About games and gaming thereof!

Why I Hate Fighting Games, Part 2

Note: this is a continuation of a bitter rant I indulged in awhile ago. That post was caused by me playing Marvel vs. Capcom 3 at a friend’s house. This post was caused by me recently receiving Super Street Fighter 4: Arcade Edition as a gift from a friend. It’s entirely possible that I’ll end up writing one of these every time I’m exposed to a new fighting game. And I feel the need to clarify that despite utterly hating fighting games, I still have fun playing them. Like I said in that last post, it’s sort of a love/hate relationship.

But anyway, last time I basically said that I hate fighting games because I suck at them, but by now I feel justified in saying it’s not my fault that I suck at them; it’s the genre’s fault for being inaccessible. I’ve been playing them for years, and every other genre of competitive games I’ve played for extended periods I’ve actually learned how to play properly.

Let me use two genres I play often as examples: shooters and RTS games (these days that mostly manifests in Team Fortress 2 and Starcraft 2 for me).

When you play a shooter for extended periods of time, it’s pretty clear what you have to do to become better. You have to hone your reflexes, learn to aim precisely, become familiar with the weapons at your disposal and how to use them properly, etc. There are additional things you have to learn for particular games; in Team Fortress 2 you have to learn to move quickly to dodge rockets, grenades, arrows, and other projectiles, while in (say) Call of Duty 4 you have to learn to take cover effectively, crouch and lie prone at opportune times to improve your aiming, and other elements that go into what we commonly call “tactical shooters.” All pretty straightforward stuff.

In an RTS it’s a bit more complicated, but it’s still pretty obvious if you play one consistently. Most importantly you have to learn to use hotkeys effectively; instead of having to scroll your mouse over to the command center and press the “Build SCV” button, you can set the command center to hotkey #4, then hit 4 and S to build one immediately. Then you have to learn to keep track of all your buildings and units and make sure they’re all doing what they should be doing at any given time so you can run your base as efficiently as possible. It’s all about micromanagement.

The rabbit hole goes pretty deep, but it’s not hard to figure out where you can improve.

Fighting games, on the other hand, seem perfectly content with keeping newcomers behind a wall of inaccessibility. I’ve played the tutorials and trial challenges in Super Street Fighter IV, and all they actually teach me is how to execute specific special moves, not how to apply them in combat. After learning those, all I really know to do is spam those moves over and over, and any experienced fighting game player can tell you that tactics like those will not work in the big leagues.

I’ve asked fighting game fans about this, and they either can’t give me a straight answer or give me bullshit responses that don’t help me in any way. “Oh, you have to learn ‘footsies,’ ‘tactics,’ ‘cancels,’ blah blah blah.” Do those terms mean anything to you? Because for me they might as well be in Latin. And like I said, I’ve been playing fighting games for years, so this shouldn’t be the case.

And you could say that I should get on the Shoryuken wiki or whatever and read for hours and hours so I can learn how to play the games, but I think that’s an incredibly weak and flimsy defense for the game not teaching the player properly in the first place. Reading a wiki is basically like reading an incredibly long, unintuitive, unofficial manual, and you all know my thoughts on manuals.

You could say that fighting games just “aren’t for me,” but I think there’s a genuine problem with the genre here, and I’m not the only one who thinks this. And I’m really sick of the mentality that “you’re not allowed to complain about games if you suck at them,” because if the game is not making itself accessible to newcomers, then it definitely has issues.

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10 responses

  1. I don’t play fighting games too often, and when I do I usually play on easiest difficulty, and hope for the best. Like you I really have no idea how to get good at them. Good post.

    Off topic, but I figured, if for some reason you hadn’t already heard, you would be interested in this. Extra Credits is leaving Escapist because of some legal stuff that I won’t bother trying to explain here, because its too complicated. If you have already heard, are you planning to make a post or comment on the issue? My understanding is that it was a show you really liked. And if you haven’t already heard this is the best thing I could find to explain the situation. http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/18.305970-Extra-Credits-leaves-the-Escapist-UPDATE-WITH-A-WORD-FROM-ESCAPIST-CEO

    August 10, 2011 at 3:47 PM

    • JPH

      I have been paying attention to that. I’m not sure if I want to comment on it, just because it seems to be a really sketchy issue and I don’t think I’m hearing the full story from either side.

