Even as the number of gamers worldwide continues to grow, video games remain a regular scapegoat for poor social skills, low grades, and neck beard-level hygiene. This holds true even in Japan, where parents and educators commonly voice their fear that without a strict curfew or school rules requiring pupils to head home straight after class, they might give in to temptation and –gasp!- stop off to play a few games at the arcade.

Game fans in Japan are finally getting some good press, though. For starters, studies show that playing Nintendo’s perennial hit Super Mario 64 can improve both your memory and sense of direction. And if your pursuits are more monetary than mental, mastery of fighting games can even earn you a nice-sized chunk of cold hard cash, like it did for the Japanese competitors who dominated the recently held Id Global Tournament in Korea.

Fighting games, by their nature, are extremely complex. No matter how well developers program the artificial intelligence of the games’ computer-controlled characters, it’s always the human players who find the often unintended ways of squeezing the last drops of potential out of a fighting game’s roster of characters.

This phenomena goes all the way back to developer Capcom’s Street Fighter II, which laid the groundwork that the modern fighting genre is built on. During production, Capcom’s programmers noticed numerous glitches that would sometimes cut off frames of animation between attacks, but decided there was no need to correct the errors. The computer AI wasn’t set up to exploit this unintended tactic, and Capcom figured the odds of players first discovering the peculiarity, then developing a way to implement it effectively, were negligible.

In actuality, it took about a month after release for these “combos” to become ubiquitous in Street Fighter II matches, and the feature has been a mainstay of just about every successful fighting game created since.

Street Fighter II went on to inspire a wave of imitators, and while they all have their own unique wrinkles, almost uniformly they retain the controls, input methods, and conventions established by Capcom’s classic. Since Street Fighter II was released in 1991, that means over 20 years of gamers playing subtle variations of what’s arguably the same game, and now a contest between the best fighting game players is a mix of chess master-caliber tactics and literally split-second timing.

All of this explains why even though Mario Kart isn’t anywhere close to becoming a spectator sport, fighting game competitions attract big crowds, which in turn attract sponsors who supply impressive purses for the winners. These aren’t necessarily local affairs, as the Id Global Tournament, true to its name, is an international affair with prize money equal to US $20,000 on the line for three featured fighting games.

One of those titles is Street Fighter II’s great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandson, Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition Version 2012 (honestly, that’s how many generations there are between the two games). Japanese entrant Mago, who’s sponsored by San Diego-based video game controller Madcatz, defeated all challengers and walked away with $3,500.

There’s no word on whether the American-sponsored Japanese gamer, who won the Korean-held tournament controlling Hong Kong jeet kune do practitioner Fei Long, was able to use the free spot to complete his Pacific Rim bingo card.

Capcom is also the developer behind another title at the Id Global Tournament, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, the great-great-great….um, the sixth crossover three-on-three fighting game between the characters from Marvel Comics and Capcom’s extensive game library. Once again, Japan was represented at the top of the podium, this time by gamer Nemo. While we’re sure Nemo’s formidable skills are the primary reason he claimed the $3,500 prize, we suspect he got at least a little boost from is opponents’ mental capacity being tied up in trying to remember the origins of his obscure team members, Dr. Strange, Nova, and Spencer (a comic from 1963, a comic from 1976, and a 2009 reboot of a video game from 1987, respectively).

The biggest prize went to a gamer called Tokido, who, like Mago, hails from Japan and is sponsered by Madcatz. Tokido emerged as the best at publisher SNK’s King of Fighters XIII, the conveniently-titled thirteenth installment of the long-running series from SNK. Also a team-based title, Tokido’s crew of characters consisted of the difficult to pronounce Chin Gentsai, the hard to remember Iori Yagami (Classic Version), and the refreshingly straightforward Mr. Karate.

Whom we assume has absolutely no respect for his son-in-law, Mr. Slapfight

Tokido pocketed a cool 10 grand for his King of Fighters victory. Added to the $1,100 he earned from his second-place finish in the tournament’s Street Fighter IV competition, Tokido walked away from the Id Global Tournament with a total of $11,100. Not too shabby!

Or, in gamer terms, 44,400 quarters

Source: Jin