About games and gaming thereof!

Why I Hate Fighting Games

For a long time I’ve sort of had a love/hate relationship with fighting games. I’ve always liked the basic concept of them, but I’ve never been able to actually get good at them. For years I’ve put forth an effort to play and enjoy fighting games, but it’s never worked out, and I’ve always either suffered from an endless stream of shame and failure or had to resort to simple and accessible tactics that hardcore players declare “cheap.”

My latest adventure into the genre was with Marvel vs. Capcom 3, a game that my friends and I have been playing together about once a week since it was released. This time I vowed that I was actually going to learn things by researching combos and tactics, rather than my usual method of trial and error. My friend explained to me some of the basic tactics. I looked up combos for all the characters I played as. I actually enjoyed playing as Wolverine and X-23.

But apparently what I was doing wasn’t working, because all my friends have been decimating me, and one of my friends (the one who has been tearing me apart the most) confessed that he made no attempt whatsoever to actually learn the combos and tactics. He just picked up the controller and did whatever came naturally; basically what I’ve always tried to do, and it apparently worked like a charm for him and while I studied and researched my ass off, I got to lose over and over, again and again.

I think I’ve come to fully realize that fighting games are just not my cup of tea.

They’re heavily centered around competition, and competition has never been my focus in games. I’ve always preferred single player and coop. Playing a single player/cooperative shooter or an RPG or an action game is sort of like sitting down to read a book or watch a movie (but more fun, in my opinion anyway). You can immerse yourself in the setting and story, play at your own pace, and find entertainment however you see fit. Competitive games don’t have that level of immersion. When you’re playing against someone in Street Fighter or playing online in Halo, there’s no narrative, no atmosphere, no pacing and no sense of flow for me. You’re just competing over and over to see who’s best at this meaningless skill. It feels like the gaming equivalent of competitive sports, which is fitting, because I’ve never liked sports either (and not just because I’m nonathletic).

This isn’t to say that I’m not a competitive person. I enjoy competition. I’ve played competitively in Starcraft 2, and I had fun with that to a degree. My problem is that fighting games are basically only about competition, and nothing else. I’ve never heard of a single fighting game with a strong narrative and atmosphere, and whenever I ask why fighting games don’t have that, people laugh it off and say that that’s just not the point of it. For all my favorite genres I can think of, there is at least one game off the top of my head that has a strong narrative and atmosphere. For shooters, there’s Half-Life 2. For platformers, there’s Prince of Persia: Sands of Time. For strategy games, there’s Starcraft. For RPGs, there’s… Well, I think most RPGs count for that. But with fighting games, the only purpose I can see in it is competition.

Fighting games were a dying niche up until Street Fighter IV came along and revitalized the genre. That saddened me. I really wanted to see fighting games die off completely. This got me thinking; I can’t think of any other genre of games that I genuinely hate. I don’t really like sports games or point & click adventure games, but I don’t mind the fact that they exist. Conversely, I would love to see the entire genre of fighting games die in a fire.

This goes much deeper than my lack of desire to play competitively. Most of my gaming friends seem to love fighting games, and a lot of them seem to expect me to like them as well. But whenever I’ve approached a fighting game I’ve always ended up walking face-first into an impenetrable wall of memorization and muscle memory, and whenever I’ve tried to scale that wall it’s always just ended in frustration and irritation.

To me, the fighting game genre is like the popular guy at school who all your friends love and adore, but for some inexplicable reason he hates you and never invites you to any of his big parties. Well you know what? Fuck you too, fighting games. I’ve been trying for years and years to get you to let me in, but if you’re not going to accept me, then I’m done trying to impress you. I already have friends who like me for who I am, and Mr. Shooter and Mrs. RPG don’t expect me to spend a month of my life learning everything about them before I can have fun with them.

Up until a few days ago I was seriously considering buying Street Fighter IV, because I figured that if I could have my own modern fighting game then maybe I could learn how they work. But I’m done. I’m through trying to learn to like these games. I’m not giving any of my money to these developers so they can continue to make games that reinforce the medium as an elitist sport rather than a form of art and entertainment.

