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Since its inception, the Internet has served as a viable tool for gamers to pay tribute to their favorite titles, genres, and characters. Enter, fansites. Often times, however, we may not be so inclined to take these sites seriously as they suffer the common flaws of bare bone visuals, fanatic ramblings, lack of sustenance, and, within a short period of time, they become the ghost towns of the web.
But every now and then you get a site that stands out above the rest. One that goes to show that in the right hands, the fansite is a relevant part of the gaming community. If the fighting game genre and the Internet were to share a night of unbridled passion, the beautiful offspring conceived would be The Fighters Generation. What started as a simple art gallery of official fighting game character art exploded into one of the most popular game fansites to date. Having just celebrated its 10th anniversary, TFG’s popularity is without question. I had the honor and privilege to speak with TFG’s webmaster, Frank Yagami, to tell us more about his beloved creation’s past, present, and future.
Hi Frank! To start things off, tell us a little about yourself.
Well, I’m 27. I live in Florida. I like electro/industrial/rock music, mostly stuff they never play on the radio and I’ve been doing martial arts since I was 7 years old. I started teaching Tae Kwon Do & Hapkido when I was 18 and I’m still doing it to this day.
What is it about fighting games that you love?
My passion for fighting games started at a very young age. I remember literally looking up at the shiny Street Fighter II arcade cabinet and becoming completely obsessed with it. I even remember drawing Ryu & Zangief that night at the dinner table right after playing SFII! Haha. The high level of competition in fighting games also quickly drew me in. Back then there were hardly any other video game genres that people could play competitively, head-to-head; plus I simply loved the idea of “fighting” other people virtually. Then there’s the artistic aspect that inspired me on a whole other level. The character designs, the artwork, the music… it all speaks for itself.
So how did you come up with the idea of The Fighters Generation?
As a young teenager I started a video game “blog” on a BBS server just before the Internet came to be. I started doing reviews on video games that I liked, mostly Nintendo & arcade games. A couple years later I created a video game website called GameGeneration (Gamegen.com). I had high ambitions then and I thought I could cover all genres of gaming and all systems. After a couple years it became way too much work for one person. I also noticed that I was far more passionate about fighting games than anything else… and that’s when I got the idea to create a fighting game website. I figured it would be much easier to keep up with (and I was right).
I took a liking to Street Fighter artwork at a young age… I remember tracing Super Street Fighter II & Super Street Fighter II Turbo artwork on occasion. Once the Internet came about, I learned that I wasn’t the only one who appreciated fighting games for their artistic value. I soon found myself collecting my favorite pieces of artwork online and during the time I was working on Gamegen.com, I had compiled an impressive amount of fighting game artwork. That’s when I decided it would be cool to share what I had collected with other fans and I figured it would be a good place to start when creating a fighting game website. I wanted TFG to be the go-to place for fighting game artwork. And that’s how it all started…
To create and maintain a database of virtually every single fighting game ever made, and their individual characters, while balancing your own life is quite a feat. What was it like putting together the site and maintaining it up until now?
Working on TFG actually suits my lifestyle and personality surprisingly well. My other job(s) luckily offer flexible hours, for one. Also, I’ve always been somewhat of a loner and often times I prefer staying in to going out… which of course allows me more time to work on TFG at my convenience. I have made sacrifices in past relationships & friendships but my close friends have come to know how dedicated I am to the site and thankfully they understand. The past couple years have actually been more demanding than the last 7-8 years due to the fact that the fighting genre saw such a huge resurgence in recent times. I never used to have to update the news page every single day (and several times a day) – it’s a lot of work!
For our readers who have yet to acquaint themselves with TFG, please share what they can now expect to find during their visit that they won’t find anywhere else.
The Fighters Generation offers a variety of content that fighting game enthusiasts of all levels can enjoy. TFG started as a humble character/image database and eventually reached it’s goal of hosting the largest number of fighting game images online. It’s not just about quantity, it’s about quality. I’ve always taken pride in posting the highest quality artwork possible, and it never ceases to amaze me how much new stuff I end up adding to the site each year. TFG also hosts the most elaborate and informative fighting game reviews that you’ll find anywhere. Lastly, TFG also keeps you up to date with the very latest fighting game news, rumors, videos, etc… TFG has also been acclaimed for not posting “BS news” or posting every single combo video/tournament video that appears online.
You’ve made great efforts in maintaining TFG’s foothold on the net. This alone sets it apart from the common fansites, as they are usually abandoned over time. To help us better understand TFG’s mission statement, what motivated you to keep the site alive and well?
A lot of things have motivated me. First and foremost are the people who enjoy fighting games & fighting game artwork as much as I do. I’ve met a lot of cool people through the website and many of them have generously helped me along the way, asking for nothing in return. There was a time when fighting games really weren’t “popular” at all, and even during those times I had a strong drive to continue working on the site and to show that there are still people around that LOVE fighting games. Also, people who used to say things like “2D fighting games are dead” and “this game sucks” and “that game sucks” motivated me to work even harder! And finally, companies like Capcom, SNK and Namco and their amazing artists have never stopped inspiring me with their latest efforts.
