October 18, 2019

Riot’s Project L and the FGC’s evolution

Riot Games revealed their intentions announcing their creation of a fighting game at EVO 2019. Alongside League of Legends, the biggest competitive scene in esports, the currently named “Project L” is set to be the new baton carrier in a genre predominantly represented by Capcom’s Street Fighter.

Once Project L drops, the fighting game genre and its divisive community will be assimilated into the Riot machine. Shockwaves from the game’s announcement are jolting the player base. Riot made it clear that in regards to competitive play, players must sign an exclusivity clause preventing them from playing games “of the same genre.”

That means no cross-play of Street Fighter, Tekken, Smash or anything else. Some think this is tyrannical. But many believe it is not only necessary but also pure genius.

The fighting game community runs parallel to esports and at times resisted the transition to esports. The duality of the community is among the casual fans and spectators, but they are both significant.

Reddit has r/Fighters, covering all things related to fighting games. r/Kappa exists featuring the more territorial, and sometimes toxic, aspect of the FGC.

Famed Street Fighter IV player and inadvertent esports innovator Mike Ross attempted to keep the grassroots feel of the community. But he ended up exiling himself from it, apart from his periodic “old man screams at cloud” statements about current events.

Project L will not baptize the FGC overnight, but it will enhance the genre’s viability for future esport titles. Project L brings two important aspects to the player base. Control and oversight.

League of Legends is sponsored by Louis Vuitton, Red Bull and Axe. The amount of money and attention the game generates reflects on the brands. Players are encouraged to conduct themselves as professionals to ensure they don’t trouble sponsors or compromise brands.

The same can’t be said for the core games of the FGC. Last summer, Smash Bros. Ultimate dealt just mild punishments to bullying, rampant racism, underaged dating and a match-fixing scandal.

Riot’s conditions would never allow these issues. This argument of bottlenecking the community is flawed and without merit. If Project L takes off as League did, it will benefit the players.

This is all a pre-emptive reaction that staples of the FGC will chase fortune and glory at Project L. Making arrangments for traveling the world outweighs the chance at getting out of pools and settling for pocket change. The lure is too great for some players and will create a void.

A new void will inevitably be filled by new blood that can reinvigorate the scene. Personality and charisma in a genre sorely lacking it can even get in the scene. On the other hand, nobody can say Project L won’t burn out as Dragon Ball FighterZ did. It could all be just a temporary change of pace

The FGC is already in a state of flux. Smash headlines EVO Japan, Street Fighter V failed to outlive its botched release and the days of arcades and strong local communities have vanished. Project L is the game to complete the genre’s transition to esports. And it can’t come soon enough.

Written by Daniel Howard

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