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.
Picture this: you’ve arrived at your neighborhood arcade for its first-ever Street Fighter V tournament and the place is packed. The game was just released, and there must be at least fifty people who came out to play the new title and show their love for fighting games. But as you walk around, you notice something strange: there’s only one setup. Fifty bodies, one console – what do you do?
Do you shrug your shoulders and wander around looking for something to do between matches? Do you hop on Twitter and joke about the situation? Do you just shake your head and leave?
This was the situation that Ryan “ConvictedofFun” Mejia (@convictedoffun) found himself in, and what he did is simple: he stepped up and took matters into his own hands. And, luckily for the Miami FGC, he hasn’t looked back since.
A Reliable Presence
Mejia started playing fighting games with his brothers back in the days of the SNES. Their game of choice was Street Fighter II, and he still remembers that his brothers accused him of cheating when he figured out how to reliably perform E. Honda’s headbutt. These days he plays R. Mika in SFV and Asuka in Tekken 7, and he says he’d “really like to pick up Mika in Under Night or May in GG.” Still, Street Fighter has always been and will always be his home. It is, he says, a “unique bonding experience,” a source of lifelong friendships, and a reliable presence in his life, starting with his brothers and tracing all the way through Third Strike and Evo Moment 37, the online experience with Street Fighter IV, and now SFV.
Still, he realized relatively early that he wanted to be more than just a player. Having already had previous experience competing in FPS tournaments, Mejia wanted to learn all that he could about the process of putting on fighting game tournaments. To that end, he launched himself into volunteering at events – he says he “would put ‘anything'” for his preferred role – and ended up running brackets at events all across the country, from NEC to Combo Breaker to CEO to Evo itself. These experiences not only taught him about the FGC but brought him close to other like-minded people. In particular, he keeps a special place in his heart for famed CEO head Alex Jebailey, Tong Lee, DanielRGT, and nothingxs, of whom Mejia says: “That man has done so much for me and I will forever appreciate it.” The insights he took away from his TO role models only made him hungrier to make a difference back home, which is why he was ready when his local venue, Arcade Odyssey, needed him.
Every Odyssey Ends With a Homecoming
The night of Arcade Odyssey’s first SFV tournament, Mejia was in the house, and he knew the event was in trouble. But his experiences at events across the FGC had given him the knowledge and the confidence to act. He quickly reached out to his own friends, who, between them, managed to bring an extra four setups to the venue. Between those extra consoles and Mejia’s logistical help that night, the event ran successfully – and he’s been TOing events there ever since.
Between his work for Arcade Odyssey and his other TOing duties for the North American Combat League (NACL – get it?) at Tenth Level Tavern, he estimates he puts in about 14 hours per week in his local scene. And he’d love to do more: his main aim as a player is the familiar goal of making it out of pools, but his dream as a TO is to host a major in Miami that celebrates the city’s various Hispanic and Latin-American cultures. He envisions a venue that serves cafe cubano and sandwiches with burger-sized blocks of fried cheese, fritanga-style. For now, though, he’s keeping his sights modest: Mejia says that events at Arcade Odyssey typically average 8-15 people per game, a number that he’d love to see rise above 20 on a consistent basis.
Life as a TO
As he talks about himself, it becomes clear that Mejia is in many ways a surprisingly simple and straightforward person – a useful trait, perhaps, for someone who has to enter the complexity and chaos of tournament organizing. What his scene needs, he says bluntly, is just more players. And when asked about the high points of his time as a TO, Mejia gives a direct, uncomplicated answer: “When literally anybody thanks me. [W]hen someone wants to thank you or shake your hand,” he says, “that [stuff] gets me.” To this day, he remembers being asked to sign a player’s controller during a Super Smash Bros. Melee tournament.
Similarly, Mejia’s thoughts about his potential heirs in the Miami FGC are straight to the point. Instead of looking for people who have intricate knowledge about event planning or who’ve dreamt up convoluted schemes for the local community, he says that it’s just “a matter of seeing who is most dedicated to the cause and has a genuine care to keep it going.” This is where Mejia’s handle shows itself in a different light. For him, the FGC is not just a matter of fun but a matter of iron conviction as well. And he’s right: in-depth knowledge and expert techniques are important, but there’s simply no substitute for the tenacious love that he and our other TOs bring to the community.
A Hero’s Headquarters
If you’re in south Florida, bring a friend and visit Mejia at one of his events. Arcade Odyssey is located at 12045 SW 117th Avenue in Miami, Florida, and it features weekly Smash Ultimate tournaments and bi-weekly tournaments for Mortal Kombat 11, Tekken 7, Dragon Ball FighterZ, Samurai Shodown, and, of course, Street Fighter V. Tenth Level Tavern, located at 1242 NE 38th Street in nearby Oakland Park, also runs SFV, Tekken 7, MK11, DBFZ, and Smash Ultimate. While you’re there, shake his hand, thank him for everything he does for the community – and, heck, maybe treat the guy to a block of fried cheese.