Profiled: JHB Beatdown

Last week we met up with local gamer Frank Monze. This week we catch up with his fighting game tournament operation JHB Beatdown. His passion for keeping the flame alive for the local (and African) fighting scene is pretty contagious and one we fully support… and one we believe you should too. So get involved – or maybe start up your own tournament operation – because one day you may just look and there is nothing left to enjoy.

When did you form JHB Beatdown?

JHB Beatdown started around early 2017 but me and the other TO’s actually met at another community run event called GetHype. That started as long ago as 2010 so the JHB FGC actually goes back a long way. Unfortunately, here in SA and most of the world, fighting games have always been a struggling genre and sometime around 2015 GetHype stopped hosting regular events, probably due to dwindling participation. I can’t blame them. Tournament organising can be a thankless job as I would soon learn. By mid-2016 GetHype tournaments had all but ceased. In order to keep what little scene we had going, I tried to host my own gatherings for the local FGC. I talked with a few close friends and regulars from the old GetHype tournaments and booked a space in an empty shop which we’d used for previous tournaments. It was a start but only a handful of players showed up. I wasn’t having much success on my own and quickly gave up.

For a while the competitive fighting games in Johannesburg came to a standstill and the only time I could play anything offline was when my close friend Moshe Shevel would host gatherings for the local FGC out of his own home. He’s definitely one of the most influential and dedicated players I’ve ever met and he would drive all over Johannesburg, offering lifts to all the players he knew just to make sure we could meet for a few games. Honestly, if it weren’t for him JHB Beatdown would probably not exist. These small house gatherings were some of the most fun I’ve ever had playing fighting games.

Unfortunately, Moshe left the country and we lost our regular meeting place again. I thought it was a wrap at that point but the remaining players and I were determined to keep what was left of the FGC here in JHB alive. As the remnants of GetHype we moved from place to place, usually the home of one of my friends, and kept the scene going. We played as many games as we could, as often as we could. Slowly but surely the numbers of players increased until eventually we found a need for a proper venue.

Early 2017 we reached out to AWX and they offered to let use their new premises (The Nexus Hub) to host our tournaments. To this day we’ve been hosting monthly tournaments on a regular basis.

Who are the main braaaaaaiiiiiiiinnnnnssss (or brain…) behind JHB Beatdown?

Other than myself we have a few key members that ensure the events run smoothly. Personally I handle most of the technical stuff like Streaming Software, Overlays, Scoreboards, and Flyers, Social media and Brackets. My Friends Lydon Da Rocha, Monde Keikalame, Kutlwano Molete, Kyle Clarke, Brandon Fick and Austin Carolus (…and I guess Brian*cough*) all help with running the brackets, booking the venues, Social Media, commentary for the stream, providing consoles, games and so much more. Overall, it’s alot of work and it really takes the entire community to make sure everything comes together. All the tournament prizes are provided from within the community and I pay for the streaming gear out of my own pocket, so it’s definitely something I could not do alone and I’m grateful to have everyone’s help.

Is JHB Beatdown your first experience in tournament organisation?

JHB Beatdown is certainly my first time running my own event but I’ve had some experience running brackets at other tournaments and online as well.  It’s funny but I’ve found my experience rather as a competitor than a TO the most valuable when learning the do’s and don’ts of hosting a local tournament.

What made you decide to focus on fighting games?

What initially drew me in was mostly just how beautiful they look. For me, fighters are by far the flashiest and most exciting genre of games, especially as a spectator. Even for someone who knows nothing about competitive gaming I imagine fighting games are a lot easier to follow than something like a shooter or a MOBA. The gorgeous sprites with fluid animations, the over the top music, the flashy combos. It’s really hard to miss how much fighters stand out.

What made me stay was the community. Fighting Game Players are definitely a wild bunch.  I’ve made a lot of long lasting friendships through gaming but there’s definitely something special about the FGC. Compared to other games it’s a small group but we have so many different people, countries, races, stories and backgrounds, but no matter how different two players are there’s always a hunger to compete and improve that brings everyone together. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say we are like one big family. There’s definitely a sense of comradery in the FGC that you can’t find anywhere else.

