I was planning to write something about this when I saw the stream of the Azusa Council meeting but unfortunately exam preparation got in the way, however after reading Mike Watson's blog post on the situation I figured this might still do some good. Fortunately many of the points I wanted to make have been raised elsewhere so instead I'll focus on the way fighting games and by extension fighting game arcades are perceived - something that I think is central not just to the denial of the original application but also to why sections of the online FGC have been so vocal in their support of Mike Watson and Super Arcade in light of the statements made at the meeting.
In my experience talking about the hobby to people who are not familiar with this brand of gaming, when hearing about "fighting games" they often quickly form two incorrect preconceptions. Firstly, on hearing the word "fighting" people often immediately think of violence - this is justified to an extent because of what is depicted on-screen while playing the games which are in effect virtualized boxing matches. It needs to be stated, however, that the Fighting Game Community is not comprised of violent people - quite the opposite - and that the games in no way encourage the players to be violent. As it happens, I first discovered fighting games while president of my university's chess club, and I've seen more heated words over a tense game of chess than I have ever encountered in a meetup of fighting game players, who have never come across as anything other than civil and considerate.
The other misconception comes from the "games" half of the name which seems to give people an impression of laziness and apathy, something that could not be further from the truth. It is no exaggeration to say that many of the players who will attend Super Arcade have put thousands of hours into these games; indeed, someone with only a thousand hours of playtime in the genre might still consider themselves an intermediate player at best. The technical nature of these games means that playing over the internet is often not an acceptable alternative, resulting in many players being willing to drive for hours to meet locally with other players and share their love for the games with each other. In addition to this, learning to play these games at a high level requires a huge amount of patience, dedication, concentration and above all self control - all of these are not traits one would expect to find in the kind of people drinking liquor and urinating on walls as a nightly pastime.
The fact that the people who play these games are just as ordinary as anybody walking down the street, bound simply by a shared interest is important not just to say that we are not planning to cause trouble but to show that just like any resident walking down the streets of Azusa we would find the behavior of the people currently misusing the location distasteful and would have just as much investment in wanting to improve the area. I cannot see how leaving the these premises empty can be a superior alternative to encouraging a local business that attracts passionate customers locally as well as from interstate and overseas, customers that would also be providing revenue to surrounding businesses during the hours it is open. This improvement to the quality of life in the area would be considerable when compared with that of a retail store that locks its doors at 5 PM and whose customers have no immediate incentive to support the surrounding businesses.
Like any community of people centered around a single interest, the Fighting Game Community simply wants to find a place where they are welcomed and their passion is seen as a positive thing rather than being shunned on the basis of a stigma attached to arcades that has long outlived reality. There is no doubt in my mind that if the city of Azusa would accept the proposal for Super Arcade to operate as proposed that the Fighting Game Community will do everything it can to repay the community for its kindness. On behalf of the moderation team here, the players of the fighting game Skullgirls and the larger community of fighting game players, I implore the Planing Commission for the city of Azusa to reconsider Mike Watson's application to re-open Super Arcade in this location and enrich both of our communities in doing so.
To those members of the site who have not already done so, I urge you to consider signing the online petition here as a show of support as well as spreading the word to any FGC members who may not have heard about this situation yet. For those who live in the area, there is a second public meeting on the 15th of July where the matter will be reconsidered, and I'd encourage you to attend if you are able.