A beginner’s guide to fighting with friends.
NZGamer.com recently published a feature on the rise of the fighting game community (FGC) in New Zealand - those players who play to win, going to tournaments and studying every facet of their chosen game in an effort to become the best.
Maybe you’ve always wanted to be a competitor but never knew this kind of scene existed, or maybe you’ve picked up one of any number of fighting games that have come out in recent years for fun and want to take it to the next level.
Whatever the reason, you’re ready to break into the competitive fighting game scene, to climb the ladder and become Aotearoa’s finest - but where do you start?
Competitive games often seem to be strictly divided between the serious, no-nonsense hardcore types, and the casual players who play ‘just for fun’. I think this is something of a false divide - hardcore players also play for fun (why else would they play at all?), they just tend to get their fun from different elements of the game.
I can see how casual players could see the effort that competitive players put in as being un-enjoyable, but that couldn’t be further from the truth; competitive gaming has its own unique kind of fun, and in my subjective opinion, fighting games are the pinnacle of that. Obviously, winning is fun in and of itself, but even more exciting is the process of learning and employing the strategies that lead to those wins.
Having said that, there’s no point in pushing yourself too hard when it comes to competitive play, to the point that it becomes a chore. Obviously, the more you practice, the better you’ll get, and this may involve some mundane things like jamming tough combo strings into muscle memory, but don’t push yourself to the point of getting burnt out. Gaming is a hobby that most of us pay to engage in, so it should be fun and rewarding, at least most of the time. Take a break, play other games, do other things, and never let fighting games become a job.
I can’t stress enough how helpful simply being around other fighting game players can be to getting better at the genre. It may seem daunting, but fighting gamers are generally friendly and very welcoming to new players.
You’re probably not going to be winning any tournaments for a while, but don’t let that deter you; the experience you’ll get from your losses, and just from being around other players and talking fighting games with them will be priceless. Just turn up, introduce yourself, and let others know that you’re a beginner, and most people will be happy to show you the ropes and offer advice.
Small events are probably better than major tournaments as far as actually getting to know people goes, and if you’re a bit shy like I am, getting to know people online beforehand (most fighting game communities will have a message board of some sort) can be a good way to break the ice.
There’s a good chance that you didn’t just wake up this morning thinking “I know, I’ll jump into the fighting game community today!” having never played a fighting game before in your life. It’s much more likely that you’ve enjoyed a certain game or games casually, and want to make the jump into the tournament scene.
Congratulations, you’re off to a good start - enjoying the game you play is easily the most important consideration when choosing a game. If you don’t enjoy a game and are only playing it because it’s popular, you’ll have a hard time getting motivated to put the necessary time and effort in.
With that said, it’s not the only consideration - you’re going to have hard time getting good at a game if it doesn’t have a scene in your area, so you want to pick a game that’s at least reasonably popular. For some games, online play is good enough that this is less of an issue, but for a lot of games, online play is just too laggy to take seriously in a genre that is so reaction and timing dependant.
You may see a lot of high level players playing a handful of different characters in a particular game, but it’s generally a good idea to focus on only one or two characters and get to know them really well - what fighting gamers generally talk about as “maining” a certain character. There are a few different philosophies about choosing a main, and there’s no real right or wrong way to go about this.
The most obvious path is to pick a character that you like, based on their design or story, have a play around with them in the game’s arcade or training modes to get a feel for their moves, and then move onto another one if whomever you chose doesn’t feel right. As you play more games, you’ll get to know what sort of play-style you like - whether it’s an in-your-face rushdown character, a keepaway character, or some other fighting game archetype - which will help you pick yet more characters down the line.
Another popular but oft-criticised strategy is to “tier whore”, by picking a character known to be good. It’s really hard to balance fighting games perfectly, and there will always be some characters who are better overall than others. Tournament players tend to develop tier lists for games, which rate the strength of each character relative to each other when played to their full potential and divide them into different tiers.
Continue reading on page 2.