By J.J. Shanks
Special to Niagara Frontier Publications
The Buffalo Fighting Game community has seen unparalleled success and growth following a GoFundMe campaign for local player Jon “MeVsZombie” Armstrong.
The campaign was set up to help Armstrong and his family relocate from their former home, which had been burned down from an extraneous fire. It also aimed to give funds to Armstrong for necessities such as means for transportation, food and more.
“It's not all doom and gloom now,” Armstrong said. “We got an apartment, have enough to make emergency purchases. I got another bike to get to a job.”
Armstrong was one of the scene’s big players during the “2016 era” of the FGC. This era for the scene came about around the release of games such as Street Fighter 5 and Guilty Gear Xrd SIGN. Armstrong’s game of choice was Guilty Gear, with the character Axl Low leading him and the players from Buffalo to take over during Red Bull Boston in 2016.
“It's hard to explain if I'm closer or further, because most of the new people didn't see me in the ‘Xrd’ era,” Armstrong said, “I'm certainly closer than I have been the past few years. I've been toying with the idea of doing something to help newer players speedrun fundamentals. Just what I can do to give back, you know.”
The community outreach to help Armstrong, as well as the resurgence of multiple legacy game franchises, has helped to bring Buffalo closer and closer into the mainstream as far as the larger FGC goes. It is a testament to the “Queen City” moniker that Buffalo has lasted long enough in the FGC alongside larger cities such as New York and Chicago.
“I think Buffalo is easily No. 2 in all of New York,” Chris “Silktail” Commissio said. “We are small; I think, normally, communities of our size just don’t make it. Without the legacy laid out by a long history of games in Buffalo ... we’d be smaller than an average Discord server.”
The Buffalo FGC has been thriving even during pandemic restrictions, the ability to host in-person locals and all. More recently, as of mid- to late-2022, the scene was able to host large-scale events and tournaments. This past weekend, the community held its first in a bimonthly tournament series called GSNCCS City Showdown, hosted at the Grant Street Neighborhood Center in Buffalo.
“I love BFGC regionals; they were always my favorite part of being in the community,” Armstrong said. “Seeing old friends you met at the last regional is an experience that only gets better as you grow older and meet more of the cool people that come to support our events. Also, the BFGC energy is great.”
Outside of local affairs, the Buffalo FGC has also traveled around the country for various large-scale events. Recently, multiple community members made their way out to East Coast Throwdown in Connecticut.
“We had a huge presence at ECT, two full rooms of BFGC and a few Buffalo FGC people staying with people from Syracuse or Connecticut,” Matt “MonkeyBizness” Hogan said. “These are largely groups of longtime friends who have been in the scene long enough and found themselves either socially or personally dedicated enough to the scene that they want to travel to larger events in larger groups. ... This kind of thing is not something that new community initiatives generally do, but nonetheless, ECT was incredible to behold.”
This is a Niagara University student-created piece completed as part of the course CMS 226A. For more information, contact the Niagara Frontier Publications’ managing editor.