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Q&A: James Chen talks FGC, governing bodies and gaming’s future

Fighting games tend to be a lot like soccer matches. For every moment that is explosive and electrifying there comes a lot of moments of footsies. Moments where players are trying to figure out spacing or chip their opponent’s health meter down. Of course, these moments are only seconds long. It’s the job of commentators, though, to make sure that each of them is filled with entertainment and information. James “Jchensor” Chen is arguably one of the best. His commentary style is engaging without being too heavy handed on jargon that could potentially lock new fans out.

During EVO, Slingshot’s Amanda “SageGnosis” Stevens took the opportunity to talk to Chen about how to protect your voice, esports scholarships, and if the fighting game community could ever have a unified governing body.

Amanda “SageGnosis” Stevens: How is your EVO going?

James “Jchensor” Chen: It’s going really good. It’s tiring but, you know, it’s like this every year. It’s once a year and it’s worth it.

AS: I don’t I’ve ever heard you with a voice at full capacity. What do you do to take care of yourself?

JC: I mean, to be honest with you, I think that this is just how I sound now after doing years of commentary. This is just how it is now. But honestly?  One, you do this for a long time your voice gets stronger. And two, you learn to take breaks. I used to lose my voice real fast because I would just scream. And now I — you learn certain things to do on commentary to make sure you don’t kill your voice.

AS: I saw you talking about this on Twitter a while back. A lot of universities are getting into esports; creating programs and giving out scholarships to players. Do you ever see things getting to a point where colleges will be giving out scholarships to FGC players?

JC: You know…we’ve seen a lot of scholarships. We’ve seen like Heroes of the Dorm give scholarships for players. Will we see fighting game to do that? Right now it depends on how big we grow. It depends on how big it gets. I know the FGC is obviously getting a lot bigger; this EVO was ridiculous. It’s on ESPN2 and we have 5,000 entrants for Street Fighter and 14,000 entrants in all the games.

Obviously lots of big stuff going on here. But, we’re still not quite there compared to the level of League of Legends yet. If we can get to that point, I don’t know. I don’t know if it’s possible to match that level for several reasons. Something like, for example, we don’t have a central government in the FGC. Which I like. So, don’t get me wrong.

AS: Why do you like the fact that the FGC doesn’t have a central governing body?

JC: The FGC to me is special because we have a variety. We’re watching Pokken on stream right now, which is next to Smash, which was previously Mortal Kombat. And there is Street Fighter running over there. Those are all from different companies. Killer Instinct. Guilty Gear. All from different companies. With a central governing body like League of Legends, it’s just Riot that runs everything and they get all the power. They get to do stuff. And sometimes they make decisions that you can’t challenge, you can’t do anything about.

If the fighting game community got that way — one, I would be remiss to give one company that much power in the FGC because we are all about the variety. And two, I just — mainly that’s just what it is. I don’t want one company to have that much power. I love the variety of games that we have.

AS: One of the things I’ve always thought about though is doing an independent governing body. This may not be the best example with recent news but something similar to FIFA. Do you think an independent, volunteer based governing body could work for the FGC?

JC: We could get to a point where maybe we have a community kind of governing body. The hardest part is right now I know that all the different communities have very different ideas right now. Even within communities there are very vast different ideas. I don’t know we could generate one governing body, even community generated, that would be fair to everybody. A lot of people have very different ideas of how this is supposed to go. So, to be honest with you, I still kind of like it this way. That is a lot of diversity. Look, the fan base that plays Smash is very different than the fan base that plays Street Fighter. Very different than the fan base that plays Guilty Gear. Very different that the fan base that plays Killer Instinct. Very Different than the fan base that plays Mortal Kombat.

And, again, I like that about the FGC. I like that in this hall of 15,000 people or whatever that is in here that we see people of all different race; of different kinds of personalities and different types. I feel like — obviously outside some of the gender issues that we have in the FGC — that the fighting game community is one of the most diverse communities there is.

AS: I definitely agree. One of the things that I like about the FGC in comparison to the rest of esports is the fact that it is so ethnically diverse. It’s something that I definitely appreciate.

JC: And that’s what I like about the FGC. I like the fact that it’s remaining that way. That we do have all these different people. I think that one of the things that promotes that really is that we have ideas coming from so many different directions. It’s funny because I know that some communities — like the Smash WiiU community is kind of mad at EVO for some things right now because they didn’t feel like they were treated right or whatever. You don’t realize how hard it is to coordinate all these people together.

But, at the same time, I think it’s good that we have all these different communities saying “Hey, we need this,” or “Can we do this?” or “Can we do that?” Really, it makes you appreciate how hard it is for EVO to actually place. But when it does take place it does produce this very diverse environment and you do have to be fair to everybody. If you have one governing body and the governing body likes one game over the other and stuff like that we won’t necessarily have that situation anymore. I like that we are kind of like a group of the people.

AS: EVO has definitely come a long way over the years. If someone traveled back in time and told you that EVO was going to be 15,000+ people and was going to have its Top 8s at the Mandalay Bay Event Center, what would you have told that person?

JC: I would laugh at them and I would be like “You’re obviously not from the future ‘cause you don’t anything.”

AS: Do you see a point where things go on a down tilt or do you think that it can only keep getting bigger from here?

JC: It really depends on how video games in general progress. I think this is more kind of a video game issue. Is virtual reality become bigger? Competitive gaming is definitely something that’s growing. It’s the hot thing right now. A lot of companies are trying to get into and you can never really be 100 percent invested in the hot thing because it can go away at any point in time. Will it go down? It very well could. It could be some stupid controversy that all the sudden hits competitive gaming that ruins everybody. We just had an earthquake in Taiwan and it hurt the computer chip production. It could be anything that could hurt stuff. It’s hard to say that I’m 100 percent confident that it’ll work but I’m going to do everything I can to make sure the FGC keeps growing. That’s all I know.

AS: Do you have anything to say to you fans?

JC: Tune in to UltraChen TV. Also check us out on YouTube. And keep playing all the fighting games. Appreciating every fighting game helps every scene and I truly believe that.

Cover photo: Stephanie Lindgren @Vexanie