Learning Street Fighter IV

A few nights ago, after a match of Street Fighter IV, I received a message from the guy I just beat. Usually, when I receive these types of messages, it’s either something like “good game” or some form of verbal harassment. This time though was different.

He asked me in a voice message (not in an exact quote, but you’ll get the idea), “How do you do moves and combos? I’ve only had this game for 2 days.”

My instinctive response was to refer him to the training mode. He then replies with something like, “I know there’s a training mode, but what buttons do I hit? I don’t understand this.”

Uh oh.

If you know anything about Street Fighter, you know that’s a very ambiguous question to ask and an even weirder one to answer. Moves are dependent on your character and button configuration, while combos mostly rely on the “canceling” system, all of which is far too much to explain within the 250 character limit over XBOX Live.

I learned how to play Street Fighter IV primarily because I’ve been playing Street Fighter II for almost 20 years now. We learned by either playing similar-skilled people in person at the arcade or at home, or played with people better than us that were willing to give us pointers. Even back then, Street Fighter was a complex game to learn and you couldn’t really get better unless you dedicated a lot of time and effort into getting good at it.

That environment to go hands-on and learn doesn’t really exist anymore.

There is no arcade scene pretty much anywhere outside of Japan. People aren’t really getting together to play at other people’s houses like they used to. Fighting games, while making a comeback, are still not even close to mainstream. If you strictly play online, odds are you’re playing a seasoned veteran who will just beat you up and go without giving you any sort of advice. If you’re not able to spot patterns or observe the right things in an online match, you’ll just get beat repeatedly without learning anything.

So how do you learn now? Well, unlike my generation, there is more resources on the Internet than ever before. Just Google it and you’ll pull up a ton of beginner guides. There are also a ton of beginner and expert videos to watch on YouTube. Those helped me transition into IV a lot, but part of that was because I have a Street Fighter II foundation to build on. Without that, reading the guides and learning from the videos becomes much more difficult.

I hope the guy who messaged me on XBOX Live eventually figures the game out to a point where’s he’s happy playing it. Sadly, the best ways to learn just don’t naturally occur in today’s gaming environment.

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