Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The thing about Fighting Games

First of all I just want to say that I am aware of the nature of my last few posts being primarily about fighting games. Although I don't promise this will be the last, I am aware that it is certainly not the first. Additionally this post is inspired by this article on The Escapist, discussing the nature and future of fighting games (

Over the recent 7-9 months I have been very interested in fighting games, primarily Tekken 6 and SFIV. I would argue I am terrible at both, and depending on who you talk to, my friends would probably agree. Presently I eagerly await Super SFIV and will undoubtedly buy it the day it comes out. Out of all of my friends, both school, uni and random, I am the only person I know that actively anticipates these sort of games (besides one other chickzor, but she is special).

Super SFIV Trailer

Recent discussions with friends have led me to believe that they have never really been in to fighting games, or ever have in the past. This is fair enough, although I find it astonishing considering the number of fighting game titles released over the years. Surely they would have bumped into one in the odd occasion...

But this post is not about my friends, rather the gaming community in general. As the mentioned article points out, there has been a slow decline in interest in fighting games over the years, even with the new iterations and reboots as of late. I do not have enough evidence at my disposal to agree or disagree with that proposal, but I will say that the learning curve of fighting games is a major turn off for certain people. Simply put, for newcomers, fighting games have evolved into something that is incredibly difficult to pick up in a single afternoon session of gaming.

MvC2 Combos (Check out last 1.5 mins for awesome sauce)

This is also (at least in my opinion) where the whole issue lies. People nowadays, for whatever reason, do not want to dedicate time to learning a new and complex method of control for every fighting game on the market. This is completely understandable. Even I have not put in anywhere near the hours I used to in Tekken 3 as I have in Tekken 6 (seriously like 1/10 of the time). This perspective, while justifiable, is also flawed.

Fighting games to me have always shared a resemblance to tournament shooters (Counter Strike, Quake 3, Unreal Tournament etc...). They are not about completing a storyline or singleplayer campaign. They are not even about unlocking attributes/characters or grinding currency to slap on new funky looking pieces of crap (something Tekken has unfortunately fallen to). Fighting games have always been about finding a character(s) you are comfortable with and getting better at using them. There is a peculiar Zen-like quality to mastering a character's technique, something akin to when you are on top of your game in a tournament shooter. It is very challenging, especially for the first time, and to an extent, harder than anything an FPS game can throw at you. FPS games carry over the accuracy, the situational awareness and tactics of their related brethren and do not require as much mental transition as learning something entirely new (like a fighting game's mechanics). Fighting games on the other hand offer a much higher degree of challenge (assuming you are attempting to learn them properly) and it is this challenge aspect that people should be focusing on when learning them.

SFIV Ex-Focus System

Nowadays people do not like challenge. They do not like looking at screens where they are told they have lost and to try again. People really do expect to faceroll fighting games and win! If you look at the games of today, appealing to such larger demographics (older, younger, soccer mums etc...) this is a perfectly understandable marketing technique: make games that anyone can be successful at to attract more buyers. When you throw a game, such as a steep learning curve fighting game into the mix, you break the current trend and people who may give fighting games a go for the first time will come to the conclusion that they are too hard or complex to learn. Therefore they hate them.

However there are those who find this challenge aspect of fighting games appealing and rewarding. Whether your pride is immune to losing (or you simply have none), you may find that there is a rich and rewarding experience in playing a fighting game, both properly and skillfully. This skill does not just rely on remembering input controls (hell you could barely call a DPS rotation in WoW 'skill'), often an excuse for resorting to button mashing. It is about 'fighting' your opponent, human or cpu, blocking and evading instictively and applying what you have learnt into brutal (yet beautiful) combo attacks for mega-awesome-wtf-bbq-pwned-nubnubnub-damage!!!

Bryan Fury Combos

And that is essentially where the fun comes from...