      I really hope EC finds a good venue to continue at, though.

      August 10, 2011 at 3:58 PM

  2. Zekiel

    On-topic, I entirely agree about fighting games being inaccessible – but I’m not sure I’d agree that Starcraft 2 is really an accessible game. The campaign is no problem to complete, but I play online play is a different matter. I think that to properly compete in the ladders you really need to study build orders and know what unit counters what – which is stuff that you can’t really learn playing the game. So you have to watch podcasts or read Battlenet articles – i.e. all stuff that takes you away from actually playing the game itself! And that’s why I don’t play SC2 very much anymore – in spite of it clearly being a good game!

    August 11, 2011 at 5:44 AM

    • Falcon

      That’s the thing though, RTS’s have that element. You can play, and enjoy,an RTS without going in like that. Even multiplayer, you’ll never get on the ladder, but after learning the game you can certainly fumble your way through against someone.

      Of course that only works if matchmaking does it’s job, and you aren’t sent off to get curb stomped by some pro.

      August 11, 2011 at 11:42 AM

  3. Falcon

    On fighting games, there are some I find rather fun. This despite being utter rubbish on the genre. Smash Brothers. Grab some friends, and have at it. Because it’s aimed at fun, not complexity (of moves).

    Of course this is the exception, I can’t stand hardly any other fighters.

    August 11, 2011 at 11:48 AM

    • JPH

      I’m right with you on that. Smash Bros. is the only fighting game franchise that I unequivocally like.

      August 11, 2011 at 11:59 AM

  4. PinkPutty

    Well, I’ve been reading this blog for a while, but here I have to majorly disagree with you.

    Fighting games do have problems with teaching players how to play, mainly since MvC3 and SF4 only teach execution and not really how to apply combos or special moves. This is really bad in SF since that game is based off of footies, positioning, and what buttons to press when as opposed to simple “press A-B-C-D up A-B-C-Super” every time you can.

    But so do RTSs. Starcraft 2 does not teach the player proper macro or micro techniques needed to play at even an average skill level. All they really do is teach you execution, like SF4 and MvC3. Sure I know how to build Zealots and Stalkers, but how do I use them and why would I build them? How many? When should I be building them? What if the opponent builds a Viking? What do I do?

    Of course, that all sounds simple to figure out. But so do questions like: “When would I press heavy punch?” and “What are footies?”

    Fighting games and RTSs are both very competitive, deep, and challenging genres of games to get good at. Street Fighter is just as hard to get good at as Starcraft. The difference is that they’re deep in different ways.

    August 11, 2011 at 11:33 PM

    • JPH

      Did you never look at the challenges in Starcraft 2? Because they teach a lot of micro and macro techniques, as well as what units counter what.

      August 11, 2011 at 11:47 PM

      • PinkPutty

        I actually did, but they were set up in extremely specific situations that almost never came up during online play. They taught basic unit counters, but that was when you knew what units the enemy had. It never taught you to find out what the enemy was building so you could counter it.

        They did help with micro, but that’s the same as the trials is SF teaching how to do combos. Execution, but not application. (Well, I shouldn’t say that. SC did teach some application, but it was so specific and nearly impossible to occur in Online play that it didn’t help)

        August 12, 2011 at 12:03 AM

  5. godzilla570

    Trials in Street Fighter IV are hard to execute properly on a normal controller whether it be xbox 360 and ps3. The problem with fighting games is the timing for executing the moves and wrong moves coming out instead as well as leaving newcomers in the dark like you have mentioned. For example, if you want to do a uppercut and a fireball comes out instead at the wrong moment you are toast. Something like that should not have to be practiced several times, that is where issues with most fighting games arise. Sure there is strategy and skill involved in them, but overall it feels dull as you are only playing one on one against someone and that gets really really boring after a while. Smash Bros is the exception because you are playing with 3 other people and you have more options accessible especially random items that appear out of nowhere. It adds a great wow factor and everyone has fun with it. I didn’t read your second post but I am glad I did now. good job.

    October 28, 2011 at 2:40 PM

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