On Blanco Road, not far from the Oblate School of Theology, you can find San Antonians who are itching for a fight on any given day. Like the UFC, these gladiators go toe-to-toe for up to three rounds, winner-take-all.
But there’s a very important difference with these fights: they happen in the virtual arena of fighting video games. Nothing really gets bruised, except egos of course.
Fighting games have been consistently popular since the 1990s, first taking off with hit games like Street Fighter II, Mortal Kombat, and Killer Instinct which were popular for having cutting edge graphics and a rare, high difficulty..
Nowadays, fighting games are even more beastly. The gameplay moves at a blistering pace with deeply complex controls. Popular games now include Ultra Street Fighter IV, Marvel vs. Capcom 3, and a new iteration of Killer Instinct for the Xbox One.
Ultra Arcade is the new, premier location in San Antonio where gamers can practice and compete against some of the best fighting game players in the nation. Just this past June, Ultra Arcade and Michael “Yipes” Mendoza, a renowned “e-sports” competitor, hosted Curleh Moustache South, a video game tournament dedicated to Marvel vs. Capcom 3. The event was by invitation only and featured some of the best tournament fighters in the United States, including Job Figueroa (aka “Flocker”) and Justin Wong, both of whom are Evolution Championship Series (a worldwide fighting game tournament) champions.
Developing the skills to be a real fighting game contender takes time and patience, explains Ultra Arcade’s co-founder Brandon Alexander, who is also a local community leader and a fighting game veteran himself.
“The hardest [skill] to learn is timing and Footsies. You gotta learn to out-Footsie – to outplay them – in a sense,” says Alexander.
“Footsies” refers to the ability to dictate the match and encourage opponents to make errors that leave them open to attacks.
To help aspiring fighting game champions along, Ultra Arcade hosts weekly tournaments where players can work out their nervous jitters and improve. Tournaments also allow players to train together and build camaraderie, says Alexander.
Coming this October, Ultra Arcade will host one of the largest fighting game tournaments in San Antonio. For three days, competitors will go head-to-head in eight different fighting games with a $1,000 prize going to the top players who survive the gamut. There will be live music and a costume contest as well.
With such a dedicated community, San Antonians are already making waves. One competitor, known simply as “Ryan,” placed in the top three during Curleh Mustache South. Another player, Pauly Z, has been dominating tournaments in San Antonio and around Texas in Street Fighter, says Alexander.
Those interested in a fight of their lives are definitely welcome to take their chance against them and other seasoned players.
Despite the fighting game hype, Ultra Arcade is still a classic arcade. They also have many non-fighting games and even a Wii U. Anybody that wants to play video games is welcome there.
“My main focus as a community leader is to know what the majority of people want,” says Alexander. “And our goal [at Ultra Arcade] is to have the best games for people to play.”