Getting into fight games from a noob
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Fighting games have always been close to my heart, and a genre I keep up with in esports. Though I have loved them and kept up with them for a long time, I never truly committed to sitting down and really playing one. Sure, I'd hop in the Arcade mode and smack the medium difficulty computers around a little bit, but I never dove into the lab for hours learning character combos, hit confirms, or frame data. Recently, I have had a desire to dive deeper into fighting games in order to have another genre to enjoy and to be able to keep up with the FGC on a deeper level.
This post aims to provide insight into how I went about the process of diving deeper into a fighting game and hoping it helps someone else. I am by no means saying I am a great player, I'm not, but I do think that I can provide some advice for new players who want to jump into the scene but don't really know where to start. The wealth of information and content the internet provides is a blessing, but it can also be a curse when trying to make decisions since so much of it exists. My hope is to help you tune out the influence and multiple opinions, and hone in on your desires so that this can be a long-term commitment.
Choosing a game
Choosing a fighting game is no easy task. So many exist, each with their own quirks and differences, and you can find any range of reviews or critiques on all of them easily. This is the first step, but I believe it is the single most important one. If you pick or pass on a game based on popularity or a review from someone else, it will be much harder to stick with it when you start getting bopped online. Remember, you need to be doing this for your own enjoyment, so if you pick a game you don't enjoy, you're doing it wrong.
When it comes to picking a game, I believe three things are essential:
- Do you like the aesthetics?
- Do you like the way characters interact?
- Do you like the mechanics of the game?
Now, let me break these down a bit, with examples. When I say aesthetics, I mean the overall display of the game. The stages, characters, art style, music, etc.. Is there something about the game that pulls you in from the beginning even if you can't quite tell why? Then, it might be the one.
Though all fighting games share the same goal, their execution can vary greatly. When you compare a game like Marvel vs. Capcom 3 to Street Fighter, you'll understand what I mean. MvC3 is hyper fast-paced and heavily relies on lengthy combos and team synergy, even allowing one-touch could mean the death of a character, sometimes two if you really mess up. SF is more reliant on a methodical, slower approach, and characters won't be killed from one string, making it so that you have to win the footsies game multiple times more than in MvC3.
I ended up choosing Tekken 7 because I was in love with the design of the Mishima family, and the goofiness that other characters offered. I also played Tekken Tag Tournament on PS2 with a good friend as a kid, so it pulled on my nostalgia strings a little. Another thing was that I was really interested in the 3D fighting mechanic where other movement options existed besides jumping, ducking, and blocking. Being able to step to the side may seem small, but it adds another layer of depth and options that you may not realize until you jump into the arena.
Choosing a character
This is another crucial step, though not quite as important as the first. Choosing a character and mastering them is essential in getting better and furthering your enjoyment in fighting games. When you watch the pros play, you will quickly realize that they have a relatively small pool of characters they are really good at. They may understand the entire roster of characters, but that doesn't mean they can play them well.
Choosing a character can be as shallow or as deep as you want it to be, but you must pick one for some reason other than looking at a tier list. If you are just coming into fighting games and want to have fun while getting better at the same time, don't worry about tier lists. A tier list can influence your decision to play or not play a particular character based on metrics given by players that have a deep understanding of the game whereas you do not. If you enjoy playing some weird, wonky, off meta character, then knock yourself out — some may actually do that.
Now, while I don't believe in giving in to the "beginner fighting game" mentality, because you should be choosing a game you enjoy, I do think that there are characters that are easier to play than others. For example, when I picked up Tekken 7, my first choice was Lei. If you play Tekken 7, then you know Lei is a tough character to play well. After failing miserably with him, I switched to Claudio and immediately felt much more at home with him. This change wasn't influenced by anything other than my enjoyment and comfortability with the character I was playing, and that should be the only thing influencing any new player, in my opinion.
Knowing what you want
The third and final step is understanding how far you want to take this. If you want to play fighting games casually online or with friends and don't have tons of time to dedicate, then hitting the lab for eight hours a day probably isn't something you are going to want to do nor should be doing. Go into the lab, learn some combos, and get ready to get your ass kicked online, but enjoy the experience and soak up as much as you can to learn from mistakes and improve.
If you want to be the next EVO champion, then get prepared to spend a lot of your time in the lab learning combos for your character and others along with cancels, hit confirms, analyzing frame data, and everything else that goes into being as efficient as possible. The road to becoming a professional fighting game player is paved with losses, lab, more losses, more lab, more losses, and, you guessed it, more lab.
If you find yourself in the middle, like me, then you are going to spend more time in the lab than a casual player, but you won't be doing it for eight hours a day like it's your job. I enjoy going into the lab and learning combo strings of multiple characters to get better and to further my understanding as a viewer, but it's a much slower process and one I'm not forcing myself to do. I'm doing it because I enjoy it, which should be the only reason you choose one of these three options. While I can't speak for certain, I would imagine pros got to where they are by enjoying what they did, more so than doing it to be a pro at it. You have to love what you do to endure the work required, or else you will give up on it, and playing fighting games is no different.
Time invested in one fighting game usually translates pretty easily to another. You will have new data to consider and learn, but overall, the experience will be there. I am not in a stage myself that is ready to transition to another game, but I'm sure in time, that will change. A crucial thing to keep in mind while doing this is to have fun and do your best to enjoy the journey rather than focusing so much on the destination.