Why haven’t fighting games become mainstream?

Art made by Mulan.

First of all, what is a fighting game? While there are many subgenres, most fighting games have at least two characters facing each other in a two-dimensional format, both of which have the  objective of depleting the enemy’s health to zero. Some examples would be Street Fighter, Guilty Gear, Mortal Kombat, and Tekken. Fighting games usually come with a roster of unique characters that usually fit a certain play-style or archetype. Each character has their own unique attacks and special abilities. In a typical fighting game, normal attacks like punches or kicks can be performed with the press of a button, while there are special attacks that need a specific motion on the d-pad or analog stick along with a specific button being pressed: these are referred to as “motion inputs.” Sadly, fighting games have never quite found their way into the mainstream. Many people think that you need to be great at fighting games to enjoy them, or simply think they are too hard. While it is true that fighting games generally take more effort than other genres, the reward for the effort put in is worth it. 

When most people first see someone play fighting games, they are usually highly skilled, or maybe that the game they are playing looks too advanced. This causes people to think that they need to be good from the start. Patrick Karrick, a student here at Washington, says, “I think they’re hard because they need me to have good reaction time, and press buttons fast, and I’m not really good at that.” It seems that most people in the gaming community share this sentiment.  On the website SteamCharts.com, we can see the average number of people that play certain games for each month on Steam, an application where people can buy games for their PC. If we look at a game like Tekken 7, which is one of the most popular fighting games today, we can see that in the last 30 days, this game had an average player count of 3,178.4 people. Seems like a lot right? Let’s take a look at Counter Strike: Global Offensive, a first person shooter that is the highest selling game on steam. Within the last 30 days, CSGO has an average player count of 884,189.7 players. That’s over 275 times more players than Tekken 7. 

Fighting games require dexterity, quick reflexes and split second decisions. Not everyone can keep up. Another reason people might not be particularly fond of this genre is combos. Combos are fast combinations of attacks that have various strategic benefits, like pressuring your opponent out of a block by mixing them up. Most people can barely perform a special attack once, so asking them to execute multiple successful attacks with perfect timing is a little overwhelming for some. Fighting games are one of the only genres that require motion inputs in order to decently play the game. Most other games only require motion on the joystick or d-pad to move the character or the camera, and all other actions can be performed with a simple button press.

So, most people give up when they are faced with these issues. They abandon fighting games and develop a negative opinion of them. But what people don’t realize is that if they just push a little further, past the “hard” mechanics, they might find one of the best experiences they could have while playing video games. 

Fighting games provide a type of gameplay that not many other games can. If you start out terrible, you don’t need to worry, just take your time. Games like Guilty Gear Strive, which is widely considered one of the most beginner friendly games in the genre, have matchmaking systems based on your skill level, so even if you totally suck, you could play against people on your level, and you can get a taste of what the game is actually like when you aren’t getting steamrolled by a higher level player. If the game you want to play doesn’t have features like this, you could convince your friends to play. From there, if you are still enjoying yourself, you can move up the ranks and gradually fight stronger opponents. If you get to this point, then that’s when the real game begins. When you start to get better, you start to understand so much more than just the basics, and when you understand the game better, you get even stronger!

Joseph Lopez is a freshman at Washington, and he has been playing fighting games for some time now. He enjoys a wide variety of games such as Blaz Blue: Cross Tag Battle, Guilty Gear, Tekken 7, and Dragon Ball Fighters Z. In an interview, he explained why he enjoyed playing these games so much. “[I like] The fact that you could either take it slow and think of it as chess, always being one step ahead of your enemy, or just throw yourself at them and overwhelm them,” he says. “There’s no one way to play fighting games.” 

For myself, fighting games are the type of game I play more than any other. About a year ago, I started playing Guilty Gear Strive. Even though I was hardly decent at the game, being stuck at the same level for months, I kept pushing forward. I don’t really know why, maybe I was just bored, but I didn’t stop playing. I started watching pro matches, tournament replays, and videos going in depth about strategies and game mechanics. I was slowly starting to understand what made these games special. I tried experimenting with different characters instead of just sticking with the same one every single match. I was getting better and more advanced. Eventually I moved on to other games like Street Fighter III: Third Strike, and as I learned how to play that game, my love and understanding of these games was at an all time high. These games have provided such a unique experience for me, and I won’t stop playing anytime soon.

Samuel Douglas was born and raised in the Bay Area, and is a freshman at Washington High School. This is his first year working on the Hatchet. He is eager to write about things like art and entertainment. He enjoys drawing, or just being creative in general. Sam likes making new friends, and he hopes that he can be friends with everyone he interviews. In the future, he wants to improve his art and eventually publish his own comic book series.

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