Featured News - Current News - Archived News - News Categories

Matthew `MonkeyBizness` Hogan and Demarius `Unbuffbane` Chambliss commentating at Quit your Friendlys 5 at Riverworks. (Photo by Ryan Suttner)
Matthew "MonkeyBizness" Hogan and Demarius "Unbuffbane" Chambliss commentating at Quit your Friendlys 5 at Riverworks. (Photo by Ryan Suttner)

Here comes a new challenger: The Buffalo FGC's state in 2023

Tue, Dec 5th 2023 01:45 pm

By J.J. Shanks

Special to Niagara Frontier Publications

If there’s one word that best describes Western New York, it’s community. Whether that be because of the alias “City of Good Neighbors,” the areawide fanbase of the Buffalo Bills, or the general sense of comradery amongst each other; Buffalonians are as tight-knit as you can get.

For some people in the area, however, their community lies in the heart of the fight. Not an actual UFC or MMA match, but in the digital space of gaming. In particular, the realm of fighting games.

In the competitive gaming landscape, no genre brings together their players like the fighting genre. One may argue that it can be categorized as an esport, yet the fighting game community seems to stray away from the glitz, glamor and overall “sports” culture of esports and has stuck with its grassroots philosophy.

“Call of Duty and Rocket League are great games in their own right and obviously have their followings,” Scott “DemolitionKirby” Gattie said, “but they don't have local chapters; they don't have regular meetups where the community members can just hang out together, get food together, travel together to bigger events, things like that. It's such a crucial part of what makes the FGC beautiful.”

One such city that has stuck with this philosophy is Buffalo, and for the past 25 years has maintained its community through a strong passion for fighting games, as well as an overall positive vibration that emanates throughout the City of Buffalo.

“Buffalo is one of the last true grassroots communities left in North America,” said community founder Brian “ChaCha” Stone. “There may be no other scene left like ours that has seen the growth or success that we have, and I am grateful that my original visions for such a community came to fruition.”

Stone was one of the founding community members of the Buffalo scene. He organized events and gatherings in Buffalo up until 2022, during which time he briefly moved to Halifax, Ontario, due to work obligations. Stone made his triumphant return to Buffalo in 2023 and continues to be an ongoing leader in the community.

Fighting game communities around the country have started their humble roots in the bygone meccas of arcades. As the years went by, communities found themselves at different locations, some in game stores or others more currently in esports venues.

Buffalo is no exception. The community started gaining traction through the popularity of the Tekken game franchise in the late ’90s, in the former arcade CyberCity formerly located in the Walden Galleria mall. Since then, the community has jumped ship to multiple locations, such as the Paddock Chevrolet Golf Dome, former game cafe GameON! in Kenmore, the Tri-Main center in downtown Buffalo, and now currently residing at Heart of the Game in Cheektowaga.

While having a space for community is great, it may pose an obstacle for some. Financial and transportational burdens have been a restraint for some members of the community to be able to go to locals every week. Despite this, the Buffalo community does things a little differently than some with its entry fee.

“The venue (fee) is never mandatory,” said community organizer Greg “Bloodspor” Daly. “I don’t want anyone to feel that they can’t come out because they don’t have the $10.”

Entry fees for events are a way for communities to raise funds to purchase new equipment, streaming equipment, upcoming releases and other needs. Still, the BFGC never turns away anyone who can’t set aside some extra money.

Another obstacle for organizers can be the sharing of space. Some venues operate as their normal business, and that could mean hosting another event on top of FGC locals. For Buffalo, Heart of the Game hosts its usual trading card game tournaments, which take up a majority of their space in the shop.

“Our biggest challenge is communicating with the Yu-Gi-Oh! players,” Daly said. “The next is when the store has multiple big events and we get relegated to a smaller section of the store or have to announce a cancellation.”

Some may also find it difficult to find their niche within the community, though Buffalo prides itself on having players of many different fighting game franchises, not just one.

Alongside the aforementioned Tekken franchise, the community also prides itself on having high level players all across the board. Series such as Street Fighter, Guilty Gear and The King of Fighters have seen Buffalonian players traveling all over the country to compete in national tournaments to see who comes out on top. It’s no laughing matter either, as the players regularly take at least the top 60 spots in nearly 1,000-person tournaments.

“We definitely had some smaller community wins,” Tanner “TheMail” Balk said. “(But) Taka (CheezyT) getting fifth at Combo Breaker was great.”

Due to COVID-19 pandemic protocols being lifted, the Buffalo FGC has been able to travel and host a plethora of events. Namely, this past fall, the community hosted its fifth entry of the Quit Your Friendlys tournament series, held at Buffalo Riverworks. This was notable due to the fact that it was the largest Street Fighter tournament held in the city thus far, due to the recent release of Street Fighter 6.

The release of Street Fighter 6 also drew in some new players into the community.

“I am very new to the fighting game scene,” Andrea “Rosie Thorne” Peck said. “I grew up playing platformers and occasionally getting my butt kicked by my older brother in Street Fighter 2. Now, I have an entire group of older and younger brothers kicking my butt at Street Fighter 6 but, unlike when I was 10, I am improving because our community members are so committed to continuing education.”

As new games are released and old games are being rediscovered by a new generation, the larger FGC seems to be growing at an incredibly consistent rate and Buffalo has taken note.

“It's hard to say, 'Where we should go?’ It's more like, 'Where CAN we go?' ” Stone said.

His answer: “Stay the course, what we already have been doing to attract, cultivate and train players to become the best fighting game playing versions of themselves – has worked.”

Related content:



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.

Hometown News

View All News