Sajam TEKKEN Slam Welcomed Creators of All Kinds to Experience the Thrill of Fighting Games

On March 8-10, 2024, Sajam TEKKEN Slam brought 24 creators of varying familiarity with fighting games to compete while being trained by one of six coaches in a team-based competition organized and personally funded by FGC creator and commentator Stephen "Sajam" Lyon. With over one million views on Twitch alone, the event was a huge success and brought together audiences from all corners of the internet thanks to the diversity in visibility from each player and coach on top of Sajams own viewership. We spoke with Sajam, Evo Champion and event coach Justin Wong, and creators Lazy Mattman and Coney about the event, their perspective while organizing and participating, and the excitement around learning and improving in something new.

At its core, the concept for Sajam TEKKEN Slam was simple. Bring together creators who aren’t typically involved in fighting games and pair them with a high-level player as their coach to compete in a team event. From there, viewers could watch the players grow in familiarity and skill and show how exciting it can be to jump into fighting games at any level.

Sajam initially wanted to put together a creator-focused event before the launch of Street Fighter 6 but had difficulty receiving outside support. Sajam knew this event would be successful and pointed to the Crazy Raccoon Cup in Japan, an event with a similar concept, being all the proof he needed with its two million views across the official streams on YouTube alone. Still, it would be years until Sajam’s take on the collaborative creator competition would materialize.

“Eventually people started playing TEKKEN [8], and there was kind of this natural feeling where everybody wants to play the game,” said Stephen "Sajam" Lyon. “So while watching everybody learn it, I was like, ‘Okay, I'm just not going to let this be a barrier anymore. I'll just run it myself.’”

Taking matters into his own hands, Sajam got to work on what would become Sajam TEKKEN Slam. He wouldn’t have to go it alone. Fellow creator BoxBox and talent/event manager NyxRose would assist with gathering streamers, organizing the event, and making it all happen.

Before putting together the event, Sajam and BoxBox had a similar experience coaching each other in Street Fighter 6 and Teamfight Tactics. Through the short time spent streaming together, significant growth and improvement were visible. Now, Sajam, BoxBox, and NyxRose will do the same on a larger, more formal scale.

Surprisingly, getting streamers interested in jumping into TEKKEN 8 to win a trip to Evo 2024 was easy for Sajam and the crew. Finding TEKKEN coaches to train them was the hard part, especially within the two-week timeline to pull off the event. Whether it was due to the urgency, or the desire to grind the new game themselves for personal competitions, TEKKEN coaches were far and few between. By the time the Sajam TEKKEN Slam kicked off, there were six coaches and 24 players ready to go.

Evo Champion Justing “JWong” Wong was among the coaches for the Sajam TEKKEN Slam. He greatly enjoyed the opportunity to teach people who aren’t familiar with fighting games and watching them grow. After the event, he looks back wishing he could have done more, but is grateful for the experience he was able to share with his team in the time they had.

“Watching them play fighting games and understanding what to do: combos, when it's their turn when it's not their turn, and then seeing them even being frustrated and learning from that frustration,” Said Justin “JWong” Wong. “It just feels good to see all that.”

Many questions likely come to mind whenever jumping into a new game, let alone a new genre of game altogether. Things like how to perform a combo, how to pull off a super move, and what is a quarter-circle are sure to be common thoughts, but all of those are fairly quick to answer. Tougher questions come to player mindset and fundamentals.

“I think the most common question is, ‘When do I get my turn?’” said JWong. “I think that's a common question for beginners, intermediates, and advanced players as well. I think it's very frustrating for a lot of people, especially if you're playing in this tournament as a beginner or an up-and-comer that you're like, ‘Man, I don't get a chance to play. I don't know the matchup.’ The knowledge checks are real.”

JWong ensured that his team didn’t get discouraged. The feelings they were experiencing when going up against an unknown player or situation were universal to fighting games. It doesn’t matter your skill level. Being a fighting game player means you are constantly learning and improving to be better than you were five minutes ago.

“I just tell them like, ‘Bro, if somebody played these characters against me, I would be in the same boat as you. I would just lose. Cause I don't know what they're doing, or I don't know when I can challenge. I don't know what I can punish properly. So I think that was the biggest question, and I'm pretty sure that was the biggest question on every team as well.”

JWong is proud of his team and the progress they made in such a short amount of time. He was specific with coaching his team in ways they could improve, while also praising them for the things they did right. JWong also went into the lab himself to discover solutions to behaviors he noticed on opposing teams to support his team in the competition.

Scarra likes to throw out this move called expulsion,” said JWong. “He just spams it and it's really hard to stop. It takes a lot of life. It's not punishable during heat, so I just went into the lab. How do I counter this with Asuka? One hour before the Sunday event I found the answer. I recorded the video and I sent this to BoxBox. He was like, ‘All right, I'm gonna go to the lab and try it out,’ and he got it. When he fought Scarra, he actually saw the explosion come out and he pressed down for one, hit him airborne, and got a full combo conversion there. And I was like, whoa, that was so clutch. I was proud of that.”

JWong saw considerable growth in his team. He hopes that they continue to play TEKKEN beyond the event. Starsmitten was among the players he saw the most improvement over the weekend and sees great potential in her future in TEKKEN.

“I was also very proud of Starsmitten because she was always trying to beat herself up, she’d say ‘Oh, I'm so sorry. I don't want to disappoint the team’, but she played well. Her flow chart was amazing. I hope she keeps playing TEKKEN because I felt like she learned so much and her progression was just amazing.”

