Saying you are talented at something is a very relative statement. For example, when asked if you are good at basketball, do you take into account all of the players from the NBA in your answer, or do you only consider the games you have personally played? Calling someone a great singer can be a misnomer, as the voice in question may only seem to shine at karaoke (where all opinions are moot, thanks to alcohol). A similar dilemma arises when anyone asks me if I am good at fighting games. Sure, I can hold my own, and I have played enough titles to know the general idea of most combat systems, but I could never hope to place at EVO (or really any tournament, for that matter). It is because of this lack of mastery that my relationship with fighting games is very bipolar.
Back in the glory days of the American arcade industry, my brother and I would spend every visit to our local mall at the Mindboggle. This oddly named arcade hall was home to a bevy of classic cabinets (such as Pac-Man, Centipede, and Galaga), as well as the powerhouses of the 90s (House of the Dead, Star Wars Trilogy, and Crazy Taxi). Most of these games lined the walls of the arcade, but the star attraction of the day would be placed right at the entrance, facing out so that all of the mall patrons (read: parents) could see where all their hard earned quarters were being spent. For a time, the main cabinets would be the classic beat-em-ups (X-Men, The Simpsons, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), but once Street Fighter 2 came out, the headliner was always a fighting game, and there was always a wait for the chance to play.
For those of you who are too young to remember playing fighting games at an actual arcade, allow me to explain the term “got next.” While this may seem like you can just saunter on over and play Marvel vs Capcom with a friend for the “next” game, this is not so. You are standing in line for a chance to dethrone the current champion from her seat of power. Whoever is winning, stays at the machine, while the people waiting are his challengers. Hence why every fighting game ever contains the phrase, “Here Comes New Challenger!” There is also some rule about putting your quarter on the actual machine as a placeholder, but I always worried that some schmuck would just steal my money, so I would patiently wait each time.
After several afternoons spent waiting in line (and losing after every wait), I became disgruntled with these games. Why should I wait in line to play a game that I would ineveitably lose? Fighting games soon became my least favorite genre to play at arcades (save for skee ball, because who really likes that game anyway?). But then something wonderful happened: Capcom released a near arcade-perfect version of Street Fighter 2 to the Super Nintendo. My father brought the game home one night, thus allowing my brother and I to train in the comfort of our own home. Our television became the dojo for many battles to come, and I fell in love with fighting games once more. But like those stories of romance told in the past, our was a love that was not to last.
Initially, my brother and I were evenly matched at Street Fighter 2. We would play best of ten matches, and often end up with five wins each. This pattern of battle lasted until I found a new game to play (I don’t recall which, let’s say Castlevania IV, seems like a safe bet). My brother, however, continued to train at digital fighting in the streets. Soon, he was beating the game on the hardest difficulty setting, and I had barely touched the single player mode. At this point, when he and I would sit down for a best of ten, the count was one or two wins for me, while my brother claimed the rest of the victories. I quickly got frustrated at this situation, because it seemed like the distance between our skill levels was a gulf that I would never cross. Thus I began to resent fighting games once more.
This vicious cycle has continued for pretty much every major fighting game since the release of Street Fighter 2. A new game will come out, my brother and I will learn the games nuances by playing each other (or our friend, the fighting game guru Christian). New favorite characters are chosen, epic battles fought, much fun had all around. Then I move on to other games, the rift of skill grows(both deep and wide), and then the battles become far more one-sided.
Now, does this little tale of love and hate mean that I will never truly enjoy playing fighting games? Goodness, no. I love fighting games, and I will continue to support the genre well into the future (save for Capcom’s games that should have just been DLC). Does this mean I am a scrub who doesn’t want to take the time to master a game so I can actually win at it? Hell no. It means I am an adult with a full-time job, a wife, and dozens of other games that I want to play. Would I like to play Marvel vs Capcom 3 with you sometime? Hmm, maybe. Now, the real question to ask: would I like to play some Rival Schools? Every day of the week.
Laura’s Note: I enjoy skee ball, damn it. I think you are the only one who doesn’t. Weirdo.