole, is much smaller than other communities. Though we have a really large online population, it used to be hard to consistently bring numbers to every major offline tournament, just because our community is so spread out throughout the USA. That led to a disconnect between offline tournaments and our community; tournaments didn’t receive enough registrants to justify running Skullgirls as a main game, and community members that did attend the event only had a small handful of people to play the game with. The most noticeable time for this was after Evo 2014, when our numbers dropped drastically from the year prior.
After this scattered turnout, the community ended up deciding to focus on specific events to boost entrants. Combo Breaker 2015 was the first time everyone really pushed to do this, and our effort convinced the tournament organizers to give Skullgirls a place as a main game, complete with stream time, multiple setups, and the main stage. Since then, we’ve made Combo Breaker the hub of all Skullgirls offline tournaments — and so far, it’s consistently been our biggest event of the year.
mushin_Z: Do you feel that the increasing interest in and exposure of “esports” events poses a threat to community involvement in the FGC?
Sharpie: Not necessarily. Community involvement will almost always trump esports events, because the community holds all the “cards” in the future of the game. A developer, third-party vendor, or even tournament organizer can try to pump as much money, time, or energy into an event as they want, and if the community doesn’t approve of it or latch onto it, nothing will happen. There are tons of other communities that have had the developers of the game try to “jump-start” their game to turn into something bigger, but when their community rejects it or doesn’t want to move in that direction, it’ll fail.
Community organizers are very important here; they’re the bridge between the community and third-parties, responsible for making sure that events align with the wants and/or needs for their community. As long as we have organizers who’re looking out for us, and as long as we have community members willing to step up to make a community everyone can enjoy, there’s no threat.
mushin_Z: Why should the average fighting game player take interest in community-building?
Sharpie: By building your community, you create more avenues and opportunities for the games you play. You create space for more people to play with, and even sometimes things like pot bonuses show up. A good example of the benefits is Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. When community members noticed that developer support was disappearing, they stepped up and took things into their own hands. Because of groups like Marvel Live, UMvC3 stayed active and in the forefront of the FGC, even without developer support. The Curleh Cup is helping keep the community active by reawakening local scenes around the world. Community building helps everyone, even when it doesn’t seem to be having any effect sometimes.
mushin_Z: Do you have any advice for players that want to become more involved in their community?
Sharpie: You don’t need to be good at your game to become more involved. You don’t need to have amazing technical or mechanical skills. All you need is genuine passion for your game and a genuine desire to assist. If you don’t have a scene for the game you want to play around you, there are other avenues to help: you can work to set up an online tournament, you can make content on YouTube to help new players advance, you could stream, or you can even just start a podcast with a few other friends about the game and what they enjoy about it. Being a community organizer isn’t just about knowing how to run brackets or setup an offline event; the most important thing is being there to help when the community needs it.
Images courtesy of Sharpie; answers have been edited for clarity.