(By the way, if you’ve already looked at my About Me page before, you might want to check it again. I decided to make it a bit less insipid.)

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11 responses

  1. Kevin

    the reason i hate fighting game is because that no matter how good you are, there is always at least one person who can just random button mash and whoop your ass. the only fighting games i have ever enjoyed is the SSB series manly because the developers seem to realize that random button pushing can be effective and have built the entire combat system around it

    March 12, 2011 at 8:55 PM

  2. Galzzly

    Hmm, I was going to make a long post, then I realized theres more to what I want to say that would make this 5 times as long.

    So, I leave you with this. I understand some fighters are hard for the wrong reasons, like Mortal Kombat expecting you to discover on your own that Block, Forward, Down, Back, Up, Forward would do Kano’s Cannonball, but the very design of a fighter is very similar to a shooter, both in competitive play and during a single player “campaign” against AI. However,there are two distinct difference between the two.

    1) Most Fighters (including Street Fighter 4) were made and intended for an arcade setting. Due to this, it is very obvious that the console ports sadly make little to no effort in teaching the mechanics. In the arcades, many fighters had the moves on the arcade cabinet, its why many fighters had small move sets. They wanted you to always be able to see all the moves, not some.
    If Fighters want to reach better sales, then they need to expand the audience by actually teaching them how to play.

    2) This is more of a personal opinion. In both a fighter and shooter, you run, you attack, you kill, when hit you block/take cover. As far as a shooter is concerned, the addition of ammo management could be there and you really don’t need to know what exactly each element of every gun to be able to jump in a multiplayer match and cause all hell. While for the most part, you could try and get away with “button mashing”,a fighter requires you to know more. Think about a shooter with 5 guns. These guns have the standard shot, a hard shot and a super shot. Now think about a fighter with 5 characters with no special moves for you to learn. These character all have 1-3 standard punches, 1-3 standard kicks, and possibly a single projectile attack all map to their own individual button.

    Also, about MvC3. I would say that our friend didn’t actually learn the combos. Its hard to explain, but you know when you do simple math when like 5 x 5 = 25, but when someone ask to explain how you came up with that answer you have to put more thought into explaining then it took to do the problem. It’s kind of like how I know to do Ryuuenjin with Zero is a forward motion, but if you asked me right now, I would assumes its a Dragon punch since its a lot like a shoryuken move, but I’m not exactly sure.

    Also, assuming by SSB you mean Super Smash Bros., I fail to see how it was designed around random button pushing. It was designed to be different then most fighters with the main goals of it being easier/more accessible to the intended audience, and arguably a faster pace through a more offensive/chaos oriented design (many of the levels themselves did have a method of killing you in the original).

    March 13, 2011 at 2:49 AM

  3. Jeremy

    The reason I don’t get fighting games is that they all focus on buttons and combos and moves. Nothing else. There is literally nothing to it except pressing ridiculous combos of buttons to do crazy moves. Now, one could argue that that’s all any game really is, but I disagree. to compare I’m going to use the one fighting game I’ve ever actually liked, Smash Bros. You see in Smash bros the goal is still to defeat your opponent but there’s more than just sitting there and pressing the right combos. For one there is an actual level! not a flat plain. Also it helps when you can move around that level. I don’t know why, but almost every fighting game ever seems to have those awkward moments were you get too far from your opponent to hit him, but for some reason the developers didn’t think that the joystick should be used for anything other than making combos more complicated. And the combos themselves aren’t that complicated in SSB. Instead of focusing all of the time and energy on making the player learn the right moves the developers gave them other options like items, environmental hazards, and a simpler move set to play with. All these things give the player ways to strategize, and add another dimension to the gameplay, without learning so many crazy strings of button presses and quarter circle forwards and backs and whatnot.

