What is a villain? Well, when you think of a villain, you think of this antagonist who’s bigger and better than the hero. Evil intentions, scary, and just genuinely bad people, right? Villains in the fighting game community (or FGC) aren’t as over-dramatic as that, but still are a cause for a lot of tension and drama in their respective communities. That said, even though these villains cause a lot of drama, they’re a good thing to their communities. Be it through a persona they made for the sake of a good show, or if it’s just how they naturally are, villains generate hype, get the crowd invested, and make the mood of whatever it is they’re competing at much more intense, all by providing someone for the audience to root against.
Villains are a special breed of competitive player. They retain the skill and consistency to compete with the strongest players in the world, while also following up this skill with as much disrespect as possible. This can range anywhere from trash talk, to showboating, to really anything, so long as whatever is done contains major disrespect towards individuals, or the community.
Normally, the reaction to these kinds of people is disdainful, as it should be. They’re going out of their way to be disrespectful to others; of course they’re going to make people react negatively. This kind of behavior is generally known to be toxic, and when done by a regular member of the community, it is. But, when it’s done by the proper person, it changes from complete toxicity into nothing but hype building, and when it comes to the FGC, hype is the backbone of the community. Building hype increases player and audience investment, overall showmanship in major tournaments, and more. Villains generating hype through this kind of disrespect create a consistency that is otherwise not there.
But how does being so disrespectful generate hype? Quite simple, actually. Like I said, villains give the audience someone to root against. People don’t like seeing villains win, because they’re not nice people. So when a villain is up against someone who can compete against them and potentially take them down, that match will get the audience ridiculously invested, and the reaction to everything happen will be even greater than it would have been if it were between two other players.
This heavy focus on who wins the match makes it more exciting, and both outcomes help to make the community more invested in the game. If the non-villain wins, then the crowd goes crazy because they saw the villain get taken down. If the villain wins, the initial negative reaction to the crowd will eventually go towards an even better positive reaction when the villain finally does lose. Something big happened a few months ago with Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 villain Ryan “Filipino Champ” Ramirez at Winter Brawl X. He had a match against Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 EVO champion Kane BlueRiver, and FChamp, also being an EVO champion in the same game before Kane BlueRiver, starts taunting him after every win. Yelling at him, talking down to him. Making it known that he is the best, and there’s nothing that can be done about it:
Video courtesy of Youtube user BasedMonster
Listen to the crowd when he taunts Kane BlueRiver. Listen to the crowd when he screams “THIS IS MY GAME!” Listen to the crowd every time he antagonizes Kane BlueRiver. He’s making the audience gain so much energy, making them get hyped up for this match, for the chance to see Kane BlueRiver destroy FChamp after being taunted. On top of making the crowd so invested in the game, his antics add flare to an otherwise regular exhibition match, which makes the event as a whole a much more entertaining show. This is the kind of impact a really good villain can give a competitive scene.
And it’s not just traditional fighting games where this happens either. Without a doubt the most notorious villain in the FGC is the incredibly talented Super Smash Bros. Melee player, Leffen. As much as FChamp has in his showboating game, and how much he taunts people while playing, there is nobody in the FGC who can compete with the sheer amount of trash talk that Leffen spits out.
Video courtesy of Youtube user Levoki
Leffen is a fantastic player, knows it, and isn’t afraid to say that he is. He generates hype in a different way than FChamp does. When FChamp does it, while he does trash talk outside of games, he does it in the moment more than prior to or after a match. Leffen will seemingly talk smack about anyone when given the opportunity. The sheer amount of trash talk Leffen speaks makes him a top contender for the “I really want to punch this dude in the mouth” contest. This whole situation between Leffen and Chillindude was started over Leffen trash talking him on Twitter, which Then ended up being a huge event at Apex 2015, where Leffen won. Leffen’s victory caused two reactions with the crowd: them freaking out because they liked Leffen, and he won, or people freaking out because they hate Leffen, and they’re mad he won. Either way, due to Leffen’s disrespect, he was able to make the huge crowd get involved in the match, and be the cause of what is probably one of the most well-known matches in Melee.
Without these villains to put into the mix, all we would have in the FGC are a bunch of really good players who all just kinda show up and play. The conflict and drama these people add to the formula provides a great show for the audience. Being a villain that is capable of generating so much energy within both the audience and community is a talent in and of itself. It takes a lot of devotion to the game and the community to be perfectly fine with being viewed as “that guy” for the sake of the game, and these villains need to be shown a bit more appreciation for what they contribute to this great community of hype.