Universal Fighting Game Guide: Gimmicky vs. Intelligent Tactics

Gimmicky fighting game techniques are about as old as fighting games themselves. When I first stepped up to a Street Fighter II machine back in 1991, the first character I ever chose was Blanka, as I thought I could cheat the system by simply mashing the punch buttons to trigger Blanka’s electricity move. At the time, I thought it was a fool-proof tactic…for about 5 seconds. Instead, the computer systematically picked me apart as I wailed on those punch buttons, thinking the electricity move was bound to save me eventually.

While gimmicks may have their place in extremely specific situations, they’re not a substitute for solid and intelligent play. In this month’s Universal Fighting Game Guide post, we’ll talk about the difference between gimmicky and intelligent tactics.

What is a gimmicky tactic?

Let’s use the above video as an example of a gimmicky tactic, because it is one. From the perspective of a fighting game player, I would define a gimmicky tactic by the following qualities:

1) It’s usually high risk

There’s two levels of high risk I’m referring to here. Gimmicks can be high risk either because most of them leave you in a position where you can be easily punished, or high risk in that they can cost you the match if they don’t work out. In the video above, where Ryu is using a whiffed solar plexus punch to bait out an action, it’s high risk in both ways. Instead of doing the EX Yoga Flame, Dhalsim could have simply thrown Ryu out of the punch, then put Ryu into a Yoga Catastrophe mix-up for the win. In this case, he really got lucky, but that leads me into point #2…

2) It’s not likely to work more than once

This to me is the defining factor of a gimmicky tactic. Ryu may have gotten away with that whiffed punch as a setup the first time, but I guarantee that Dhalsim player would never let that trick work on them again. At some point, your opponent is going to catch onto any actions you take to set up your gimmicky tactic, which they will quickly counter. I’ve played many matches where an opponent has caught me with a gimmicky tactic one time, and across multiple games, tried to recreate that success with no luck. Gimmicks are essentially one-time use only, as they can be so easy to stop if you know they’re coming. Unless you’ve got a million gimmicks in your back pocket, you’re going to have a hard time sustaining a winning record off the strength of gimmicks.

Examples of gimmicky tactics

– Wake up uppercut

– Wake up super moves

– Mashing on throws

– Special move spam

What is an intelligent tactic?

Technically, an intelligent tactic is any tactic that leads to the desired result. Therefore, a gimmick can be classified as an intelligent tactic if it works. However, the fundamental flaw with a gimmick is that their odds of working diminish dramatically after your opponent sees them once. In the context of fighting games, I would classify an intelligent tactic as one that meets the following criteria:

1) Low risk

Most gimmicks leave you in a bad situation if they don’t pan out. An intelligent tactic is where the risk you are placed in is low, whether the tactic works or not.

2) Above average rewards

In the best case scenario, your intelligent tactic will reap you above average rewards, whether that be a large combo, a hard knockdown, spacing advantage, meter gain or whatever it is you’re after.

3) Usable in multiple situations

While some intelligent tactics have very specific applications, there are all sorts of intelligent tactics that work well in multiple situations, if not all the time.

4) Tough to stop

An intelligent tactic is usually one that your opponent will have a hard time stopping. The best indicator of how difficult a tactic is to stop is by the number of different ways that tactic can branch out. If I start with approach A, and it can branch to B/C/D, then it makes it very hard for my opponent to guess what’s coming next. If your tactic opens the door for mix-up opportunities, then that’s a good sign that your tactic is hard to stop.

Examples of intelligent tactics



– Tick throws

– Comboing into super combos

– Option selects

When intelligent tactics become not so intelligent

While the shelf life of an intelligent tactic is longer than that of a gimmick, all tactics and gimmicks have a shelf life. If you use a tactic too often, your opponent will counter it eventually. Make sure to mix up your tactics in order to keep your opponent on their toes!

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