Unsung Heroes is our series about the many members of the Fighting Game Community who work behind the scenes to make our community a vibrant, positive, exciting place to be. If you would like to submit your own Unsung Heroes, contact us here or @toptiergg.
The Fighting Game Community is a strange and fascinating thing. It’s the home of arcade culture in a world that has precious few arcades; it’s a place where pitiless competitors meet to help one another and make friends; and it runs on an unusual mixture of brazen pride and profound humility.
Consider Patrick “Matau32” Lam. Despite being a Tournament Organizer for the Las Vegas FGC, Lam is so modest that he borders on being self-effacing. “I feel like I haven’t done enough,” he says of his own work in the community. “I can do a lot more, y’know? Plus, I definitely am not the only person doing all the work. We’re like pieces of a system. The TOs, the venues, the owners of those venues, the people themselves all contribute to making the FGC great.
“From the first moment I started coming out and learning/knowing the Vegas FGC two years ago,” he adds, “everyone has just been really kind, caring, fun, and helpful.” He has a laundry list of his own personal FGC heroes in the Vegas scene: Claysculpture, Slamunga, Jeffboyardees (a.k.a. JeffCena), Moon, Pipefoxx, RealLV, Shin Paulo, Bentley, Addons, Andy, LVRenegade7, AgentUno, Shantell, YLTCole, Kudaytaa, Stylo, ZamuraiCris, JustinAtLaw, XenosKing, DG AL, PRO7OTYPE, and Jotham. But there should be no doubt that Lam belongs on that list, too. For all that he minimizes his own contributions, he’s a perfect example of what makes the FGC special.
Try, Try Again
As a gamer, Lam is drawn to anime titles. He plays Dragonball FighterZ, BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle, and Granblue Fantasy Versus, and he has his eye on Melty Blood and Guilty Gear: -Strive-. As a community volunteer, he does TO work, administers his scene’s Discord server and Facebook group, and, most important of all, represents the community to venues and newcomers.
“Generally just being welcoming [with] newer people also goes a long way in benefiting a community,” he explains. There’s no formula to follow, because people are diverse, complex, and dynamic. So Lam tries anything and everything. He’s helped his local scene try out different games, different tournament formats, and different ways of advertising his local events.
Sometimes these experiments crash and burn; sometimes they succeed as one-offs; and sometimes they stick. For Lam, there’s no ego involved: whatever works, works, and whatever doesn’t work is a good learning experience. That’s because his first and only priority is the players. He even makes a special effort to be the welcoming committee for newcomers, making sure to “meet them and show them around the venue itself. Then ask what game they like to play and show them to where others would typically play and try to introduce them to other people.”
All of this stems from a powerful sense of gratitude on Lam’s part. He says that he does what he does because of “those who had done it for me.” Lam describes himself as shy, and he says that he still struggles sometimes to call next on a setup. So when he “see[s] someone having a hard time adjusting,” he knows how that feels and he knows how to help. In the end, it’s just the natural thing for him to do. “I just want to show others my love for the Vegas FGC and fighting games as a whole and hope for them to join in and have fun, too.”
Building For The Future
Lam’s work on Discord and Facebook has been especially important over the past month or so. “It’s a tough time for everyone,” he says, speaking of the COVID-19 pandemic. He knows people who have lost their jobs, who are concerned for their family’s health, and who are straining under the demands of the quarantine. And on top of all of that, “everyone misses locals.”
But he also says that the Vegas FGC has been “getting a lot more people joining the Discord and Facebook groups.” As soon as the pandemic lifts, these new challengers will provide a breath of fresh air to Lam’s scene. In the meantime, he’s helping them with “learning fighting games, sharing tech, or [even] pick[ing] out a computer.” By doing all of this, he’s rising to meet the adversities that the world has placed in front of him, which is all that any of us can do.
In the meantime, Lam is building for his own future, too. He wants to finish his degree in Management Information Systems, become a top player and streamer, and become “an overall better person.” His journey will test him, but no matter what happens, he will always have a home in the Fighting Game Community.
Eli Horowitz (@BODIEDnovel) lives in Pittsburgh, which currently means that he lives in one block of Pittsburgh. His first novel is set in the FGC. You can learn more about that novel and the rest of his writing at his website.