I was lucky enough to have the experience of being invited to MCM Comic Con 2017 at the Excel Centre in London. A celebration of all things comic, TV, film, and games. Where people dress up as their favourite character, creature or hero. In my case I came sorted as a slightly out of shape, badly dressed, middle-aged man who likes games. It was an easy costume to put together.

After the horrible terrorist attack in Manchester earlier that week, it didn’t stop the people coming in their droves from all over the world. It was heart-warming to see this celebration of the strange, weird and beautiful wandering the halls of the huge exhibition hall, enjoying themselves and celebrating being creative, free and jubilant. Seeing a Stormtrooper, a Joker and Link from Zelda sharing a croissant and a latte in Costa, really made my day.

I wasn’t there to just take in the views and drink coffee; no I was there for some serious business. I was about to embark on an epic journey that would test my abilities as a human and as a warrior. Yes, I was about to play in a Tekken 7 press tournament.

Picture the scene; a small boxing ring, huge TV monitors, a sofa and a pack of braying press and audience members waiting for the event to start. Bandai Namco have set up the event of the century to promote the new Tekken 7 game that is out right now on Xbox One. There were practice areas with willing participants and normal public trying out the new game in the corners of the boxing ring. There are 38 different characters to choose from, old and new. There is the new Rage system, whereby when your health bar nears its end, your character flashes red and Rage is active. This lets you perform a special Rage move as well as high damage Rage Art. The Rage Art is a bit like Street Fighter’s mega attacks. This is great for epic comebacks and revenge battles – controversial for purists, but it great fun to watch. Then there are power crushes and screw attacks which make the game dramatic and increase the fun level.

But none of this matters to me… because I am useless at these types of games. I don’t know what I’m doing, I really don’t. It’s the quick fingerness of it all that confuses me. The many different combinations don’t help either. It all combines to make my brain hurt. Give me a low leg swipe and I’m there. But that’s about it.

So it’s with complete fear that I step up for the first knockout rounds against a guy called Ian. He looks confident and so he should be. The brilliant compere announces to the watching public who we are, before asking the age old question…”Who are you going to be and why are you choosing your character?”. Ian talks expertly about his decision and his choice of character. I choose the Panda because… I don’t know what I’m doing. Some of the audience are already shaking their heads in despair. The game starts and I initiate that leg swipe. Ian hits me, but I think he’s confused by my ‘tactics” and somehow I strangely win the first round. Then the second round kicks in and I try to punch and bash all the buttons at the same time. It is about then when some special panda moves kick in and I am suddenly, inexplicably, the knock out winner. Ian is great and I apologise to him for my luckiness. The compere is now calling me a ‘ringer’ and there is air of suspicion from the other competitors.

Quarter-final time and I’m starting to believe in my own hype. I stride into my next match and choose the Panda again. Why not? This might be the secret to winning at Tekken 7. My opponent just smiles – which is both worrying and disarming. Throughout the next few minutes I am left battered and bruised, with a failure to even land a punch over the two rounds. I’m out of the tournament. I shake my fellow warriors hand and go and stand with the rest of the mortals who are giving me an apologetic round of applause.

The rest of the tournament was brilliant to watch and I realise one thing. Tekken 7 is great game to watch with a crowd. There are real thrills, edge of the seat dramas and, when you see real skill on show, it’s also very exciting. The last time I played Tekken was in the ’90s with a bunch of mates handing around controllers – laughing and shouting. This has the same feel, but on a much, much larger scale. I would happily play this game again, but more happily, I’d sit and watch the pros compete with it in an eSports event. That’s because Tekken 7 is fun, friendly and good for the weak and the strong.

For the record, a Scottish press entrant, who brought his own custom controller in a neat leather bag, battered his opponents into submission before dazzling in the final. But then, if you have your own custom controller, you’re probably expected to win.

I’ll be back next year though, with more skills. Maybe.

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