Like our president and his interaction with many a woman, the previous year slipped drunkenly into a new one. I didn’t quite see it happen and, like any sexual interaction that doesn’t feature at least four women and a three-legged horse, I probably lost interest quickly. Anyway, I was thinking as usual about all the things I dislike, which not only could fill a phonebook but includes one too (the Western Cape one, specifically).
I had been wondering when to highlight my reasons for severely disliking the fighting genre. Today I will.
I had hoped (which is like praying, except without the guy in the sky scenario) for a long time that each year, perhaps some sparkly-looking button-masher would do to me what a meteorite did to the dinosaurs. But alas, despite my muted mutterings, nothing arose. The reason for this is the typical glitter and turd scenario: you can put a lot of the former onto the latter, but no one will shake your hand. You can’t change what is already fundamentally crap.
What are “fighting games”? Firstly, they should not be confused with beat-em ups. Fighting games are your Mortal Kombats, Street Fighters and Tekkens, whereas beat-em ups are the wonderful classics like Streets of Rage or Double Dragon. The latter games have you onscreen fighting in close combat, wave after wave of opponents until you get to the end of the screen/level. Fighting games are close-quarters combat affairs with a single opponent, until the one falls down, in a smallish location. Usually there are superpowers involved. Both genres have the very important inclusion of scantily clad ladies.
I despise fighting games. They seem to me nothing but a static version of beat-em ups with only ONE opponent; in order to see something visually interesting, you must consult an encyclopaedia of interesting moves and then, like a stripper, remember to pull them off at the right time; uninteresting characters, who are either brawn or boobs, look like they were pumped out like toothpaste into tight-fitting clothing and gifted with voice-“artists” who were merely the angry drunk people at the nearest bar.
Like every human with technology, I love to kill things. I like to use bullets on brown-skinned people, birds on pigs and plants on zombies. Fighting is strange because of its static nature: one opponent, one person, one fight. Moves must be strategized, timing is everything. There is supposedly a kind of poetry to boxing that I often heard about from quotations by Muhammad Ali: a gentle dance, of mind and legs, of strategy and fists, that mimicked a game of chess as if performed with ballet dancers (who weigh like half a ton). But it never fitted with me. And, frankly, I think that idea of strategizing is probably lost on what is for most people merely a party game.
Fighting games should be bundled with crappy Wii Sports games and racing games (that’s for another post), as part of a package of Things to Entertain Drunken Friends With (When a Box of KFC Won’t Suffice). I figured all that most people need is a table, chairs, alcohol and music to have a pleasant experience. But unfortunately friends have a tendency to do something horrific: have other friends who aren’t aware of your inability to “smalltalk” at them. So this can help in these kinds of situations, I suppose. Our society is now one where conversation is replaced by punching someone in the face. Wonderful.
But really: there’s little point in investing oneself in fighting games and I think that’s my problem. I have an urge to don an elitist cape and twiddle my hands over certain titles like BioShock, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Silent Hill and call them “real” games – but out of all the things in our life that we ought not to be elitist about, it’s games. So no: I don’t think that fighting games are not “real” games (whatever the hell that means) nor do I disparage people who love fighting games. I just don’t think they’re worth my time, investment and so on, since I want to be involved in character, story and development. Watching someone’s mouth lose more and more teeth may be progressive in that you can see more gum, but it’s not really giving me anything to chew on otherwise.
It’s interesting, sure, but again it ties in with the whole debate on what should we be focused on. One of the most interesting debates for game reviewers – which I used to be for Lazygamer until I made fun of Call of Duty – was why should we waste words on, for example, FIFA titles. What review would you rather read: a review on, say, Heavy Rain or on the new FIFA? That’s not to say you don’t want to know about what’s “new” in the new FIFA, but you can easily get a summary. Why would you waste time reading and investing in it beforehand?
But this applies to fighting games. Really – does anyone care about the motivations behind characters or do you just want to see some sexy blonde, wearing tight, minimal leather and thigh-high boots do sexier acrobatic moves against someone else? I have temporarily forgotten… right! Fighting games. Um. Yes. No one cares. Something, something sword. Something, something, revenge. These people. He called your mom fat… and go!
So why do I legitimately love beat-em ups of the classic variety? I specifically love the co-op, since there’s one screen – none of that stupid bunching nonsense – and you are on one mission: make things feel pain until you get to the end. Sure, I just described every Call of Duty game*, but it’s fun to watch it since it’s close-quarters combat constantly. Fighting games themselves could learn from this, perhaps engage with stories that make you actually care in-between character fights.
Developers should focus on the abilities of talented fighting gamers, who are able to – without realising – engage in precise, quick-time strategizing to send the bottom jaw of their opponents into their foreheads. Perhaps more use of slow-mo, specific RPG-type improvements so that the character’s legs get faster or bigger or sexier. There’s no reason why more RPG elements can’t be used, since one could also do a bit of investigating to discover what the next opponent is about: his weaknesses, strengths and so on. Thus you could find yourself strategizing even before the fight: deciding what to wear, Fire Leather Gloves or Lesbian Kissing Distraction. Each opponent gets more difficult and thus making the wins more memorable and deserving (consider those strange people who enjoy Dark Souls).
These are just some suggestions. But as fighting games are, they must go the way of alchemy, astrology and Jersey Shore: the cold, stupid infancy of our history.
So, if you think you can defend fighting games as they are, raise those arms, son/sister. Let’s see what you’ve got.
* Actually, it’s most games, except Silent Hill, Skyrim, and so on.
Last Updated: January 11, 2012