This is a genre that I hold very close to my heart. The first genre that really captivated me when I was younger. The speed, the aggressive, the afore mentioned unpronounceable words being bellowed from the lungs of dangerous looking men, who were built like fucking towers- This way my kinda gaming. Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, Killer Instinct, Tekken, Bloody Roar, Soul Blade/ Edge/ Calibur/ (your ma!); I simply couldn’t get enough of them. The characters were always so interesting. Each had their one back story and reason for fighting. Of course, each fighter also handled completely different from the last (Ryu and Ken in Street Fighter II… Not so much), with different punches, kicks, grabs, and special moves. There was just so much to do here. So much to learn.
I first discovered how delusional I’d been when I entered a Super Street Fighter IV tournament in Dublin about two years ago. It was a hot summer’s day, I was walking into a venue called XGC expecting to hand out “Perfects” like they were going out of fashion. There were tons of players there that day. Men of all shapes and sizes talking about the most in depth fighting mechanics I’d ever heard. Shit that I didn’t even know the meaning of. They spoke to me in a similar fashion, and I just kinda nodded and smiled, not really having a clue what they were referring to. I also noticed that the players were brandishing fight sticks. A fight stick is a large rectangular box shaped controller, with a joystick and six or eight buttons laid out across it’s flat horizontal surface. It seemed that everyone was using these. I wasn’t so prepared. I’d only brought my trusted, half busted, Xbox 360 controller residing within the inside pocket of my jacket. Being perfectly honest, I’d never even seen a fight stick in real life before. I’d only seen them in videos on the internet. Things where looking grim, and my high hopes were started to waver.
When the time for my fight rolled around, I sat next to a T. Hawk player who looked kinda like his character of choice. A large man with a square jaw, looking a little rough around the edges. He said he was dying of a hangover that day. I played Ken Masters, the character I’d been playing as since I was a kid. The match raged on for three fights, with three rounds a piece. I beat the T. Hawk player, but only by a hair’s breadth. It was a tense, and incredibly close fight. I felt good about this, though I was not exactly confident about my next fight, as I was beginning to realise the high standard of these players. A Blanka player sat next to me, and we started to chat as we picked our fighters. He seemed to be a nice guy, asking me about how I managed to fight with a pad, and warning me about one of two of Blanka sneakier moves. As soon as the announcer said “Fight” the player suddenly went silent, and Blanka was let loose on me in his trademark vicious and untamed fashion. This player knew exactly what he was doing, his charges were always preloaded so he could spring a Cannonball move at any given second, after knocking me down he would dash over and back preventing my wake-up attacks and making it easy for him to hit me with a mix-up. Needless to say, he kicked my ass!
This tournament opened my eyes to many things. It showed me that if I wanted to be as good as these guys, I really had to practice. I also realised that I’d been wrong for some many years. I’d always believed that Ryu and Ken where the only good characters in the game. Nothing could be further than the truth. In the right hands, everyone’s a killer… Except maybe Makoto. That night, I powered up my Xbox and picked Cammy. A new world of fighting unfurled in front of me.
Since then that faithful day, I’ve lost myself in the wonderful world of fighting games, and I continue to delve further into it’s depths. I now know things that I should have understood from the beginning. Hit-boxes, hurt-boxes, corner-traps, EX focus cancels, big stinking combos with fucking bells on, and the use of a fight stick. It hasn’t taken any of the intensity out of the game, instead it’s added a lot more to it. The more I learn, the more I realise how much I don’t know. There’s always something new in fighting games. Always something being discovered, that could completely change the flow of the fight, and often even change the flow of an entire fighter. It’s something that I don’t think I’ll ever truly understand, but goddamn I love trying to. This has lead me to attending more tournaments to test my mettle. Constantly trying to upgrade my style of play in whichever game I’m playing (Mortal Kombat being my usual game of choice for tournaments).
I’ve even went as far as setting up tournaments and casual fights here in Galway. The idea of having a community of fighters who can teach each other, do battle, and ultimately have a good time really appeals to me. That’s what fighting is all about. Wanting to play just for the fun of playing, and learning more about the genre.
Am I still shite a fighting games? Well, yes, pretty much. But that’s ok, because it gives me more reason to fight. They say that losing is learning, and I really believe this. Getting beaten only makes me want to come back stronger, so the more I fight, the better I can become, and slowly but surely, I’m moving up through the ranks.
“There is no knowledge that is not power”