Games. Culture.

Mastery in Dragon Ball FighterZ and Monster Hunter: World

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Folks, I’m at the most impossibly complicated impasse I may ever encounter in my career as a Gamer™. My PS4 is home to my go-to competitive games and my new challenges in Dragon Ball FighterZ and Monster Hunter: World.  These games have proven to be exercises in mastery, each one needing the proper time and focus to attain it and I’m torn on which I should devote time to.

Dragon Ball FighterZ and Monster Hunter: World present two different but alluring versions of mastery. One stresses perfection, precision and, on some level, omniscience. It demands that you work on yourself meticulously in order to craft a person who is mechanical in operation and surgical in precision. The other asks you to know your environment, size up your competition, learn how to use your tools and learn the full extent of your ability in order to properly overcome insurmountable tasks. Both games represent the difference in being the best person you want to be and knowing the best person you CAN be.

Fighting games have long been the bane of my existence, a time-sink and also a constant source of growth in efficiency, so when I compare Dragon Ball FighterZ to a hyperbolic time chamber, know that this isn’t a tongue-in-cheek reference to Dragon Ball Z but the culmination of a decades-long, dysfunctional relationship. Practicing in Dragon Ball FighterZ has felt like holding a mirror up to myself while working out in that while hoping to see the change, I’ve focused far too much on the result instead of the technique that will get me there. What follows, in this and any fighting game, is the most rigorous virtual training process anyone can undergo and one of the most daunting ones too because when you’re working to be a good fighter, you aren’t just trying to learn prompts but then actually implement them into your fights, two things I’ve found to be incredibly different. The result is an overwhelming feeling of insignificance. When I face somebody after practicing my Trunks combos incessantly and still get waxed by what appears to be a robot or a fighting deity, a very clear but seemingly impossible representation of mastery manifests itself. The only way to overcome is to become.

Playing fighting games is like kicking your own ass.

Fighting games are the devil, or perhaps in this case Mr. Satan, and he’s demanding a pound of flesh and while in reality it’s never that dramatic, a sacrifice is called for. If you want to be like literal Goku, put the time into that and nothing else. It’s a feat I don’t think I’m capable of. For starters, the people I talk to in the fighting community speak an entirely different language than I do. They say things like overheads, cross ups and side switches and what the hell is a confirm? It’s the one genre of games that is excessively reflective of ones capability to internalize lessons and is so laser focused on refinement and reform, it feels like becoming a new person coming out the other side.

Monster Hunter: World is similarly time-consuming but in a, dare I say, healthier manner. It demands that you get good just to understand its menus, let alone its various weapons and seemingly infinite amount of monsters. What the game isn’t doing is communicating that you put all this time into yourself to become the perfect weapon. As a matter of fact, Monster Hunter: World seems starkly aware of the fact that you will never be that, which is denoted by its focus on cooperative play and the various tools outside of your weapon that help you conquer anything in your way. Constantly happening across the same creatures builds a compendium filled with revelatory details like weak points and weaknesses in order to alleviate the stress of wailing away on your controller and the monster for an hour only to lose. Toads that cause paralysis when kicked, plants that cause poisoning when sliced, trees that give way to vine traps when tackled and dams ready to burst via explosives are just a few of a multitude of ways in which the game communicates that the way to fell these foes isn’t just by hacking and slashing but by becoming intimately familiar with their patterns, routines and habitats. Make no mistake, you will do a lot of slashing and it feels fucking stellar to hack off a tail, but the stress is on knowledge of the game world in order to make up for your human limitations. Monster Hunter: World understands the world is bigger than you and provides a way to stand above it regardless. In that sense, Monster Hunter: World is more humane…y’know outside of the whole ecology ruining thing you do in murdering every creature in the way of your colonization efforts.

So it really stops being a matter of favorites and more like “what game is ideologically appeasing?” and while I think I’ve made a decision on where to focus my attention, the allure of the other will always call out to me. Mastery in Monster Hunter: World simply speaks to the person I am, limits and all, but the appeal of being a digital deity owning fools on Namek is too hard to pass up on occasion. Regardless of where I, or you for that matter, land, it’s hard to deny the rising tide of games that don’t just call for your time but the extent of your mental bandwidth.

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