I used to think a very long time ago that fighting games didn’t involve a significant amount of skill because mid to low level players could be beaten with button mashing. I thought that Smash bros was more legitimate because I felt more in control of all the things I was doing in that game and it felt more natural to operate for me. I felt like in smash bros that I was actually intelligently making choices and couldn’t tell why there were so many different normal attacks in street fighter and what they were even good for or how they were meaningfully differentiated from one another. That and the control scheme was awkward to me, having no jump button and holding back to block, and the way that you couldn’t move during most of your attacks, no IASA frames either. That was some weird shit to my perception.
Eventually I got a PS3 and at a loss for games to pick out for it, got SF4. One day a friend came over and asked me to play in it, so we tried out some characters, and had no real idea what we were doing. He picked like dhalsim one time, and I couldn’t beat the stretchy limbs. He also picked bison and I couldn’t beat the sweep attack. I was like, man, why do you keep picking characters that have these long range attacks? I just didn’t get the game.
So I sat down and tried to figure it out. I knew there were huge tournaments for the game, I knew Daigo was blowing people up as Yun at the time, and I had seen evo moment #37 in my first year of high school, understanding instantly how incredible it was. I knew there had to be a higher level game there, I just couldn’t see it yet. I went into online play and got mercilessly destroyed by all manner of people and looked up beginner tutorials and strategies and other things to try to figure out how the hell the game worked. I tried the combo trial mode and got completely confused about how combos worked at all, or how people even figured out what combo’d into what. It seemed really arbitrary to me what would even combo.
At the time I was connected to this site that is now called Learn to Counter, and I played a bunch of games on supercade with them, which helped me get an idea how to play at all and let me in on a ton of classic fighting games.
This background in fighting games allowed me to see games in general in a new way. It’s like how learning to draw will teach you how to actually see the world around you. I’ve said for a long time, if you want to really deeply understand games on a fundamental level, you need to play fighting games. I know it sounds imperialistic from me, who is practically still a beginner at fighting games, yet people talk of me like I’m some aficionado. Like I’m trying to force my favorite or preferred genre down other people’s throats, but it’s a simple truth. It’s the way of the world.