Vandy’s KiT 14 Retrospective

Now that KiT 14 is in the books, it is time to take a moment to reflect on how we got to where we are, reflect on the tournament itself, and then take a look toward the future. I would like to thank Larry Dixon (ShinBlanka, organizer of Final Round) for much of the philosophical ideas of running a tournament. When I decided to go big with KiT, a two hour conversation on the phone with ShinBlanka helped to shape what we would become.

The mantra that shaped this past KiT and our motto going forward:

If you take care of the players, the players will take care of you.

It really is that simple. Players are under no obligation to attend tournaments. It is up to us to create an event that is worth coming to. That is why we decided early on that we would take care of every game we had at KiT. From stream time to payouts to casual setups to signs and posters around the venue, everyone would be included. Every gamer should feel welcome at KiT.

If you are reading this, it is very possible you had never heard of KiT before out last event. Before this year we were never a 3 day event. Flash back to January of 2013 and we had just completed our latest successful tournament. We attracted 64 Tekken players along with around 40 players for other games. We had reached the limit of what a big one day Tekken tournament could be. Being fans of every fighting game, we knew we could be much more. It was at that point we decided to go big or go home.

I have traveled all over the country for the past 12 years entering tournaments. I loved the games and I loved being with the players. I have never been a top player or won any tournaments – I just wanted to compete. When I became older I started to enjoy tournaments less – not because I enjoyed the games or the people any less – but because of the way they were typically run. Times have changed and the biggest tournament have embraced better scheduling, but I remember well the days of everything being 3-4 hours late, no room, and no games. It is the negative experiences I have had that drove me in planning KiT as much as the positive ones.

I knew I had the ability to plan and run a 3 day tournament logistically – I have a mathematical mind and understand the things that potentially delay a tournament on game day. What I did not have was much presence in the FGC as a whole. I am an introvert and do not naturally have an outgoing personality, but if I was going to raise the profile of KiT I knew I had to raise my own profile – to break out of my shell and get out of my comfort zone. I was willing to do what I had to do to make KiT great because there was nothing I wanted more. KiT needed a face and it had to be mine. KiT was going public and so was I.

Because we went from a one day event with essentially one main game to a three day event with 10 main games, we had to do things to accelerate our growth that not many tournaments do. We had never done online pre-registration before so we did pre-registration raffles. We updated our website and our forum announcements frequently months in advance of the tournament. I talked to players from every game and joined their communities. For a long time it did not seem like there was much response, but I knew the players had to get used to seeing my name and face. Especially with “new” events there is an inherent distrust in the FGC, and early on I got the questions I knew would come: Is this tournament really happening? Is the money really guaranteed? These are questions the big established tournaments do not have to answer, so I had to go out of my way to build trust.

About two months before the tournament all of our hard work started to pay off. Players began to notice what we were offering. Top players announced their attendance. Excitement and buzz began to build as players recognized us. Our handmade trophies we showed off were a hit.

It might seem strange to say, but from the start we viewed KiT 14 as a showcase for KiT 15. The world would be watching and we had one shot (one opportunity!) to not only show the hundreds of players in attendance what we could do but also the thousands of viewers who would watch on stream. If we were to be recognized as a major for years to come we simply could not whiff on this one in any aspect.

When tournament day came I will admit it was hard for me to see the forest through the trees. I noticed every small and minute thing that was going wrong or not up to the plan I had so carefully set out. The doom clouds were in my head and it was not until my wife snapped me out of it that I could see it and turn around my mentality for the rest of the tournament. All of the players are happy! None of them think there is a single problem! This is the event you’ve been waiting for! Snap out of it and enjoy it!

We made minor adjustments Friday night and everything on Saturday went extremely well. Every single game ran on time (with the exception of Injustice, but that was intentional) and I got to see the good results of the pool system I had spent a long time on. I hung out with every community I could. It was one of the best days of my life and one of the greatest feelings I have ever had.

Top 8 Sunday did not disappoint either. We started a little late because of some setup issues (I tried to keep myself from freaking out too much) but every community showed up to support their game. The matches were full of hype and drama and good times were had all around. We got to recognize some of the community members who had gone above and beyond for KiT (Milln and Big Jio).

Being the co-tournament organizer for KiT, a lot of people naturally asked what I thought of the event and the turnout. I will not grade myself except to say this: KiT 14 was an amazing event that made a lot of players happy, and I am very pleased with that. But asking a TO what he thought of the turnout is a loaded question: we always want more. I will not be satisfied with stagnation. I will take KiT as far and as high as it can go. I am relentless and hungry for success. The question I will constantly ask and attempt to answer: What more can I do for the players?

As you may have seen, we announced our date for KiT 15 already. It will be January 23-25, 2015. It will be big. Start planning now for your attendance. One thing I will announce now is there will be no onsite registration of any kind for players. That is not conducive to the level of professionalism I seek to attain. If you want to get involved or partner with us, contact us now. We made a highly successful major tournament this year selling a bucket of hope. Imagine what we will do with KiT 14 as our ammunition and an entire year of planning and hype. I am going to the top, and I am taking Beely Bounedara and Jonathon Oudthone with me.

Ian “Vandy” Davis