Several ITG fans traveled across the state of Ohio to its capital, Columbus, for the annual convention and tournament. Others came from various locations across the Midwest, or even from as far away as Boston, Montreal, and Austria. This is the biggest event of the year for the small In the Groove community, and distance wasn’t keeping anyone away. Hell, with a community like this, you’d have to assume that even if they held the event in the Congo people would still find ways to show up.
The e-Sports scene is hardly the new thing on the block in the world of competitive gaming, but Fort Rapids VI showed me a sign of competitive gaming that I hadn’t seen much before: comradery. Sure, we’ll see people mention “ggwp” as they concede in a StarCraft II match, fighters shake hands before a bout, or hockey players go down the line telling everyone “good series” after a playoff round is over. But how often will you see those opponents grab a drink together, munch on some food, or reminisce about old memories? You won’t catch Tom Brady and Eli Manning hitting up a bar together, but you’ll actually see some of the top ITG players doing just that.
Well, not all of them, since the tournament’s winner, Matt Magdon, is only 17 (though he’s been playing for almost a decade). You won’t find one of the more popular and well-loved competitors at the bar either, since young Lizzie, whom everybody loves, is only 13. Everyone else that is of age though? They’ll be munching on pizza and drinking AMFs, the alcoholic beverage of choice for Fort Rapids.
Jim Olivola, who ran the tournament, agrees with these observations, despite the amount of time and effort he put into making things run smoothly.
If I actually got a minute to step out of the conference room (which I maybe did once or twice if I recall), I would walk past the bar area and see a large group of players and friends of players just having a good time, drinking together, and/or socializing in general. Even more, from seeing a ton of people playing in the back of the conference room at any point in the day/night, going on a quick food run with another player, to gathering a handful of players into a house or hotel room for the night (and seeing them all interact with one another like they have known each other for years), you can always feel comfortable with interacting with someone who shares a similar interest in dance games (and rhythm games in general).
That is what is so awesome about the community; no matter what race, gender, age, (insert other descriptive characteristic here), we all are, we are all brought together by this single competitive game. And even if the next time certain groups of people see each other again is at the next national tournament a year from now (yes, there will be another, by the way), the bond between them will never disappear.
Jim is no stranger to the competitiveness that sports offer. Being a Giants fan, had we known each other during Super Bowl weekend, we would have given each other shit nonstop. But we’d both know it was all in good fun.
The ITG community knows this as well. Sure, fame, glory, and cash await, but it’s the adventure along the way that matters most. There was no stronger evidence of this than during one of the event’s matches, when it became apparent a competitor was unable to play a certain song (“Euphoria”). For every match he had that round, his opponent picked “Euphoria.”
The result? Laughter and smiles on his face. No begging for a foul call as he attempts his shot, or complaining about roughing the passer after a late hit. Just laughter and smiles. Plus, it helps that “Euphoria” is a catchy song that is now stuck completely in my head.
Believe it or not, as competitive and friendly as we are when we play, we are still extremely close outside of dance games.
Believe it, Naruto. People this close don’t have Nerf gun fights during a rave.
But don’t think that the niche community isn’t open to outsiders. This was Alona Verovenko’s first Fort Rapids, like mine. Unlike me, who despite not competing still had plenty of fun, she was taking part in the tournament. And she fit right in. Her reason for traveling from Montreal? That was pretty simple:
The prestige, the organizers’ motivation at making something epic happen, to learn from experienced organizers about how the event is made, to meet new people and discovering all the old and new players in the American community, discovering the difference in level of all players from all over the world.
It was an experience worth having. Fort Rapids VI wasn’t just about people chasing arrows, but instead people getting together, having fun, and enjoying each other’s company. The main appeal might of been a tournament, but this was much more than a competition. It was an event. One I look forward to attending next year.