Regardless of their skill level, every player in a team competition should feel like they bring something to the table. The format for the Sajam TEKKEN Slam was 4v4 Waseda style with the teams ordered by approximate skill level. Each team played in order from least experienced to most experienced. This gave the players less familiar with fighting games more time to play and hone their skills. 3 points were required to win the set, and the coaches would compete themselves as the tiebreaker. The format played a large part in giving everyone a fair chance.

“The biggest thing is I wanted every player to feel valuable,” said Sajam. “It's not just like, oh, the team with the best player ought to win. Lazy Mattman was the best player in the tournament and he didn't get to just like win for his team by default, which I think is very important.”

Lazy Mattman, a creator most known for his The Binding of Isaac streams, played considerably well during the Sajam TEKKEN Slam. He shared some of his thoughts on his performance and the event overall. While he had a fair share of experience with fighting games going into the event, having competed in DRAGON BALL FighterZ before focusing on the Binding of Isaac for his channel, he knew victory wasn’t guaranteed, and he didn’t want to let his teammates down.

“I was nervous as hell,” said Lazy Mattman. “I played competitively in fighting games for so long, but for some reason, this was different. This was like next-level nerves because so many people are not only watching, it's with different content creators, too. They are people that I look up to. My teammates are people that I mess with when it comes to their content. So I didn’t want to let them down, you know. I didn't know I was going to do so well. I knew that I was one of the strongest in the tournament, for sure. That's not like a brag moment. I think it's just like by definition. I played over four thousand hours of DRAGON BALL FighterZ, but there were some killers out there that I was scared of.”

Echoing JWong’s observations, Lazy Mattman took the time to analyze his opponents and learn from their behaviors. This was essential to making the most out of the short time available to train together for the event. Small things like learning that an opponent would grab after an initial hit became a massive revelation in the competition.

“What was cool about this event was that everyone could see what everyone else was doing. Everyone could pull up someone else's replay and study their play style. That's literally what I did. You know, like I had my match against, Rayditz, the first thing he did was a full crouch low into a mid into a grab. And I studied his replays and he always does the grab after that string. So he got the first hit on me. I just crouched. I watched him.”

Even after the event, the players continued to experience TEKKEN 8, not to grind for an event but for a newfound love of the game. Lazy Mattman felt like this was the event’s biggest success. It created a foundation for new fighting game players from within the Sajam TEKKEN Slam and beyond.

“The coolest thing about Sajam TEKKEN Slam is a couple of days after the event, I was just I was like doing my content whatever I went off to Twitch, and I still see SuperTF, I see Slime, I see Coney, I see Lily and they're still streaming TEKKEN,” said Lazy Mattman. “They don't need to grind, but they're still playing. I know my team's going to Evo. I know people who didn't get first or second in the event, they want to go to Evo. Seeing so many people just finally understand it, you know what I mean? It was like awakening something within everyone. I feel like a lot of people had that because of the Sajam Slam, which is incredible.”

Zak "Coney" Zeeks, a Super Smash Bros. player and commentator, was also on Brawlpro’s team with Lazy Mattman. Coney was familiar with fighting games and expected to be among the higher-level players. Still, TEKKEN was not one of his games of choice so he knew he would need to learn techniques specific to the title to be successful.

“I found a very simple game plan, which was just Force Panic from Threat and Grab, Force Panic, when they panic mash, use armor, win more after armor because people are scared and then they're mashing out and it's like a total noob stomp technique, right?” said Zak “Coney” Zeeks. “It's not anything complicated. It's very simple, but even as my opponents got better, I found new ways to implement it and kind of refine it. I got a pretty decent rank after two days and then purple after four days, which is like the top 10%. I loved the game at that point.”

While learning on his own was rewarding enough to seek to improve, what excited Coney the most were his teammates. Growing and training with them motivated Coney to learn new strategies to play better. He also felt a great sense of responsibility to do his part in the competition.

“What got me to buy in was the team, cause I vibed with the team that we had, specifically the coach,” said Coney. “Brawlpro and I gelled right away. I'd jump on a grenade for him. It's weird, I didn't know who he was ten days ago, but he reminds me of a player's player. He's not trying to be a personality. He's kind of pure in that way. There's something refreshing and good about that it's just a dude who plays TEKKEN at a very high level that isn't trying to make it a big thing.”

One of Sajam’s biggest takeaways from the event was seeing the “breakthrough” moments for the creators. Watching newer players discover fundamental mechanics would show massive gains in their performance. This was different from watching pro players who make subtle adjustments to their strategies.

“When they get a big breakthrough, it's like, ‘I now know how to block and punish.’ It's like the biggest thing ever. When a top player makes a breakthrough, it's very abstract or very minute by comparison, right? Their level of play is already so high. I think that's what makes it fun is that there's just like a huge difference in play from even just a few days from everybody. Like Sykkuno at their lowest level improved so much in a very short time from Friday to Sunday.”

At the end of the event, all that Sajam and the crew could have hoped for was to bring more interest to the FGC. Judging by the community reaction, they achieved that and so much more. If they were to run another similar event in the future, Sajam hopes to provide more time to support the players and coaches. This would give them more opportunities to play and get familiar with the game before the competition begins. Ideally, there’d be an additional day to compete as well. He hopes to organize similar events at least 3-4 times a year. Until the next Sajam Slam, Sajam is grateful the event came together the way it did and that so many people were introduced to the joys of fighting games.

“Honestly, I'm very thankful that the team of people who helped me put it together was awesome. I'm very lucky that I can support something like this through the growth that I've had as a streamer and fund something like this out of my pocket. When you want to see something like this happen, it's very hard to do it without resources and I'm lucky I have the resources to just do it.”

TEKKEN 8 is among the featured titles for Evo 2024. Sign up to compete among the best players in the world on July 19-21. Learn all about the record-breaking event and register today!