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.)