The Evo Championship Series 2013 was three days of the very best and most passionate of the fighting game community from around the world gathered in one place.
Evo ran in Las Vegas from July 12-14, and record-breaking amounts of spectators watched their favorite competitors battle in the toughest and most prestigious fighting game arena of the year.
The spectacle of Evo cannot be easily distilled in words and photos. The emotion of the players, the energy of the crowd and the one-of-a-kind controlled chaos that are the Grand Finals on Sunday are as much a physical sensation as they are mental.
But we'll try our best.
Main stage and show floor
Evo was divided into two halls: a main hall and a secondary hall. The main hall contained the main stage, as well as tables for pool play for official Evo games.
The secondary hall contained exhibitor booths, indie booths and unofficial fan-run game tournaments. On Sunday, the secondary hall was used as an overflow room with a stream of the Grand Finals.
Early Friday, the main stage remains relatively clear of spectators.
By Sunday, however, it will be standing room only.
In the control pit, where the streaming and video operations for Evo take place.
Super Smash Bros. Melee
Super Smash Bros. Melee didn't take the main stage until the top 8 matches on Sunday.
However, that didn't stop the Smash Bros. crowd from being one of the largest, loudest, most passionate groups on the main room floor.
A slew of CRT TVs of varying sizes dots the Smash Bros. playing area. At Evo, Smash Bros. was played nearly exclusively on CRT sets.
In what was the biggest Smash Bros. crowd prior to Sunday's finals, the Dr. Pee Pee (right) vs. Armada (left, wearing cap) match ends with an eruption of cheers.
Dr. Pee Pee previously lost to Armada at the Apex 2013 finals. This time around, he defeated Armada — who came out of informal retirement with a fan-funded trip to Evo — in a 2-0 best of three.
The top players across the globe gathered to battle each other in their respective games. The overall talent pool in a single place was a sight to behold.
Evil Geniuses' PR Balrog
One of the most accomplished Street Fighter competitors in history, Japan's Daigo managed a seventh-place finish.
The Evo 2013 Street Fighter 4 champion. Hailing from Singapore, DM MCZ Xian.
King of Fighters players put up partitions in order to prevent their opponent from looking at button presses. It's one of the most technically demanding games out there; players will engage in feinted and empty presses attempts to confuse their opponent.
The Street Fighter 4 second-place winner, Japan's MCZ Tokido.
Marvel heavyweight AGE ChrisG. Some consider his Evo 2013 match against EG Justin Wong to be the best of the weekend.
Evo 2012's Marvel vs. Capcom champion, coL Filipino Champ.
Evo 2012's Street Fighter 4 champion, Korea's Infiltration.
The Match: Preparation
Every competitor goes through their own process of preparing for a match. The physical reflexes it takes to play some of these games require significant mental focus.
Korea's Infiltration is well-known for spending countless hours watching matches from across the globe. He stores notes on his phone about a player's style, weaknesses and strengths.
Tokido and Infiltration prepare to face off in what would prove to be a long, drawn-out Akuma vs. Akuma (each player's preferred character) fireball match. It became a crowd favorite towards the end, however, when the audience started to echo the sound effects of Akuma's fireball.
The Match: Victory
There's no better feeling than emerging victorious. Emotions ran wild in the hall as favored players beat their opponents.
Super Smash Bros.' Mango throws his shirt into the crowd as he celebrates his win.
The Match: Defeat
Even the best effort sometimes just isn't good enough. Hearts were heavy as players were knocked out into the loser's bracket, or out of the tournament entirely.
The Match: Hugs
Whatever the outcome, there tends to be mutual respect between players. Competitors, managers and supporters all hugged each other after matches — sometimes in celebration, sometimes in consolation.
Super Smash Bros. commentator Prog hugs Dr. Pee Pee after his victory.
Xian celebrates his hard-won Street Fighter 4 first-place finish.
Bets: it's Vegas, after all
Shouts of "do you like him?" and "I like him!" fill the air before matches, as spectators shout their preferences and try to find a counterpart. Bets are made, won and lost, and money is exchanged.
Spectators point at each other as they attempt to set up bets before a match starts.
A handshake seals the deal and a bet is now binding.
In Street Fighter 4 and other games, on-screen characters can engage in short super combos. Often, these combos involve moves and motions that have become iconic.
A passionate audience will mimic the combos, performing the moves in miniature off the stage.
Fans mimic Street Fighter 4's Rufus' finishing combo move.
Street Fighter 4's Makoto's signature punch.
Spectators stretch their arms in an homage an on screen combo.
When Infiltration chose Street Figher 4's Hakan as a counter to EG PR Balrog's Balrog, the crowd immediately started copying Hakan's signature oil shower move.
The crowd. Oh, the crowd.
There's a certain kind of unadulterated emotion that runs through the most electrifying moments of any match. Look around, and spectators will run the full emotional spectrum.
A crowd willed with energy and invested in the match is a critical part of what makes Evo so special.
A spectator watches a favored Tekken player.
And bows his head as his player loses.
A contingent from Japan cheers on its hometown favorite.
The anticipation is palpable for many in the audience.
Enjoyed these photos? Make sure you check out our look at this year's Evo Championship Series and how it became the biggest ever. And check out the rest of the stories from competitive gaming week at Polygon.