Which titles do you generally offer at events?

The main titles you’ll find at our monthly are Street Fighter V, Tekken 7, Blazblue, Guilty Gear and Dragon Ball FighterZ. We do accommodate for newer titles as well. We recently ran a tournament for Soul Calibur 6 and Smash Brothers. We also do something called a Mystery Game Tournament which involves an old or obscure title that most players probably haven’t played before or wouldn’t call a conventional fighting game. We don’t announce the chosen title until the day of the event. Mystery Game Tournaments allow for some pretty hilarious matches and give us a chance to showcase some truly unique titles that you might have otherwise overlooked. I’ll admit I wasn’t sold on the idea at first but surprisingly the mystery game tournaments are quickly becoming more popular than our mainline titles and the number of entrants are on the rise. As a result Mystery Games have become a main feature of our events.

How regularly do you host tournaments, and where can people find out about them?

We run tournaments once a month. At the Nexus Hub in Randburg, Johannesburg. You can find all JHBFGC announcements and information on Twitter and Facebook as well the Nexus Hub homepage and social media. We stream and archive all our tournaments on YouTube as well. If you want to contact any of the players or tournament organisers, we’re all part of the SAFGC discord as well.

When is your next event?

Our next major tournament will be in January 2019. We’ll be running our first Super Smash Brothers Ultimate Tournament. Stay tuned to our Twitter and Facebook page for dates and event details. The excitement for this game has been massive, so I’m expecting the local smash community to really pick up in JHB and the rest of South Africa.

The South African fighting game scene is an active one that seems to struggle for full ‘mainstream’ coverage. What do you think the community can do to help change that?

The most important thing every player can do is support their local scene! Watch the streams, retweet those tweets and tell your friends! The greatest challenge for the FGC in not just SA but Africa as a whole is just making sure players are aware that there’s an active scene. And don’t be afraid to travel if there aren’t any nearby events. We regularly have players travel between Johannesburg and Cape Town to compete. Even players from places like Mozambique, Zimbabwe and other parts of Africa are starting to show up at events. International competition is how our scene is going to be put on the map.

What would you like to see happen for the local fighting game scene in the future?

I’d love to see the world tour events major titles take place here in Africa as well. Events like Capcom Pro Tour, Tekken World Tour and Dragon Ball Saga Events. We really have a lot of talented players that could easily take on the best in the world. They just need an opportunity to prove themselves. We’ve already had a lot of famous players and commentators reach out about wanting to compete here. Tasty Steve, James Chen, Logan-sama are just some of the big names that have expressed interest getting to know the African FGC.

Thanks for your time – is there anything else you would like to add?

For anyone who is currently hosting or interested in hosting FGC related events, always strive to improve, take constructive criticism to heart and keep an open mind.  Not every event will have a huge turnout or be a complete success. Learning how to keep going after a setback is one of the most important things you can learn when running tournaments.

It’s taken a while but I think I can comfortably say the fighting game community in SA is finally at a turning point. Esports is finally starting to take hold in South Africa. We’re seeing more international players. Sponsors, developers and publishers are finally starting to take notice of our small community. Local players are finally travelling and the entrance numbers are on the rise. Now is probably the most important time for the growth of South Africa’s fighting game community and we need the support of everyone to make sure it thrives.

You can find JHB Beatdown here:
Twitter | Facebook | YouTube

If you are keen to feature in this column in the future (as a gamer, clan or industry person or company), please feel free to contact us at info@zombiegamer.co.za and we’ll think about – after you’ve sent us a sample of your braaaaaaiiiiinnnnsss.

About Zombie Dredd

Wannabe gaming journalist. Wannabe zombie. And sometimes clan leader of OAP. Clint O'Shea when in his human disguise.