What Does It Mean to Be a Fighting Game Player?

What Does It Mean to Be a Fighting Game Player?
Date Published: 22 January, 2018

Fighting games are a home to a very specific type of video game player, and while that same home may get various visitors from time to time, it’s the players that decide to become residents that make it special.

Unlike other competitive video game landscapes, the community that makes up fighting games is somewhat wired differently when compared to communities that make up first-person shooters like Counter-Strike, MOBAs like League of Legends, or even card games like Hearthstone.

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Qudans lifting his trophy after winning Tekken 7’s 2017 World Finals.

From an insider’s perspective, the only common denominator that the fighting game community (FGC) shares with the multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA), collectible card game (CCG), and first-person shooter (FPS) communities respectively is competition.

Despite the goal of winning for anything that is labeled competitive, the thought process and “inside baseball” that goes through a fighting game player’s mind, is a great deal different than that of players of other competitive games.

Before anything else, the initiation process of most, if not all fighting games, will be the defining factor of whether or not new players decide to stick around. While it’s not a written law, there is somewhat of an unspoken rule across all fighting games—no free passes.

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Professional Tekken 7 player (Knee) not giving agree pass to a novice online Bryan Fury player.

New players jumping onto the competitive fighting game scene with a considerable lack of knowledge are often the victims for the game’s hardcore players. The role the hardcore community plays in the beginning stages of newcomer’s journey is not one of a mentor, but a motivator.

The no free pass rule can be considered as a community implemented filter, and although it may seem harsh to outsiders of the FGC that experienced players hold newcomers accountable according to their skill, it is somewhat of a necessity in order to maintain a fighting game’s integrity.

However, by implanting this initiation process, the players that do stick around and wish to learn more after going through countless of losses, and humiliating rounds, are the ones that earn the Fighting game community’s respect.

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One of many examples of how non FGC members reacted to early DBFZ news.

It is without a doubt that the FGC is very prideful, but ironically enough losing is not a matter that often hurts that pride, as true fighting game players are often more concerned with what they did wrong, rather than becoming frustrated with the result of losing. Though with that said, the thing that perhaps hurts the FGC’s pride the most, is when either our community or our beloved fighting games are treated with disrespect.

Another unspoken rule for the FGC has to do with respect, and while there are many situations in which it comes to play, from constantly going for a reversal, to taunting in-between rounds, to even refusing a handshake, the biggest break of the respect rule considering the passion the FGC has for fighting games is when a fighting game is not represented in a respectable light.

The most recent example of this issue has to do with the highly anticipated Dragon Ball FighterZ (DBFZ), a true authentic fighting game using an extremely popular license in Dragon Ball. The disrespect mentioned towards the FGC and DBFZ is derived both from general fighting game ignorance, to fans of the series simply wanting to complain.

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Daigo Umehara’s parry reversal against Justin Wong at EVO 2004 will be a moment referenced in the FGC for many years due to the high skill it required.

Taking DBFZ’s reception in mind among not only the hardcore fighting game crowd, but the mainstream gamer as well, it is likely that the title will do quite well out of the gate, however, considering the referenced disrespect towards the FGC and its tendency to “initiate” newcomers, it is quite foreseeable that many inexperienced players will be up for a rude awakening.

However, it will be no different of an experience than any other FGC member that chose to ride it out when they first started, and to counteract the disrespect, there is nothing the FGC appreciates and respect more than fighting game knowledge, prowess, and a display of skill.

It is perhaps because the FGC values fighting games to such a high degree, that when newcomers bring a mentality that is perceived foreign compared to the standard fighting game player mindset, it is taken as disrespect.

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Mr. Naps (Jimmy J Tran) is a highly respected American Tekken player because of his high level play with a complicated and execution heavy character in Bryan Fury.

The FGC is known for having an admiration for players who put in the work to become successful, not only from a direct gameplay standpoint, such as execution and character awareness, but expansive knowledge, such as understanding terminology, studying frame data, learning match-ups, becoming comfortable with the game’s meta, and many other factors that make up a fighting game players’ mentality.

Taking everything into consideration, it is safe to say that fighting game players are somehow molded to think differently when thinking of other competitive communities, and especially when compared to leisure gamers.

If nothing else, fighting games teach extreme accountability. It is personal skill and knowledge vs. personal skill and knowledge. There are no excuses for losing, only areas to improve and problems to solve.

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One of Daigo Umehara’s very powerful quotes in his fighting game inspired book—The Will to Keep Winning.

When players cease to think along the lines of “At least I didn’t get perfected.” And “Why would he just keep doing lows?” to “What did I do wrong that led me to getting perfected.” And “How do I counter his of abuse lows attacks?”, It is then when the mentality of players changes.

We might be small in scale, but the FGC is a special community to be a part of, because there is cohesiveness despite playing different games and supporting particular players.

The FGC somehow managed to have the mentality of a fighting game player understood without having it to be explained, and while I was once a visitor, making fighting games my home although wasn’t easy, it is a decision I will never regret.

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