The first memory that Battle Arena Melbourne floats to my mind is “heartbreak”.

As a player and tournament organiser, Battle Arena Melbourne (BAM) has come to mean many things to me over the last nine years, but as they say – your first time is what sticks with you the most.

The first BAM I ever competed in was the second BAM in 2010. It was the first time I ever experienced the camaraderie of team tournaments, feeling supported by my training partners after matches, and feeling a part of the Melbourne army in the holy war between Sydney vs Melbourne in the game that revitalised the fighting game community: Street Fighter IV.

In 2010 there was the battle to be the best in Australia between two states and two kings: Sydney had Johnny “Humanbomb” Cheng who would go to tie with Daigo Umehara for 5th place at Evolution 2012, and Melbourne had Michael “ToXy” Guida – simply the best fighting game player in Victoria since he was a teenager.

There was a Melbourne vs Sydney 5 vs 5 exhibition match on BAM Sunday, and it was five of Victoria’s best: Sol the young Shadowloo phenom with his ferocious Abel, Naruga the execution genius with his Blanka pianos, Somniac with his patient Bison, ToXy with his signature Akuma and the secret weapon – Akira from Japan sporting his arcade-forged Sagat, but how would he fare with a nerfed character in Super Street Fighter IV?

Sydney had in their ranks: Kientan who would jut his right hand in the air mid-round with his Chun Li standing medium punch pressure, Benson the king of the Honda army in Sydney, Genxa’s proud and resolute Cammy, Sicario’s vicious Blanka and the king himself – Humanbomb with his electrifying Ryu.

I remember the venue rocking as Sol took point and went on a step-kickin’, tornado throwin’ rampage, knocking out three Sydney members in a row – Kientan, Benson and Genxa. My face – already fused into a “I can’t believe it” rictus – soon elevates into a “holy mother of god” expression as Sol knocks out the fourth member of the Sydney team, Sicario.

The whole crowd is going crazy and the tribal chant of “OCV, OCV” (one character victory: to knock out a whole team with one player) is shaking the hall. The Sydney team looks shaken but whisper quietly amongst themselves – it’s all down to one man now. Humanbomb.

Bomb takes the stage, looking tight-lipped but determined, and he stops Sol’s rampage cold. Sol shakes his hand and exits the station, and the entire Melbourne team swarm to put their hands all over on Sol. Sol must be enjoying the moment – his breakout performance.

Bomb soon puts on one dominating performance after another, taking out Naruga, then Somniac. I’m surprised to see ToXy go up next – Melbourne’s number one. Which must mean they’re saving Akira for anchor. Bomb crushes Melbourne’s hope and drops ToXy like he did the day before in the SFIV singles tournament. Finally relief blooms on his face. He’s come all the way now and it’s Sydney’s turn to to cheer “OCV! OCV!” Egg on the face of the entire Melbourne contingent.

Akira puts up a fight with some ferocious zoning, but Bomb forces him into the corner to take round 1. Akira regroups in round 2, even fishing out an uppercut on Bomb and spending the meter for a juggle into Ultra. Watching the damage on Bomb barely slip past 30%, I suddenly find myself absurdly wishing that Sagat could do more damage. Bomb suddenly presses with more aggression. Low forward, low forward in the corner and he takes the KO. Humanbomb reverse OCVs the entire Melbourne team in epic fashion, with the crowd stunned and silenced and the Sydney team bouncing around in jubilation and relief.

I feel completely drained as the adrenaline leaves my body after two days of watching Sydney crush Melbourne’s best hopes. All the guys I’ve forged friendships with, train with and cheer for with all my might. So this is what it feels like to be a part of a scene and feel everybody’s heart break, I think to myself.

Out of the corner out my eye, I see THK, a local Melbourne player running up to me. Whenever Sydney would get a win and I would crumple inside myself, Tian would turn around and point at me, gleefully chortling “I told you so!” The traitor was rooting for Sydney the whole time, and has come to rub the final salt into my wounds!

But enough about my past sorrows. Hey Melbourne Fighting Game Community (FGC), what is BAM to you?

Daniel “Spoony” Finegan (CouchWarriors President): Top 8!

It’s a big event and spectacle. To me it’s an event that’s more about finals and watching people rather than playing.

Kris Staltare (shoto lover): A full weekend of complete shredding.

I’m not a young fella anymore, and it never happens. Friday, Saturday and Sunday, non-stop casuals.

Feri (Anime legend): Friendship.

It’s when everyone gets together, all the people you don’t see from other states. Everyone comes together, it’s a testing ground.

Ed “619” Bituin: Playing different players from interstate.

You get to see different sort of playstyles. Because I usually come to CCH (local event) to play casuals [with the same people] and then when you play a brand new person it’s a completely different experience.

Muttons: The whole thing about fighting games is it’s so organic. Everybody that you play feels different. So when you have a small scene it’s like you have the same three menu items all the time but at BAM it’s like you can have a 32 course meal in one day!

Ed: [Laughs] That’s a good way to put it!

Vincent Lim: Redemption, runbacks.

Those epic losers’ bracket runs. Last year we had SA Nick, the SA Smash player, make a huge run through losers’ to win the entire tournament, beating the really strong sponsored player Spud who is now one of the best players in the world. This year Spud’s hunting for redemption.

Darcy Higgins (Soul Calibur veteran): People!

There’s a lot of them [at BAM]. It’s literally all the FGC, everyone that plays a fighting game of any type in Australia, just jammed in there and playing.

Muttons: I guess to play a fighting game which is a niche kind of thing, you need to have a lot of passion to keep playing them for a extended time. So when you put so many of us in one space, you really feel…

Darcy: The energy, the hype.

I feel like fighting games…isn’t a big genre like your FPS and MOBAs…

Muttons: If you still play them in 2017 that means you love them, basically.

