In 2009, Street Fighter IV changed my life.
Having taken an extended hiatus from the fighting game genre, Street Fighter IV roped me in for good. The transition wasn’t instant, as I gave up the game initially after losing dozens of matches in a row online. However, once I watched my first fighting game tournament live stream, it opened my eyes to how great fighting games can be when you have a deeper understanding of how to play them. As I tried to emulate the likes of Gootecks, Mike Ross, and Justin Wong, I found myself falling in love with the genre in a way that I’d never loved any other type of game.
Since 2009, fighting games have grown to become my favourite of any gaming genre. Here’s why!
Fighting games make for great eye candy
Street Fighter II blew me away when I first encountered it in the arcade back in the 90s. Featuring giant sprites, intricate animations and fantastical moves, they have always been a treat to look at. Even if you’re not a fighting game fan, it’s easy to appreciate the sight of two opponents battling each other in ways that could never happen in real life.
More involved combat compared to other genres
Prior to Street Fighter II, combat in video games was controlled primarily through button-mashing or menu choices. Fighting games put you in the shoes and mind of your character as you had access to dozens of different punches, kicks, and other special abilities. It takes a lot of work in order to perform some of these moves, let alone use them properly in a fight, but it’s so worth it. When you fully invest yourself in becoming a fighting game warrior, it almost feels like your tapping into the same brain power, heart, and physical ability required to excel in a combat sport without the physical pain of one.
Easy to get invested in the characters you play as
Fighting games are one of the best power fantasies in video games. Playing the role of a powerful warrior, you punch, kick, or blast your way to victory. Fighting games feature larger-than-life characters with bold looks, personalities, move sets, and play styles that players of all sorts can align with.
Over time, I’ve grown to more particular about a character’s functions, but I’m always going to gravitate towards characters I can identify with or characters that are just cool. In Injustice, I play as Batman because he’s Batman. In Marvel vs. Capcom, I run a team of X-Men partially because they’re hands-down my favourite comic book franchise. With Street Fighter V, I picked Rashid cause he had cool parkour-inspired moves and a happy-go-lucky swagger. In the game, I want to be a personification of those characters, and in return, they become like a part of me in a weird and fascinating way.
You against the world
Despite being a fan of team-based mutiplayer games like Call of Duty and Overwatch, I never got fully invested in those like I do with fighting games. Part of that comes down to the team-based nature of those games. With less individual control of the outcome, there were times I felt like my team won despite my horrible play, or other times where my team lost despite my brilliant play. In both cases, it was hard to feel fully committed to a cause where the outcome wasn’t fully in my control.
While I do want to see more team-based fighting game options on the market, part of their current appeal to me is that you are the master of your destiny. If you win, you can take all of the credit. If you lose…well, you hold all the salt. I know for a lot of people that the latter is a primary reason for why they don’t like fighting games. I get it. But once you get to a point where you can start competing against players in your skill level, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat is intoxicating.
Worth the time investment
Fighting game developers have been trying hard to make the genre more accessible to a broader audience. However, that depth that can make it impenetrable to some is what makes fighting games so fulfilling. There is so much to learn in a fighting game and the rewards for putting in the time are clear. The more effort you put into it, the better you’ll be at the game, the more likely you will win, and the more fun you’ll have.
Now putting in the hours alone won’t make you a better player. If you play without taking the time to improve, you simply won’t improve. However, when you truly put in the effort to get better, and you see yourself get better with time, the joy that comes with that accomplishment will only make you want to climb even higher.
The challenge is always different
There is no direct way of winning at any given fighting game. Due to the plethora of character options and moves available, as well as the different ways that players interact with the game, the challenge is always different. Whether you’re fighting XxScrubLord420xX online or Daigo Umehara at EVO, you’ll always have something new to take on. With the advent of online play, you can have a seemingly endless stream of new human opponents to face off against in your living room, giving you almost an endless amount of gameplay. With the growth of eSports and the tournament scene, you have the opportunity to take on all comers in real life.
War is waged on many different battlegrounds
In a post Street Fighter IV world, fighting game developers understand the importance of making good fighting games. Yes I know, you’re probably chuckling at Capcom’s more recent missteps, but in general, the fighting game scene is very healthy. There are so many quality games to play, from the reigning popularity king in Street Fighter V, to the superhero drama of Injustice 2, to the 3D action of Tekken 7, to the indie darling that is Skullgirls, to the team-based For Honor, to the oddball ARMS on the Nintendo Switch among many others. Regardless of what you play, odds are you’re going to get a good experience out of most of the current games on the market. If you can, try them all! They all offer something unique that might surprise you if you give them a chance.
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