Evolution is the most important event in fighting games. For 15 years, winning Evo has stood as the pinnacle of all fighting game achievements. It doesn’t really matter that these days, Evo doesn’t always have the biggest prize pools, but that doesn’t matter. It’s always the biggest tournament with the best players in the world, and winning Evo once makes you an Evo champion forever.
It’s why every moment, every match at Evo is special in some way. Maybe it’s an incredible match, maybe there’s an unbelievable comeback, maybe it’s just someone’s first time at Evo, it all matters. Every match, every round is important to someone in some way. That’s why Evo has created some of the most significant, powerful moments in fighting games history.
Evolution 2017 was the 15th Evo, but Evo existed before 2002. It wasn’t called Evo back then, it was the Battle by the Bay in 1996, then B4 and B5 in 2000 and 2001 before being re-branded as Evo. Back then, guys like Alex Valle, John Choi and Mike Watson proved their dominance over North America, before Japan started coming out to the tournament series, turning it into a truly international affair and raising the stakes. As the competition kept pouring in and the field got wider over the years, Evo became more than just another tournament. It was the most important tournament, the massive bracket that crowned the world champion.
Winning Evo is one of the hardest things someone can do. It’s not just about winning match after match, it’s doing it against a field of the best players in the world, and doing it front of massive crowds. Year after year, that perfect storm of tension, high stakes, high-level play and explosive personalities creates moments that stand above the rest — iconic moments that define the FGC.
They range from silly, like the time Casey “Onisan” Dillon took his shirt off to taunt Lee “Poongko” Chun-gon, who responded in kind, to epic, like the moment when Justin Wong finally reclaimed his place at the top of Marvel vs. Capcom world at Evo 2014. Some moments are heart-breakers, like Ryuichi “Woshige” Shigeno’s pop off in the middle of a set that cost him the match, and of course, Evo moment 37 remains the most famous Evo moment in history thanks in part to the level of player skill that went into making it happen.
Everything that happens at Evo is an “Evo moment” to someone. It’s the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat that changes any random match into something special, and it’s that something special that makes Evo worth celebrating. Evo is just another excuse for fighting games to bring us together and celebrate what makes them something great: the community that made those moments in the first place.
Daniel Rosen is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.