I had the opportunity to catch up with Justin Xavier: leading organiser of Electronic Dojo and host to the biggest UK major that has gained Tekken World Tour status: VSFighting.
Tekken has had a successful year with the Tekken World Tour. What does Justin and VSFighting have in store for us this year?
Interview with Justin Xavier
First of all thank you for your time. I assume you are quite busy planning ahead for the next VS FIGHTING event. I haven’t spoken to you for a long time. So how are you?
I’m furious – you’ve left it far too long and then returned only to put a space between VS and Fighting! Poor form indeed my brother. Thanks for having me! Things are going well here, but we’re still very much in the process of getting prepared for what will hopefully be both our biggest and best event yet! Definitely great to be able to do this with a legend like yourself who understands some of the struggles of event direction too!
As if you just got offended over a space between VS and Fighting! Anyways I am glad you are well and coping with the pressures of being a tournament organizer. So last year you were the first UK major to gain Tekken World Tour status. How did that feel for you?
It was brilliant news to see more games taking the international world tour approach. We’ve waited years for something like this, so having the game launch along with such a strong push was fantastic. Bandai Namco Entertainment have been super supportive right back since Tekken 6, but they’ve really ramped it up with this one and the support really shows their commitment to both the game and the competitive scene.
You got Tekken World Tour status again this year. Once again congratulations. You had the highest number of attendance for a UK Tekken tournament and you managed to get Echo Fox JDCR and Saint to attend. What was going through your mind when you knew such prolific Korean players and European players were in attendance? And remind me, what were the exact number of players again?
I was really just hoping we’d be able to avoid a JDCR vs Saint grand finals! A lot of players were upset when their chances of success were threatened but it was an opportunity for our best players to see how they really stack up on the world stage. Ultimately, they ended up dominating, but to be fair, they did that at almost every tournament that year and the game was still pretty new for us – maybe if they return, it might pan out differently? Also, the exact number of players I believe was 205 which is pretty good!
This is the time where I usually pop off because I was amazed that Tekken had the highest number of players compared to the other games at VSF. For me personally it was a historic moment. Don’t get big headed now! Now you got TWT status again, what are you going to do differently this year?
No need to be big-headed; it was a huge deal and really goes to show that Tekken is a force to be reckoned with! In terms of VSF2018 signups, it’s been ahead on signups since they went live and is currently still leading the charge. I’m hoping that players across Europe view VSFighting as the absolute number 1 European event for Tekken. In terms of what we can do differently, this will be our 3rd year using the venue. A lot has gone into refinement. I hate knowing that there are hype matches everywhere that can’t necessarily all make it to the stage or the stream so creating more opportunities to catch those matches whether you’re there or watching online is something I want to get right this time.
We know you have fighting game legend Echo Fox Justin Wong in attendance, can you tell us if we can expect big names to appear for Tekken? Or is that confidential information?
Nothing confidential! One of my big points right back from VSF3 was to make things transparent in terms of signups so what you see is what you get – hopefully we’ll have some big overseas names signing up soon. Personally, I’d really love to see some US blood over here and I think we’d stand a much better chance against them. Lil Majin, Bronson, PLing, Fury, Cuddle Core, Speedkicks, Pokchop in a cheerleading capacity – where you at!? UK too scary for y’all!? I’d also want to see GoAttack this year!
One of my favourite things about VSF was having top 8 or the finals on the big cinema screen. When you first announced that in 2014 and re-announced it in 2017, I seriously lost my sh**. What other big surprises have you got in store?
Well, Combo Breaker 2018 really raised the bar for fighting games events so the pressure is on! Although no event is perfect, we work really hard to raise the perception of European events every year. Overall, there will be quality-of-life changes across the board to give it all a more premium feel. Having access to new titles is always good and, well, I’ll try to make things shinier too.
Now we are gonna go deeper with the questions here. So get ready. You been saying for the last 4 years “this was going to be the last VSF”, can I ask what inspired and motivated you to keep going?
