(DISCLAIMER: THIS FIRST PART IS REMINISCING AND OLD NEWS TO THOSE WHO HAVE PLAYED FIGHTING GAMES. SCROLL DOWN TO THE NEXT BOLDED DISCLAIMER PORTION TO READ THE MEAT &/OR POTATOES OF THE ARTICLE)
Let’s get serious here for a minute. Jokes aside, witty trumpet references aside, I am a person who deeply enjoys playing fighting games. I play them as much as I can without getting burn out, and I will feel like it was time relatively well spent. I’ve been doing this since 2008, when my good friend Andres “nothingxs” Velasco brought me into the scene.
I had literally just met him, and him and a couple of his friends were playing Capcom vs SNK 2. At this point in time, they were relatively decent at the game. They knew their character’s general gameplans, they knew combos, they knew who was better than others in the game. They were clearly better than me, somebody who hadn’t played a fighting game against a real person since at least the late 90s.
It was an interesting experience, however, watching them play and I got intrigued. They were trying to teach my friend Chris how to play, and nothingxs was getting frustrated because Chris was listening to about 0% of his advice. He then turned to me, a man he barely knew, and said “I bet you your friend could do this shit.”
They handed me an arcade stick, picked my characters (K-Groove Cammy, Sagat, and Blanka), and gave me one solid piece of advice: “Hit the Fierce Punch button, a lot.” This sounds like bad advice, doesn’t it? If you know anything about those 3 characters though, you’ll know that the advice they gave me was pretty damn solid for somebody who had literally never touched the game.
So I played and of course, I ended up losing; however, they ended up eating a lot of fierce punches on the way there. It was the beginning of what would eventually grow into me playing fighting games competitively. I’m not very good, I don’t win all that often, but I put real effort and aim to hopefully improve little by little. At the very least, I’d consider myself an above average player.
Then, Street Fighter 4 gets released and all of a sudden we have this newfound rush of new players! It’s fantastic, we have all the potential for all these new players to become something big, and for the scene to expand. All of that ended up happening, Evolution 2009 was fantastic and everybody left feeling better about the current situation in the fighting game world.
Then, they announced Super Street Fighter IV. Ten new characters, balance tweaks, other miscellaneous changes, everyone got hype! This brought in newer players, and even newer thinking.
(SECOND DISCLAIMER: THIS IS WHERE THE ACTUAL STUFF YOU PROBABLY CARE ABOUT READING STARTS. THIS IS ALSO THE PART WHERE PEOPLE WHO DON’T REALLY PLAY FIGHTING GAMES WILL MOST LIKELY GET CONFUSED. OOPS.)
Now, before I continue with the next part of my article, I need to explain a few fighting game terms. Bear with me veterans, this is all shit you already know and understand.
Fighting games have things called mixups, which are a key part to all characters. Putting your opponent in a mixup, in its most basic description, is putting them in a situation where they are forced to guess. Some mixups involve the opponent having to choose whether to block high or to block low, and if they guess incorrectly they will eat a combo or take damage of some sort. Other mixups, deemed “vortexes” for some odd fucking reason, involve the opponent choosing which side they have to block on. Do they block left or do they block right? If they choose wrong, they eat a combo that resets the exact same situation and the opponent is forced to guess yet again.
These are very powerful and characters with good mixups usually end up being very strong characters.
When new players are put into these situations, they immediately freeze up and panic. It’s understandable, of course, these situations are disadvantageous for them. Being caught in a mixup sucks, but it’s been a basic part of fighting games since dinosaur times (To quote an anonymous archeologist: “That T-rex caught the velociraptor in a sick-ass mixup and the velociraptor lost the round. The next round, however, both got unblockabled by an asteroid.”).
The new player then thinks to himself, “How do I beat this? What’s the counter to this situation?” Some mixups have a clear counter, especially for characters with an uppercut. They then say, “If I mash the motion to uppercut I will eventually get it and end up being safe. This way, they can’t mix me up and I won’t lose the round to having to guess.”
This is what you see often in online matches: One player, usually more experienced, will gear their gameplan towards putting their opponent into a mixup and the weaker, less experienced player, will mash on something that is completely unsafe if blocked and profit from it. They literally can’t be mixed up, it’s impossible according to what they are doing. The obvious counter is to just bait and block the uppercut, but newer players (in general) don’t learn from their mistakes. If it hits 2/10 times, that’s a 20% success rate and they see that as fair reason to keep doing it during the mixup regardless of how much damage they eat from being punished.