During the ten years of TFG’s lifespan, the Internet has definitely gone through some drastic changes (i.e. YouTube, increased social networking, and wikis). In that decade’s time, what have you observed and learned from these developments and how have they affected TFG’s growth towards accessibility and singularity?
Interesting question. For starters, I actually wasn’t a big fan of YouTube in it’s early years, mainly due to the poor video quality. After YouTube started streaming HD quality videos, I knew it was time to incorporate it on TFG. In retrospect, it’s hard to imagine The Fighters Generation without instant streaming videos. They’ve really added a lot to the site!
A little over a year ago, some friends and fans urged me to set up a Facebook & Twitter page for TFG. At that time, TFG did have a Myspace page that was still going strong, but Myspace was clearly going downhill. Facebook offered a better way to connect with other users & attract new ones, and is currently TFG’s main social outlet. I was also skeptical of Twitter when it first arrived, but it’s proven to be a convenient application for TFG as well.
There are many great fighting game “wiki sites” out there and I’ve ended up using quite a few of them for reference here and there. While those sites are cool and very informative, I think TFG still offers a unique online experience that fighting game fans just can’t get anywhere else.
Many gamers nowadays have turned to wikis for their fix of gaming knowledge and appreciation. In light of these developments, what do you predict for the future of fansites? Do you think the medium’s relevance may be nearing its end?
It’s possible that the days of fansites are numbered. Or at least they’re evolving into wiki sites. Regardless, I think the fansites that can distinguish themselves and manage to be unique can be successful. Wiki sites can be cool but they usually lack the “heart” that many fansites have.
TFG is recognized as a site that not only satisfies hardcore enthusiasts but also seems to encourage beginners and other gamers to become more involved in the genre. In your own words, tell us why you believe more gamers should participate in the community?
Firstly, the skill element of fighting games really stays with you. The time & practice that you put into particular fighting game isn’t wasted like in some genres of gaming. If you’re practicing correctly, your skills and reflexes will be constantly improving, or at least they should be. That can indeed crossover to future fighting games that you play. And need I say… improving those reflexes can help you in other areas of life as well? In a nutshell, it can pay off to play fighting games, and quite literally if you end up winning a tournament.
Aside from that, there are so many different qualities of fighting games that can be explored and enjoyed. Fighting games have inspired me repeatedly in my life, and I think they can do the same for many other people out there. Primarily those that can appreciate martial arts, artwork, and enjoy an adrenaline rush.
The fighting game scene has definitely come a long way. What are your current views of the genre’s performance as well as its community?
Part of TFG’s original “mission statement” was to strengthen the image of fighting games and let both gamers and companies know that there are still hardcore fans out there. More specifically, fans that appreciate all aspects of fighting games. I’m ecstatic to see the continued success of the fighting genre… it’s certainly alive and well.
The fighting game community is so vast, it’s worldwide, so it’s difficult to make a comment on it as a whole. Since fighting games have moved closer to the mainstream in recent years, a lot of younger gamers have jumped onto the bandwagon. And I’m not being age-specific when I use the term “younger”, there are many newcomers to the genre and quite frankly a few of them need to learn some manners & learn how to be humble…and if they haven’t learned it yet, they will.
From my experience at least, the fighting game community was known to be a somewhat collected and humble crowd (at least those are the types of people I’ve always surrounded myself with). But with younger players entering the ring comes immaturity as well as ignorance. I think it’s up to us old school fighters to show them the ropes and/or shut their mouths if need be. Haha. To all the new players out there entering the fighting game community – treat others how you would like to be treated.
Marvel vs. Capcom 3 was the first in the new wave of fighting games that many of us have been looking forward to. With plenty more still to come, which titles are you particularly excited about getting your hands on?
Well, the next big release in line is Mortal Kombat 9. The last few MK games disappointed me, but it seems like someone shot a rocket up the dev-team’s ass, because MK9 is looking mighty promising! The fact that they put top priority on the gameplay this time around and went back to 2D is easily the best move the series has made in years. MK9 is definitely going to raise some eyebrows; it’s going to be a bloodbath.
The games I’m most looking forward to though are Tekken Tag Tournament 2, Street Fighter X Tekken, and Tekken X Street Fighter. It’s definitely a good time to be a Tekken fan and a Street Fighter fan! I really couldn’t be happier since they are my top 2 favorite franchises. There’s so much on the horizon for fighting games and I’m looking forward to covering all of it on TFG!
Finally, I’m also very excited to get my hands on the Nintendo 3DS next month. I’ll definitely be picking up SSF4: 3D Edition, Dead or Alive: Dimensions and Blazblue: Continuum Shift II. I pretty much have to buy all those games so I can review them on TFG!! I’ve never seen a handheld system receive so much fighting game love so early on in it’s lifespan; it also says something about the state of the fighting genre!
Last, but not least, what would you like to say to all of your fans and supporters?
I couldn’t have maintained The Fighters Generation for all these years without them. Their continued support has never ceased to inspire me and keep me on my toes. I’d like to give shout-outs to a few people who’ve selflessly been helping out the site for years: Jet3000, JudoDarkFist, Cooper Sowell, David King, Megan H., Vashaun, and last but not least, my dad! Thanks for everything!
I’d like to once again thank Frank Yagami for taking the time to do our interview. Once again be sure to check out The Fighters Generation!