Blessing: Fighting games can be a hard genre to get into. While playing online, very often you might find yourself being matched with players that seem to play at such a high level that it can overall be discouraging. I know, because fighting games are some of my favorite games to play. I love fighting games, even though a lot of the time it feels like they don’t love me back. The bright side to this process however, is that the more you play, the better you get. And that gratification of growth is an amazing feeling. Becoming good at fighting games takes a lot of practice and a little bit of guidance. That’s why for this video, I reached out to my good friend Chase Williams to help give some tips on how to be good at pretty much any fighting game. First, if you want to know how to get good at fighting games, you’re going to want to start paying attention to the physical aspects of play. Chase, take it away.
Chase: Head of Sociology and scholar of aesthetics, Graeme Kirkpatrick describes the “set of skills and perceptions needed to play games” as a habitus. Right now you’ve probably mastered the ability to get platinum trophies in linear games, slay every boss in Nioh, or cry in some melodramatic indie game; but when you say, “I want to learn to play fighting games”. What you are really saying is, “I want to learn an entirely new habitus.”
Blessing: This video is for those who are ignited by the fighting game zeitgiest and want to learn how to play, those who have already begun their journey and want some memorable tips, and also those who don’t wish to play but simply want an understanding of a genre that has been a part of the tapestry of video games since 1992. So here’s a few bullet points to get you started
Chase: The first step on the road to learning how to play fighting games is the easiest.
Blessing: Find what game you want to play. It’s that simple. This genre has offered a litany of visually distinct titles that distinguish themselves in their systems, graphics, and music. Fighting games require patience, time, and practice, so you’ll want to pick a game that you just can’t get enough of so the hours you spend staring at and listening to it never become dull.
Chase: There’s some iconic soundtracks, themes, and stages out there, but my favorite expression of the genre’s character is the costume designs, choreography, and animated flourishes. These visual flares have kept my imagination ticking for years. So pick a game you think is resplendently pretty and find a character whose on-screen action blows you away. Remember, you’re going to spend a lot of time with this game so you don’t want it to wear out its welcome.
Blessing: The next step is crucial: learn to block. If anything, this genre teaches patience. You’re not going to become a good musician by randomly hitting guitar strings, and you won’t become a good fighting game player if you can’t stop pressing buttons.
Chase: You will take a big first leap up the fighting game mountain by blocking. Other new players who can’t help but constantly attack will be abused your ability to successfully block and counter. Even if its only for a small amount of damage.
Blessing: It’s about consistency and once you recognize when it’s your turn after successfully blocking your opponent’s string of attacks, you can take advantage of the button-crazed new players who cannot find restraint.
Chase: If you have already begun successfully showing defense then you can take this a step further by focusing on blocking overheads, cross ups, and side switches. And guess what, there’s a perfect place to practice that: the training room. If playing a real opponent will teach patience, putting in time in the practice room administers discipline.
Blessing: But just wait a second. You can legitimately waste time in training mode and you should remember that quantity of time spent in the dojo doesn’t equate to sharpened skills. So before that training room loads up make sure you’re ready to practice with a goal.
Chase: This means bringing focus. This means playing with a purpose. When you sit down to train for the day have an objective. Tell yourself, “I’m gonna learn how to counter Cell.” Or, “Today I’ll practice confirms.” A mindset that brings alertness even in the training room will bleed into real matches where pressing the correct button at the right time is a requirement. Practicing with a goal means growing faster and strengthening your focus. Clear-headedness will always benefit your play.
Blessing: Which brings us to our final piece of advice for getting good at fighting games: Play to learn, not to win. It’s a mantra that’s easy to repeat but hard to internalize. You will advance your play with greater efficiency by staying true to this rule while simultaneously learning one of the key tenants to having a healthy relationship with this rewarding genre of video games. It’s easy to be salty. It’s difficult to be reflective.
Chase: Analyze your mistakes and learn from them, but also celebrate the moments when you perform what you had been practicing in training. Let those count as victories. Don’t be driven by some superfluous ranking system or a win/loss ratio. Instead, endeavor to land 3 fireballs this round, successfully block Ky’s greed sever, or chain a combo into a super move. These types of attainable goals prove that your growing far better than a win screen ever could
Blessing: That’s how this genre works. It’s how fighting games have cemented themselves into the hands and minds of those who have dedicated themselves to them.
Chase: That feeling of growth from conquering self-defined goals is powerful enough that many players have dedicated their life to their play and made it a profession.
Blessing: It’s about personal growth, self-motivated achievement, patience and discipline: virtues which translate outside of the games themselves and into the tenants of a good life.
Chase: Find your game. Find your character. Find your routine. Find your community. Then there’s no going back.