The winner of the 2016 Capcom Cup receives $230,000, but the pressures on competitors are more than monetary – particularly if they’re transgender

The atmosphere in the competitor pen at the 2016 Capcom Cup in Anaheim, California, is weirdly tranquil – despite the stakes. There’s a $230,000 cheque waiting for the winner, $60,000 for the runner-up. The room, snugly closed off from a shanty town of flight cases, stage lights and wires behind the sweeping stage is lined with sofas, on which the eight finalists sit. In 10 minutes they will emerge to hollers and applause, ready to make their bids in the annual competition to crown the best Street Fighter player in the world.

In the middle of the room, two trestle tables sag under the weight of monitors, on which the finalists are free to warm up their fingers with practice games. There are, however, no preparatory or prayerful rituals going on back here; only the idle swiping of phones. I sink into the couch beside 32-year-old Ricki Ortiz, one of two Americans to reach the finals (the other six competitors all come from Street Fighter’s home of Japan). What does she do to prepare for a major fixture like this, I ask. “Me?” she says. “I had a quick nap.”

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