I grew up playing 2D fighters at a relatively competitive level. In fact I would say that it was something that I, stupidly perhaps, was pretty proud of. It took patience, perseverance and many many hours of practice at whichever arcade I could find at the time. They were, in some ways, many of my greatest memories, and sometimes when I look back I shed a single, solitary tear. Ah, the good old days.
But now I’m a grown up. I don’t have patience, not very often do I find myself persevering outside of Dark Souls, and I sure as hell can’t spend a multitude of hours practicing, even if arcades were still easy to come by. All of this had led to me just simply sucking at any fighting game past Street Fighter III-3rd Strike.
But the love and thirst for a good, well balanced and mechanically sound fighter hasn’t gone away. After all I am a child of the halcyon days where King of Fighters sat proudly next to Street Fighter in the arcades and when crowds would gather to watch the local talent get to on-screen fisticuffs. The problem is I have since moved away from my childhood cities, am not longer in contact with my childhood friends, and haven’t since found that special someone to share in some local competitive fighting with. What about the internet I hear you say? Well that is the problem – I’m just not competitive and spend literally 8 seconds of the 10 seconds a round will typically last flying around the screen unable to put up any semblance of a fighting chance. That is no damned fun sir.
So I have resigned to playing these games solo. And I’m okay with that.
It may be due to the sheer number of fighters I played on portable systems that only supported ad hoc multiplayer, if at all. King of Fighters EX 2 basically lived in my Game Boy advance for the odd fight. The odd experience of that brilliantly amazing fighting system. The fighting system that does the job no matter who I’m fighting whether human, regular AI or sentient super smart going to kill me in my sleep AI. It was a great fighting game against any measure.
Oh but the AI doesn’t react the same way as a human does which makes it not even worth playing. Yes the AI is stupider. No it doesn’t react to what I’m doing the way a regular, trained and practiced human would. But isn’t that what we are all after – us regular people who aren’t dedicating our lives to the art of fighting (games). Aren’t we after that level that’s challenging but not frustrating?
But some games don’t even offer a story mode that’s kind of stupid hey. Sure a story is nice, and who doesn’t love the shenanigans of the Tekken and Dead or Alive crews, not to mention the brilliantly done Mortal Kombat story mode. But for me that’s not the main draw. As long as I can kick a punch a guy and occasionally throw a fireball I’m set. That doesn’t make me a casual gamer. It makes me a guy with some semblance of an understanding of opportunity cost. And the opportunity cost of practicing for hours on end to beat some 16 year old on the other end of the internet is pretty darn high, and all just to get punched in the face and humiliated.
I used to be the guy that punched people in the face with infinite juggles and I liked being that guy. I also continue to respect those that do have the patience and time to become the best at what they do. Fighting games are sublime games of strategy and when played at high levels serious works of art. At some point though I couldn’t justify it anymore. I got a job which takes up a bit of time during the day and realised that I didn’t have the time, nor was it all worth the time investment, just to keep up with the Joneses. I still love fighting games and the feeling I get from utterly humiliating an opponent is still as good as it was in the arcades 20 years ago. Only difference is now I’m happy to fight someone who can’t smack talk me afterwards.