Vandy’s KIT 15 Retrospective and Future Outlook

This one was a doozy. I can’t believe a year has passed since I was here writing this same article about KIT 14. The entire year was crazy for team KIT as we attended over 10 large tournaments, expanded our roster of players, and made connections all over the country. We worked hard to get the word out about our tournament and in the end it paid off as we nearly doubled in size of attendees compared to our previous one.

We knew we wanted to capitalize on the success of KIT 14 and continue to grow. I said last year that KIT 14 was merely a springboard for KIT 15 so we knew we had to deliver if we wanted to keep our trajectory pointed up. Immediately after KIT 14 we started to brainstorm on what we could do to improve the player experience.

There were several things we changed or upgraded for this tournament. First we went up to a grand total of 15 main games. Our philosophy is to be as inclusive as possible to all scenes we invite to the tournament and early on we took on the challenge of somehow making sure every game received both stream time and some kind of guarantee. It is impossible to literally give every game equal treatment at an event, but to the best of our ability we wanted to try. I know it is common in the FGC, but as much as possible I try to avoid the term “side game” and its connotations. To accommodate this philosophy we ended up having seven official streams at the event. I think the players and communities enjoyed it, but it was a very difficult task to pull off.

I think the biggest change, and the one that seemed to raise the most eyebrows, was the disallowance of onsite registration. There are obviously some downsides to it – some players just cannot plan even a week in advance due to the nature of their jobs and it may decrease overall attendance. However, it helps the players by creating fixed pools – this way everyone knows how to prepare for the tournament and what time they will be playing. It helps the KIT staff even more by allowing us to prepare for exactly how much equipment we need and allows everything to run smoothly and on time since we do not have to worry about creating brackets on the spot. We thought the tradeoff was worth it and may even help us with our numbers in the long run. For our large three day events I cannot see us ever going back.

Since I have been asked privately many times about how I felt having a big event on the same date as KIT – I will answer here publicly the same way. KIT supports every tournament! Even ones that are (gasp!) on the same date. I love the FGC and want to see it grow as big as it can get! When it becomes a game of only how many people attend and how many stream viewers we can get then I have lost my way and need to pack it up. I enjoyed being able to advertise Canada Cup during KIT and hope we were able to lift up that event while ours was going on.

This year we had a 16 man Street Fighter invitational on Thursday night – essentially making this a 4 day event for me. I thought the pre-KIT tournament was a success as it gave us a chance to highlight one of our local Sponsors – The Score of Murfreesboro. Although it was some extra work, the players and the store owner seemed to really enjoy it and it was a great way to kick off the festivities.

Overall the tournament was a great success. For the most part the tournament ran on time as scheduled with the exception of early Saturday morning. If you talked to me any time from 10 AM to 2 PM on Saturday I apologize! Between things running a little late and logistical issues I was not in a good mood, but once things got going I was able to cheer up and enjoy the tournament. One stream unfortunately went down during pools, and I am truly sorry about that. Having 7 streams, while awesome, may have been one or two too many so I will look into how we can condense it while still providing a quality program. Something to think about and improve on.

Saturday night and Sunday finals were amazing! On Friday and Saturday during the day I have to deal with so many things running concurrently that I feel disconnected from the players – with greater numbers comes less individual time I can spend with everybody and this will become a challenge for me personally as KIT grows. On Sunday though, since everything is so spread out I get to spend a couple hours with each scene as I can focus on them one by one. The hype and the chants brought by every community is what I live for and what makes everything worth it to me.

There was an incident this year at KIT. By the time of me writing this I am sure most of you have read about it or seen it. It was unfortunate for KIT and also on a personal level as I know all parties involved and how each was affected. On Friday night we had to ban an individual from the rest of the event – it was handled accordingly and know that we take this very seriously. On my end there is a lot to think about on how to prevent something like this in the future. It is not 100% preventable but it all starts with me and how I choose to brand and promote the event, and it is something I am thinking about a lot right now. You know I love hype, excitement, and even (friendly) trash talk but I also value sportsmanship and respect. I love the grassroots feel but at the same time I want to look and act like a professional. Are these things compatible? I think so, and it is my challenge to somehow blend them together. I do not harbor any ill feelings to any of the involved parties and hope everyone can get past this (even if the internet never will).

So there is a lot on my mind about the future of KIT and myself personally. My wife is pregnant with our third child (what am I going to do???) so an already full schedule is going to become even crazier. I have a career as an engineer that I need to continue to develop. But I have never been hungrier for success for KIT or wanted it as badly. By this point in my life I realize my excitement for the FGC will never go away. Every new game that comes out renews my interest, and when people talk about who the best players are I want who won KIT to be a part of the conversation.

A lot of people now have given me advice on where to go from here, and I will listen to it all. There are a lot of people out there smarter and more successful than I am. But at the end of the day I still need to do what makes me happy and that is to give the players the best possible tournament experience I can deliver. Be on the lookout for what we have next!

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