Defend the North returns to White Plains, New York this weekend for its fifth iteration, continuing the legacy of New York’s largest fighting game event. Tournament organizer Andy “citiofbrass” Dumornay first launched Defend the North in January 2014 with the belief that New York City’s fighting game community deserved a major tournament. In the years since its debut in Flushing, Queens, DTN has served as a destination for the Capcom Pro Tour, Injustice 2 Pro Series and Killer Instinct World Cup, but that growth has also come with challenges.
New York City’s high cost of living and constant tourist traffic make rental space more expensive and harder to find, when compared to other tournament destinations. Despite this, Dumornay has remained committed to growing his event as close to the city as possible. He believes that New York has the country’s top fighting game talent and that the players should be able to attract the sort of top-level competition and sponsorship seen at events in other parts of the country.
“I’ve been grateful to the [pro tours] who do look at Defend the North as a qualifying major,” Dumornay said, in an interview with Shoryuken. “I think that New York has the best talent in the U.S. and it’s a shame for pro tours to overlook that. Why should the best talent in the U.S. have to travel to other states just to prove their worth? This happens with the Northeast time and time again.”
As the tournament lineup continues to change and players come and go, Dumornay sees the FGC in a place of transition. The generation that arrived with Street Fighter IV are community veterans now, as are the players who attended the first Defend the North. Getting the current generation of teenagers interested in competitive fighters has become a core goal for Dumornay as a tournament organizer.
Given the density of New York City there’s no shortage of gamers, but getting them active and organized within the community takes more than entering names into a bracket. In 2016 Dumornay moved Defend the North to a larger suburban venue with extra room for vendors, cosplay and, of course, more games.
In recent years the tournament has expanded to include games outside of traditional fighters, including Fortnite, Gears of War and Hearthstone. Arena fighter For Honor will also return to Defend the North for a second year, with more players and international competition. By incorporating games from other genres, Dumornay’s hopes to introduce new players to fighting games. By the end of the weekend, DTN will run brackets for at least 20 different games.
“You don’t want to have anyone feel left out, so you try to put in as many games as possible to accommodate those who are requesting it,” Dumornay said. “The reason why I put in Gears of War and Fortnite was to try and get more teenagers aware fighting game community, that is the mission statement of Defend the North.”
Looking at events like Evo, NEC, and CEO as models for growth, Dumornay said he recognizes the importance of having top players and casuals share the floor at a major. Beyond just adding more games to the lineup, he understands that adding more activities for casual players, like arcade setups or a 24-hour ballroom, elevates the overall experience.
“A lot of people think the important thing is to have a bunch of pro players come to your event but the majority is always going to be the casual players,” Dumornay said. “So it’s all about trying to have exciting things for the casual players to do.”
Even as Defend the North grows, the focus remains on bringing New York City together as a community and attracting the highest level of competition. This year Defend the North will host a special 5-on-5 exhibition match between New York City and the Dominican Republic in Street Fighter V. The exhibition was spawned after MenaRD and Caba faced criticism for heckling opponents during their matches at NorCal Regionals earlier this year.
“I saw a lot of people saying ‘This shouldn’t be allowed,’” Dumornay said. “Then you had some of the OGs saying ‘Hey, this is some of the stuff we had to deal with back in the arcade,’ mind you it was mainly New Yorkers who were saying that.”
New York has built its own reputation for trash talk during matches, and Dumornay felt New York would be able to match Mena’s crew round for round and shout for shout. With no prize money involved it’s just pride on the line. The Dominican Republic will be represented by Capcom Cup champion Rise|MenaRD, Rise|Caba, DR Ray, Loli24k, and Mandrake. The New York team will feature RISE|Smug, iDom, SB|Dieminion, OG|Shine and UYU|Kami. Dumornay hinted that a second team of New York challengers may be put together on site. The 5-on-5 exhibition is scheduled to start at 8:00 p.m. on Friday, July 20.
Defend the North 2018 will be streaming from July 20 to July 22 on TeamSp00ky, TSB Blaze, House of 3000, Kick-Punch-Block, HitBox Arena, and Encore esports USA. Check below for stream times and pool schedules. Full bracket information is available via smash.gg. Major sponsors for Defend the North include esports Ecosystem, Nitro Concepts, Bloody Gaming, G Fuel and SonicBoxx.