I would have to say that this is one of the best times to be a fighting game fan. There’s so many thriving and passionate communities for tons of games to get into and try. Even plenty of older titles are being revived thanks to rollback netcode. On top of that, games have become more accessible and easier to play so the barrier of entry has become smaller. Even if you’re trying to get into harder games, there’s so many resources to help beginners on their way to becoming better at the game. Fighting games are in a great spot right now and if you’ve ever been curious about them then I would find one you think looks cool and roll with it.
However, this era of fighting games is not without its criticisms. Some have argued that this new ease of play has come at the cost of depth. Some argue that these games die off too quickly because they’re so shallow as to appeal to a mainstream (casual) audience. You may find some blaming e-sports for that, given that many games today also have their own tournament circuits. Capcom Cup, ARCREVO, and Tekken World Tour are just a few of their own self contained e-sports tournament series that have come from this e-Sports push. This leads some to believe that the newer games are being made more for these tournaments and less about the hardcore (dedicated) community. I’m not too convinced on that viewpoint, but the argument isn’t completely baseless. If the gameplay is simpler and more of a spectacle, then more people will watch it. It DOES make sense.
As criticisms are mounted against fighting games post-Street Fighter V, there seems to be this phenomena happening where older games are being praised for their difficulty and depth all of the sudden. Mind you, it’s not uncommon to still love the old fighting games. Marvel vs Capcom 2 is timeless, Street Fighter 2 Turbo is thriving, and even I will play some Street Fighter 3rd Strike if you ask me. But lately it seems that this love of depth and difficulty has been bordering to the point of creating revisionist history. This has fallen not only on the community at large but also on creators.
All too often, we’ll see content about flashy trials or showcases of games where the player just talks about how the game is simpler than some other game that came before it. How many Street Fighter V videos have you seen since it came out where people praised Street Fighter 4? How many KOF XIII trial videos have you seen where people are just going on and on about how deep or difficult the game is? One that annoys me personally are the BlazBlue trials videos. Once the game got rollback, people hopped on to do all the regular content while shouting “play this game!” Meanwhile, they’re making the game look like you need godlike execution to play it. It’s counterproductive.
Now, before you bombard the comments with “if they like the game they’ll learn it” or “its okay if its hard because its not for everyone” I want to remind you of something. You don’t grow a community by appealing to those already in it. I guarantee you that most fighting games get exposure through places like YouTube or Twitch. Do you think a new player is going to want to jump into a game with trials like KOF XIII? (Which aren’t even optimized combos.) But how would a new player know? With modern games, there’s this hatred for auto combos, but I think they have done a better job easing casual players into a fighting game than most videos that showcase them do.
The worst part is this content gives off the idea that all of these content creators still show love to this games and always have. Same with community members. Often, you’ll hear players use games like 3rd Strike to talk bad about modern fighting games and act as though they’ve been in the scene for years. When in reality, they picked it up on Fightcade within the last year or so. And this isn’t to gatekeep. Not at all. More people in the scene is a good thing! But not if your purpose is to put down modern games. They can both exist and they both have their places.
It is mentally draining to see communities be misrepresented and seem more daunting than it is. This fetishization of difficulty is doing more harm than good. Not to mention, its all pretty fake. Yes, KOF XIII trials are hard, but they’re also not optimal. Yeah, looking at Street Fighter 3rd Strike combos look cool, but for some characters doing low execution combos work just as well. There’s always a barrier of entry, but let’s stop conflating it. We are in a time where any fighting game can stand a chance. Older games are getting rollback net code all the time, both from publishers and communities. These games that were just reserved for local play are getting new chances. Communities have a chance to really thrive and flourish. And for newcomers, there’s REAL difficulty to overcome if they want to get into this hobby. Let’s not add fake difficulty on top of it.
[Editor’s Note: The inspiration for this week’s Fight Friday came from this video from IdolismJ]