    June 24, 2011 at 1:44 AM

  4. godzilla570

    I really enjoyed reading your short article, it made me open my eyes. I have been playing fighting games for the longest time, but you are right as it all comes down to meaningless one on one competition and involves lots of muscle memory, tactics and combos. I really enjoy playing multiplayer coop games with friends compared to fighting games because fighiting games are mostly also just one on one. It feels kind of boring. Mario Kart 64 was my favorite competitive game back in the day on the N64. I have a PS3 now, but I mostly use it to listen to music, surf the web, and watch movies. I play RPG games once in a while but the fighting games are just not for me. I have beaten players online, but I have lost far more than I have won. Lots of players invest so much money on buying fighting game pads and sticks and think they are the greatest thing since the light bulb.
    Thank God I’m not one of them. One thing I do like in fighting games is the music themes, they sound epic, but head to head is boring after a while. Don’t worry too much if your friends beat you in the genre, you have nothing to be ashamed of. All of our minds are different, we see things different, and that’s what makes Earth beautiful.

    October 28, 2011 at 2:13 PM

    • Jeneckerz

      Aww that’s such a heart warming closing statement ;)

      April 14, 2012 at 8:31 AM

      • Jeneckerz

        No sarcasm. Seriously I liked your comment

        April 14, 2012 at 8:32 AM

        • JPH

          Thanks for clarifying; I definitely would have taken that as sarcasm. :)

          April 14, 2012 at 4:10 PM

  5. proximacentauri

    Playing Garou: Mark of the Wolves on XBLA last night, I’m going to have to agree, Take the boss character. At difficulty level 3 out of 7, I found him impossible to beat in a two round match (the default difficulty is 4 by the way). I tried to vary what little strategy I had. Grappling (which I could never propely time), guarding (always too early or too late), combos, super moves etc.

    Finally, after an hour I cracked and turned it down to 2, at which point I beat him on my very first try by simply mashing buttons. What a cruel joke.

    Time and again, I tell myself I’m done with this genre and yet I know I’ll be coming back for more punishment once Blazblue: Continuum Shift Extend and Dead or Alive 5 are out, although needless to say, I won’t be touching Street Fighter x Tekken (my idea of Hell) with a ten foot barge pole.

    March 8, 2012 at 5:48 AM

    • godzilla570

      Ya, I totally agree about Garou: Mark of the Wolves being hard. The problem with all these games in general is the lack of accessibility for newcomer players. Mashing buttons normally is the strategy here if you are new. Even if you are really good, it takes a lot of practice and timing to pull off combos and so forth and this is just ridiculous considering that in other games it is just pick up and play and use your brain and lead to victory. In fighers, it’s almost all muscle memory, fast timing and either a win or a loss even if you use your brain properly. Another annoying thing is people spamming the same moves, but then use some advance tactics and continue spamming. That is not called using your brain properly and it isn’t called skill either, yet players disagree.
      Also players who constantly block over and over is just stupid. I am not going to play fighting games in a while and this is coming from someone who is decent at them. I have played many online matches and what i mentioned above is what it basically comes down to, In the future, this genre will die out, and action adventure, rpg, and puzzle games will dominate the market.

      March 8, 2012 at 12:49 PM

      • Sumanai

        I don’t see fighting games disappearing, and from what I’ve gathered they’ve been a niche market for a long time. That said, I don’t know if the current controversy will harm the image of fighting game community so much that they’ll turn into an even smaller niche.

        I wouldn’t be sad. I’ve listened to people complain about completely valid fighting games simply because they’re not Tekken so much that if the genre dies completely out I’m not shedding a tear. Also the “playing to win” crowd that is often so obnoxious I can’t understand why Sirlin kept the manifesto up for more than a couple of months.

        March 12, 2012 at 12:59 PM

  6. Gray B.

    I know this a long time since this post, but I agree with the most part of your post. I figured out what about fighters I didn’t like, and it’s mainly 2D fighters I can’t get to terms with. I gave 3D fighters a try, like Tekken and Virtua Fighter, even a little of DBZ Budokai, and I think the only 2D fighters I like are the Super Smash Bros. titles. For your complaint about fighters not having the narrative aspect, you can try Smash Bros. Brawl for the Wii, or Tekken 6. Brawl has a HUGE single/coop adventure mode that’s really fun, and Tekken 6 has a campaign mode I like that I think would probably fight your needs, and maybe even Dead or Alive can fit too. All in all, just stay away from 2D fighters (other than Smash Bros.) and try some 3D fighters. Them’s my two cents.

    August 9, 2013 at 7:19 AM

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