Tis the season for fighting games. Hundreds of thousands of spectators went on Twitch to watch EVO, the largest fighting game tournament in the world. And beyond the mainstream fighting tournaments, there are plenty of fighting games being produced and played by gamers on their home consoles. People who are new to fighting games might not understand the appeal of the genre because fighting games tend to be somewhat limited in scope.
It seems, at first glance, that each fighting game has a limited number of character matchups, and usually only a small selection of impactful stages or game modes. Not only that, but for most of the genre’s history, there hasn’t been any online play. Now that we have it, most games with online play suffer some form of lag at least some of the time. Practically speaking, this limits players to a small pool of opponents among their friends and family who are willing to take the time to learn the same fighting game. To those of you who have never played a fighting game before, I would like to assure you that it does not feel like the same drama unfolding repeatedly. Fighters can be one of the most dynamic and rewarding types of game, even if you never compete in tournaments or simply become the best in your friend group.
I’m going to address people who haven’t tried out any fighting games, but I hope this resonates with the other fighters out there. The most important reason that fighting games and other player vs. player games have strong followings of binge players is that the games’ antagonists are other people. Games are getting more sophisticated AI all the time, but another player can provide dynamic challenges above and beyond what any AI can because the player is self-aware, whereas an AI can always be studied and beaten by tricking it. Even if two siblings are facing each other over and over again after school, it’s never exactly the same opponent. Each defeat teaches lessons, and the same tricks can usually only work so many times, making it so that even a small group of players can face new and evolving challenges.
The world’s best fighters don’t just get to master combos by muscle memory and then become unbeatable; they must keep growing constantly or else they will fall behind everyone else who is learning their patterns or strategies. The same is true of a small group of friends. It really takes dedication by both players to keep the challenge growing for each other, but fighting games come with their own motive to succeed.
Those of you with siblings will understand immediately the thrill of competition and rivalry.
Fighting games provide the same kind of proving ground for a rivalry as a 1-on-1 sport, or a friendly roughhouse, though the skills required are very different. It’s human nature that we want to win. The stakes are raised when a more complex set of skills is involved in a competition. Fighting games fit in with this because they provide arenas for players to test their reaction time, memorization, practice and, above all, strategy against another player who is giving it their all to do the same. The best fighting games balance a variety of characters and moves with making the game as fair as possible between all of the characters. Even when some characters have an advantage, the hardcore fighters just take this as an opportunity to add matchups to their list of strategic considerations.
If you haven’t given any fighting games a chance, go pick one out; there are a ton of solid fighting games for a variety of audiences. There are cross-over games between popular franchises like Marvel vs. Capcom.
There are games based on anime and other shows, for example there are Dragon Ball Z fighting games on almost any console you can get your hands on.
Not only that, but there are fighting games of all sorts of tones for people who want either a lighthearted romp, or something a little more grisly like Mortal Kombat, one of the first franchises to use excessive gore as a selling point.
A recommended game for beginners of fighting games would be Super Smash Bros., which is known for being highly accessible and has a cast of recognizable Nintendo characters. Of course, there are other titles out there that are simple to learn but difficult to master.
Get a fighting game that might interest you and a friend or sibling and take some time to play; and play socially. You will both take some time learning the game, but as you do, you will learn more about each other and yourselves in getting to play out a rivalry that can last a lifetime.
For those of you who already are avid fighters, I hope this resonated with you and brought back good memories of couch multiplayer with friends and enemies alike. If you haven’t played local multiplayer with some old friends in a while, you’ll be surprised how naturally it all comes back. Have some fun and above all play to win; it won’t be any fun for your opponent if you don’t.