Darcy: When it’s a big event like BAM, you just see everyone come out of the woodworks. People who live out in whoop-whoop travel all the way here to go 0-2 in SFV.

Muttons: [Laughs] And it doesn’t even matter, we just go out and eat and have fun afterwards right?

Darcy: Exactly. That’s why I think of “people” when I think of BAM.

James Brewer: The excitement of all the international players is a big thing for me.

Just seeing them in person is really cool. Also just seeing a lot of new faces, like people who don’t show up to monthlies but they hear about BAM because it’s a bigger event. And the surprise factor of people we don’t really know about – like online warriors coming in and doing well.

Zedd (Top Melbourne SFV player):  My main goal is to verse as many international players as possible.

Ed “619” Bituin (Rashid and UMVC3 player): I’ve never versed an international before as well. I want to see  what that’s like.

Martyken aka “16yearoldwarrior” (Young OG): I played Xian last year. He tried to pull that F.A.N.G. instant overhead on me and I blocked that shit!

Alex Canale (OG): Family gathering.

You see everyone come from interstate and we bring out the old games. We play with the people you used to play with years ago. All the Sydney people come and play Third Strike.

Muttons: And how long have you been in the scene now?

Alex Canale: 14 years now. In 2002 Ozhadou started and made their website. I joined in March 2003, just playing in Whitehouse (city arcade), just met whoever’s playing Third Strike, and they introduced me to Ozhadou.

That’s where it all started, they were the first guys to formalise having a website and regular tournaments. And we had Kechu here and Aurik and Kev, they were doing Ozhadou side of things here. So I like seeing the old Third Strike players like Jack, Norman.

Alex “Gigadeath” Hart: 60 dollars. It’s too expensive. And Japanese players.

Muttons: What about Japanese players.

Alex Hart: I think of Daigo.

Muttons: What about Daigo.

Alex Hart: When I think of Street Fighter I think of Daigo.

Muttons: But he sucks in SFV.

Alex Hart: Yeah. But he’s still the greatest. He’s still the GOAT..

Muttons: What would make you happier? If an Australian won BAM, slapping all the internationals in the way, or if Daigo won every game perfect with Ryu.

Alex Hart: [Laughs] If Daigo won every game perfect with Ryu. Because that would be really, really difficult in SFV. I would cancel my Pornhub subscription and just…

Darren “Dreadtech” Taing (Head Smash TO Victoria): Busy!

At my first BAM which was BAM6, Attila was running everything. I started helping and literally the BAM afterwards I was doing a lot of the work so other than the first BAM which I was brand new – then it started getting a lot bigger than other tournaments and I was already working the year after so…

Muttons: So only the first BAM was an enjoyable experience, after that it became work.

Darren: I haven’t had a quiet major for a while. Even at other majors people come up to me and ask questions.

It was Darren’s birthday during BAM last year! The Smash community expresses gratitude.

Spidercarnage (Super Turbo tournament organiser): I guess going 4 and 2 [at BAM 2010] and beating Mr Chowda from WA in Super SFIV with Dee Jay because nobody knew the match? That was the second tournament that I played since 1995! So it was a really long time before I played in an actual tournament.

I feel really feel bad- I wanted to run Alpha 2 last year because it was the 20th anniversary tournament but we didn’t have the arcade boards for the setup. But this year I really wanted to do it.

(Alex “Sketch” Aguirre cuts in): And I look forward to winning it!

Duong “ZGnoud” Nguyen (DarkSided SFV pro player): Heritage man.

It’s the longest running Melbourne tournament. My greatest fear – once Shadowloo was gone the Australian players wouldn’t have access to international players to play and level up anymore. So it was nice last year we had a ranking event with 3-4 international players. But now that we’re a Capcom Pro Tour Premiere Event we’re guaranteed to get 10-15 international players. It’s good to get exposed to a lot of high level players and a variety of matchups.

Muttons: So I guess we have to say thank you to Capcom actually.

Duong: Definitely thank you Capcom, and thank you to my sponsors Dark-Sided!

Martyken: New generation.

This BAM and the next BAM and so forth, the old players keep getting older and the new players are starting to rise up. And you see that especially in this new game [SFV] with guys like Zedd, Dookie, 619 and Repuplzorg and the other games that’ll come along. Even Wazminator in Mortal Kombat X, he’s pretty young as well.

Steve “Pyro” Andreou (DarkSided Community Manager): My first BAM in 2009 I played ToXy in pools.

I was a young lad, a strapping young lad. Bright-eyed and thinking Street Fighter IV… is so good! Oh my god! (Note: Pyro notoriously hates SFIV.) I even get to play against the legendary ToXy

And he was using his Sagat against my Boxer. And I took him to the last round, right? Everyone was expecting me to get pumped. ToXy’s like infinitely better than me, and it’s a tough matchup. We made something of it, it was a really close game.

And everybody…at least five people came up to me after the game and one after the other shook my hand saying “that was a good game”.

And I was like “Wow. I had a chance.”

Muttons: That got you addicted. That made you want to come back.

Pyro: Yes.

Battle Arena Melbourne 9 takes place on May 12-14 at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre. It will be a 3 day event with features such as: official afterparty, huge pot and prize bonuses, artist alley, cosplay competition,

BAM9 is a Global Premier Event on the 2017 Capcom Pro Tour and will feature international guests such as Daigo Umehara and Razer Infiltration and Xian for SFV and Nakat from the US for Smash. BAM9 will also feature a Tekken 7 pre-release tournament, a Tekken 7 New Challengers tournament, international players such as Saint and JDCR and the Tekken Pass: free entry to play on over 40 Tekken 7 machines all weekend.

For more information visit: Website or Facebook