James Goddard is a luminary in the fighting game community. He's the creator of Weaponlord, design director on Killer Instinct (2013), and a Capcom alum who was co-lead on SF II Hyper.
We talked to him for a roundup of comments on the 25th anniversary of Street Fighter II, and we learned that he was also there to witness how SF2 gave birth to the fighting game community.
Goddard encountered Streetfighter II a month before its official release on February 6th 1991. The game was being testmarketed at a Golfland in Sunnyvale. He got to witness the emergence of unique player behaviors, and the dawn of esports.
While SFII inspired so many of us to make other fighting games, there is something SFII did that no other game can touch. It founded the FGC (Fighting Game Community). I am lucky to have a unique perspective on this legacy, as I was there.
I will never forget the day my friend called me and said let’s go to Sunnyvale Golfland and play this game they have on test. We walk-in and there is a crowd around Street Fighter II, we had to wait 20 minutes to get to play.
It was overwhelming. It was wild. Six buttons, people talking in whispers about ‘secret moves’ (and acting out the strange motions those moves required).
We stayed for hours until I had no money left. This was January 1991. I lived literally 1 block from Sunnyvale Golfland and I started playing every day. This led me to a job at Capcom within months.
The FGC was started with simple weekly SFII tournaments at that Sunnyvale Golfland. Suddenly, everywhere there were reports of tournaments nationwide at a bunch of mom & pop arcades.
The community grew like wildfire and was so passionate and thirsty for knowledge, groups of players would drive hours or even states to face other people and learn more strategies. (no internet back then folks) I have over the course of my career watched this grass roots movement grow the FGC into the international phenomenon it is now, and it is amazing how players today are just as competitive, hungry for knowledge and passionate as they were when we all had mullets!
Goddard shared some pics from a tournament he helped put together--the first ever Northern California SF2 tournament. They show the passion of the emerging community (and confirm the ubiquity of mullets in 1991.)
Contestants lining up to get into the Milpitas Golfland. (Note the personalized SF2 tee-shirts.)
Competitors square off on one of the fourteen cabinets
Waiting their turn. (That's Goddard on the far left.)
Nor Cal SF2 champion Thomas Osaki