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.