Like many others, I have great memories of spending afternoons and quarters in the arcade. Back home, the arcade was this pretty dark room attached to the bowling alley. Far from spectacular, but it was special in its own way. There were a lot of games my friends and I would play, but one in particular we kept coming back to was SNK's Samurai Shodown IV. I remember the diversity of the cast and the ridiculous, over the top combat. I'm fairly certain none of us knew what we were doing when we played the game. We would be in awe if someone managed to pull off a special move, feigning understanding of what just happened as cartoony gushes of high pressure blood flew out from our characters. None of us knew what we were doing, and it was great.
Fast-forward a dozen or so years later and things appear to have changed. Fighting games have really blown up, with huge tournaments of thousands of players spanning a dozen different games. Some people practice 8 or more hours a day to stay at their sharpest for the increasing amount of events that one can attend. That isn't to say that large tournaments have started only recently EVO (Evolution Championship Series) has been going on since 1996, rather more and more people are playing them at a competitive level.
Even to someone who doesn't enjoy fighting games, it's hard not to see the allure. Exciting flashes of light and sparks, cool attacks and exciting special moves make the genre a spectacle to behold. However, any aficionados of these games play it for the real meat: executing your opponent with precise technique and prediction.
Fighting games follow a pretty basic formula. Take out your opponent's health without having yours depleted. It's pretty simple. Throw in some special attacks and some fancy high damaging moves and you're good to go. Anyone who has played a Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat would recognize this. That said if you play at a competitive level, you're looking at far more content. You're counting frames, playing footsies, and learning basically every character on the roster. Even if you have a main, if you aren't prepared for any given tool your opponent has, you run a risk of losing the match.
My favorite thing about playing fighting games is how personal it is. It's not like other competitive games like Counter-Strike or League of Legends. It's just you and your opponent. The cooperative element is removed, and you're left with your knowledge and skill pitted against theirs. Every player has their own unique style that they bring to the table, and you need to be ready to deal with whatever they have if you want to win.
The real brilliance to the genre is that it can be fun for everyone. Even if you don't know what you're doing, you're still playing it for the same reason someone more knowledgeable of it is: to knock your enemy out. Games with hugely diverse casts seem to draw the average player in, such as Marvel vs. Capcom and (the much debated as to whether or not it's a fighting game) Super Smash Bros. series. Emphasis on the can be fun, however. No one likes losing all the time to that one friend who knows the game infinitely better than you. That being said, some great time can be had throwing you and some friends in to a fighting game no one has played before.
Think back to the first Hadouken you threw, the first time you managed a Spinning Pile Driver, or maybe that time you figured out how to do a Fatality. Even if you're the kind of player who gets more out of a LP>LK>MP>MK>HP>HK>236236DP, it's undeniable that the thrill you get from beating someone at a fighting game is hard to match amongst video game experiences.
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