The underground arcade fighting scene has made a magnificent comeback in recent years, with local tournaments featured in bars, hotel conference rooms, and a handful of arcades left in existence, ultimately leading to a final showdown in Las Vegas (EVO).
The above picture may look just like one of these fighting events, except its not. These people are not crowding around opponents beating each other to a bloody pulp, or trash talking one another with gripes about button mashing or forbidden combo hacks. These people are playing "shmups". Yes shmups, that ugly word used to describe the genesis of arcade games, the shoot-em-up. One ship against an armada of invading enemy. They shoot, you dodge, you shoot back. Simple in principle, yet amazingly satisfying.
Modern shmups have evolved quite a long ways from the original Space Invaders of the late 70s. In fact they've more accurately mutated into a sub-species of score based challenge that have nearly caused their own extinction, save for a very few die-hard obsessed fans. With only a few companies left today making shmups for arcade and console, its hard to believe anyone much cares about the genre, but these dark grainy cellphone pictures you are seeing here show there is still an active underground following, and not just in the SF Bay Area, but around the world [see videos included at the end of this post].
Will shmups one day be lifted from its cult following to be recognized as a legitimate tournament sport like fighting games have? Unlikely, as score based single player games typically don't fair well in tournament style events. Although I've been successful in the past running shmupmeet challenges, its not anything like the Player vs Player excitement of a spectator's sport. Still, there are a few hybrid style fighting-shmups, and other interesting ways to pit two players against each other in a normally co-operative shmup, which make for some great smack talk and elbow jabbing between opponents.
More shmupmeet videos on youtube here.