Casa Offers Players an Open Online Event With a Welcoming Neighborhood Feel

Another week, another Community Spotlight! This time, we sat down with David Bunch, creator of the New England-based event-organizing group Casa. We learned about the organization’s origins, what it does to set itself apart, and the challenge and opportunity it is to get online-only players to attend their first in-person event.

While there is no doubt that the effects of COVID-19 were devastating worldwide, the way people connected digitally became more vital than ever before. This change created new opportunities for players and event organizers to focus on online events. While he initially thought that the pandemic would be the end of his event-organizing plans, thanks to encouraging words from his teammate and support from his local community, Bunch was able to create something the scene in New England desperately needed.

“COVID kind of sat us down, and in fact, our second offline event was supposed to happen March 17th of 2020,” said Bunch. “I was ready to kick my feet up until the whole COVID thing was over, but then, next thing you know, one of my staff members, shout out to KO, he he was like, ‘Hey, let's do a local.’”

Getting Casa going was a true community effort. Thanks to the support Bunch received from players in his region, he was able to fine-tune the experience. The event has grown into something the community can be proud of.

“We were just trying to test some stuff out, and a lot of people from the New England/Boston scene stepped up and helped me get the formula that people know today ironed out,” said Bunch. “We're going strong right now.”

While Casa might hold most of its events online, it began with humble and extraordinarily welcoming origins. Before officially forming Casa, Bunch would host sessions at his home. He saw himself fulfilling a need within the community because, at the time, there weren’t many places in Staten Island, New York, to play fighting games as a community. Eventually, the name “Casa” fit perfectly.

“I just coined it that for some reason, cause I was just like, yo come to my house, come to my house. And I was just being funny one day. I was like, yo, come to Casa Bunch. It was a name that I kept using every time I moved. It would just be like, all right, come to Casa Bunch 2, come to Casa Bunch 3. Then I moved to New England, and I was like, come to Casa Bunch, New England. So, I thought it was a cool name. And then. Yeah, it all stuck."

Currently, Casa events focus on Street Fighter 6 tournaments in various formats. While many events use single and double-elimination-style competitions, Casa frequently hosts Ladder tournaments to offer an alternative that gives competitors more opportunities to play. These ladder-style competitions place participants on different levels, allowing them to compete their way to the top during a set period of time. Once the time limit ends, the Top 8 players gather for a double elimination Finals.

“Everybody was doing the same format. It just really irked me how little everybody tried to be, like, creative and imaginative. So I took it upon myself to try different things,” said Bunch. “With the ladder format, it gives players a chance to support every bracket runner. It'd be like, all right, cool, I'm going to go play my ladder matches in Casa in between having to play my double elimination bracket over here, over there."

Bunch knew from the moment he played Street Fighter IV in 2009 that he wanted to organize tournaments. While there were times he felt discouraged by unsuccessful attempts, he is proud of where he is now. Bunch hopes to always hold onto the communal feeling that has been present since he first experienced what it meant to be a member of the FGC.

“Back in 2010, I joined the military, and I was sent to Key West. I had to drive three hours to play. They’d embrace me like, you know, I was their down-the-street neighbor,” said Bunch. “You don't get that anywhere else, in my opinion, or at least you don't see that anywhere else in other genres. Just being able to straight up say, like, this is more than just some friends getting together. I would never know these people without fighting games. I would never have known these people without picking up Street Fighter IV.”

Those who compete in Casa tournaments will be among players of all skill levels and all walks of life. Whether they join in on the conversation or not, Bunch is grateful they are a part of the community. All that matters is that they love and appreciate the games and the people that play them. Everyone is welcome.

“My regulars are people you've never seen before,” said Bunch. “My regulars are Capcom Cup champions. My regulars are up-and-coming commentators. I have people that watch every week and don't say a word. I have people who literally only come in to say hi and dip. My regulars are everybody. My regular is planet Earth.”

While Casa has been going strong for three years, Bunch is confident it will continue to grow, with new developments currently under wraps. While he is proud of his event, Bunch wants his participants to experience the FGC beyond Casa. In an ideal world, he’d love the opportunity to help players get to play in more offline competitions both near and far.

“I would really love for online events to start thinking about how we can start funneling people from online tournaments into offline tournaments,” said Bunch. “Let's figure out how to get these amazingly talented individuals to ECT, CEO, COMBO BREAKER, Evo.”

Are you feeling like Casa might be the next event for you? Register to compete in Street Fighter 6 on Thursdays at 7 PM ET. Learn more about Casa by following the event on social media.