CEOtaku came and went this weekend, and given it’s only a 30 minute drive, I had to go. While only being in its 2nd year, CEOtaku keeps in step with its pedigree of being a class-act event. Headed up by the man behind CEO, Alex Jebailey, the still-fledgling anime fighting game tournament garnered huge attention. Competitors from 33 states and 8 countries gathered to test their might in some of the genre’s more esoteric titles, such as Nitroplus Blasterz, Arcana Heart 3: Love Max, and the slightly-out-of-place competitive Catherine. As a rather last minute surprise, the demo for BlazBlue: Central Fiction was also added. Registration for Guilty Gear Xrd: Revelator were the highest of any tournament aside from Evo, and it, along with King of Fighters XIV, received cash bonuses from their developers. The tournament offered over $13,000 in total prizes; Revelator had the highest payout, boasting a prize pool of about $3,400, $1,000 of which came from the organizer’s pocket.

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I got to the event around 8pm Friday evening, and fists were already flying. The 3 vs. 3 character team exhibition was about to get underway, and competitors and spectators alike filed in to play casual sets and watch the Friday night side tournaments. The stage with two stream setups and comment desks (one of which was a bed) also had a huge assortment of anime figurines, Gundams, and a couple body pillows with waifus on them.

Something I didn’t get to see in the streams were the wagers taking place in the audience on who wins over who. Before each match, you have a minute or so of “Yo, I like *insert player name* for $10,” along with the general cheers and jeers. After watching four or so teams (some teams were completely eliminated by a single player), I walked around and played a few sets of Melty Blood Actress Again and Revelator before calling it a night by midnight.

The next morning, I got up late and ran over the catch the tournament. Perhaps my favorite thing about CEO events is that they operate as quasi-conventions featuring dealers and artist booths, especially since these vendors usually have fighting game swag that’s not at some larger conventions, anime or otherwise. The tournament was in full swing by 10am, with competitors clamoring to check in with their pools’ judges, get in some last minute practice, and watch matches to scope out the competition.

I volunteered to run a bracket for Dengeki Bunko Fighting Climax Ignition, and it was an interesting experience. The bracket I oversaw only consisted of 13 players that I would’ve never spoken to aside from that moment. The next 98 minutes would consist of panicking about running this bracket efficiently, and trying my hardest not to disqualify anyone. Once, a match was delayed because someone’s controller had re-synced to a PS4 during an on-going match and we had to start the whole point over. While my pool ran a little behind, the rest of the tournament ran smoothly under the management of more seasoned judges. For the rest of the day I watched some matches of renowned players on and off-stream, and playing more Skullgirls and Street Fighter 3rd Strike than I thought I would that entire weekend. Later that night, a few friends and I caught another tournament, grabbed a few drinks and played a few matches of Guilty Gear before turning in at midnight or so because I can’t hang with the big kids.

Picture courtesy of @B33ZERK

Sunday I focused on two things: watching top 16 for Guilty Gear and playing more matches, especially against other Jam players. First thing in the morning, I walked in and proceeded to play a match and got beaten badly by a player who ended in the Top 8. While getting stomped by top players, I tried my hardest to learn things between thoughts of “What I learned in training mode is ______!”. To break up the monotony, I played a few sets in a the majority of the games. It’s always impressive to see how the mechanics of a fighting game are optimally used by players who can leverage it effectively. One Persona 4 Arena Ultimax player took me for the scrub that I was and did an instant kill set-up with Naoto, which I found more cool than insulting.

Midday called for a light lunch and spending more time with friends than actually playing, until the Top 8 matches of Guilty Gear took place, which was the main event for CEOtaku. On a side note, the tournaments for CEOtaku were run so well, there was a full hour of extra time until Top 8 at 7:30. During that time, players ran sets in random games on stream, and there was a segment for a “mighty weeby” and a “remarkable combo” video for each of the games featured in the tournament. Also impressive was the award ceremony for individuals who have had lasting impacts on the anime fighting game community in the last year. Being that CEO is short for “Community Effort Orlando,” organizers Alex Jebaily and The Hadou made it a point to thank and congratulate those whom helped bolster and advance the community.

After that, it was time for the final fights of the evening. This was when the audience was the loudest for sure. Players calling out each other on stage, competitors shouting into the audience- it was straight hype. A Jam player called Doren took my favorite character into 3rd place and became the people’s champ for the evening, and Japanese player Kedako made his trip worthwhile by taking home first place and about $1,700. There were so many incredible moments, I highly suggest you check out the match recordings from CEO Gaming’s Youtube channel.

After a full day of playing and cheering, I went home far more exhausted than I anticipated, but I was all the more fervent about practicing and strengthening myself as a player. Getting home, I saw a bunch of my buddies loosening up and playing more matches. General consensus: CEOtaku went 2-0 this weekend.

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