<i>Soul Calibur IV</i>, the latest iteration of the series, will be released in North America on July 29.
At the dawn of interactive entertainment, videogames were played in parlors called "arcades." Home equipment was prohibitively expensive, but for a few quarters one could play any variety of space shooters, puzzlers and sports simulations at the arcades. Home gaming has long been affordable and convenient, but something is missing from the arcade days: competition. Online gaming has brought players together worldwide, but the local camaraderie has been missing.
Jimmy Choi of Sun Prairie thinks the old ways don't have to change.
Back in 2003 he recruited regulars at the old Cyberstation arcade in East Towne Mall to join him in weekly tournaments there. At the height of the tournaments' popularity, as many as 30 players at a time would show up for Soul Calibur showdowns on Tuesday nights. Soul Calibur, a one-on-one sword combat game, is one of the most popular in the fighting genre, advancing concepts pioneered 15 years ago by Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat to allow for highly skilled and nuanced play.
Choi organized, judged and kept records for over a hundred tournaments, often consisting of dozens of individual matches. He used all this data to rank players for fair matching, but also to give advice and encourage those with potential.
Eventually the arcade at East Towne began discouraging the weekly gatherings, and after the arcade was sold and renamed, the coveted Soul Calibur machine was retired, effectively ending all competitive play there. Namco-Bandai, the game's publisher, continued to encourage fans to organize regional, national and even international events to determine champions. But without a public meeting place, Choi took it upon himself to keep the community alive.
Via Facebook and Caliburforum.com, Choi is bringing back the weekly tournaments. He recently organized a gathering in his own home, setting up three TVs and Playstations to get the ranked play and casual matches going again. Choi doesn't think of his home as a permanent solution, but he's moving forward to reunite the community.
A native of Casper, Wyoming, Jimmy Choi has lived in Wisconsin for 14 years. He received a degree from the University of Wisconsin in German linguistics with a minor in philology, and is currently pursuing a master's in education in the hopes of becoming a German teacher. Choi is atypical of the gamer stereotype; he is very outgoing, always positive and polite, and believes in sportsmanship and always striving for improvement. This is clear when he observes a match. He's as quick to compliment the defeated challenger as the victor, offering advice on how they can improve. His constant encouragement and patience with players in these Soul Calibur tournaments will likely make him a natural educator.
Soul Calibur IV, the latest iteration of the series, will be released in North America on July 29. Come August, Choi will establish "Madison's Top Soul Calibur Player," a 20 week competition where the best will rise to the top, with the winner awarded the choice of an XBox 360 or Playstation 3 console. Beyond that, an official regional event has been scheduled for Feb. 7, 2009; registration will open soon, with scores of competitors expected from all over the Midwest.