Expectation and responsibility! After years of building the brand, we managed to establish a fair few of the critical international events – Capcom Pro Tour, Tekken World Tour, Injustice Pro Series, Tournament of Legends, there’s a chance that if we don’t host, the UK/EU might lose some of these things entirely. There are already very few large, high quality events over here and I’d be disappointed as a player if VSF was to go. I also get mad pressure from my team who keep it all going and I don’t want to let them down. That said, I’ve already announced VSFighting 2019 – saying that it’s the last one isn’t good for us so I just hope that when my time comes, some brave idiot from my team will pick up the torch and keep running!
That is amazing. As a former TO, I fully understand the commitment to give and display a great show. I really do believe tournament organisers are unsung heroes within the fighting game community. It is easy just to appreciate top tier gameplay from big names, but not many get to see the hard work with the events behind the scenes. So in your opinion what has been the main challenges for you when organising majors and how did you overcome them?
To be honest, people have been really good to me – the scene is overall really grateful to have the event and both myself and the team always get lots of love. I wish I could get some of the true unsung heroes out to the forefront – everyone knows my, SBD and Jinty, but we have an incredible team that’s a little lesser known. Anyone you see wearing a staff t-shirt is not only a member of staff but a super close and dear friend to me so show em some! I guess that throws the question off a bit, but main challenges? I don’t think there’s a main challenge. There’s a constant pressure from start to finish taking risks, finding venues, spending too much money, praying that we’ll be good enough to make it onto the next tours, hoping we’ll get access to new titles and crucial support, finding staff and dealing with let-downs and the horrible feeling of checking registrations every 30 minutes and just hoping that we’ll get enough entrants to break even, actual bad dreams and nightmares about things going wrong, planning (so much planning). The actual event days are long and intense and after the event, there’s still the payments, prizes, thank you’s, followed by queries about the next one. Honestly, the bigger challenge is keeping people interested for another year. I don’t have the resources to do locals like we used to and I think the overall local scene suffers a lot as a result making it harder to justify them coming out for a big event. That’s a challenge I’ve not overcome in years now L I’m also not a fan of having to use social media. This year, I’m going to try and have some fun with marketing the event to get over it. Maybe the next few promo pieces will give you a chuckle,
What advice would you give to those who wish to start their own community and events?
The main thing is to remember that you’re feeding into a delicate eco-system really, so it needs to be for the right reasons. If someone feels they can foster that without negatively affecting another local scene and reducing numbers or quality, then it’s absolutely a great idea. Also, start small and always look after your existing base first. It’s impossible to rely on players travelling from other scenes. I’ve seen bad events cannibalise good events just by being careless and not checking the FGC diaries. Also, be aware that it’s really resource intensive and requires consistency.
Finally the last few controversial questions. This will get you thinking. Who is your favourite UK Tekken player and why?
This is super easy as long as I’m allowed to mention someone washed up. I’d go with Azido for sure, one of the most influential all-round fighting game players I’ve met, incredibly talented and just with a unique and very powerful approach to the game overall. What the hell this actually got hard when I tried to name a second (more conventional) player! I think I currently have 10 damn names written down here. I’m leaving it as a toss-up between Starscream (inspirational mindset) and KNX (raw potential); take your pick!
Other than gaming, what else do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Music! I’m a massive hip-hop fan and this year has already had some excellent releases – Skyzoo, Phonte and Royce Da 5’9 all put out fantastic material over and Kanye should be out this week! I also write a little where I can so maybe some of that will surface if I’m really happy with it! Oh and, that Pusha T.
Justin, thank you so much for being a good sport and your time. I wish you the very best of luck with VSF and I will see you there.
Looking forward to seeing you there – I expect your gameplay to be up to scratch too! I’ve actually been playing a lot more Tekken lately. We should play.
This is Shen from Tekken Gamer, take it easy! Be sure to check out: vsfighting.com for more information on this exclusive UK major.