Why I Left MMORPGs for Fighting Games
Date Published: 16 December, 2018
As the video game landscape expanded throughout the years, the ability to keep up with the trends became harder and harder as there were simply too many games to play, and just not enough time to get to them all.
Therefore, as a video game player, my preferences shifted from participating in the endless new game release race, to focusing on a specific genre in gaming. A journey that began with the fighting game genre, tailed off to the MMO space, only to return home to fighting games once again.
It is no secret that fighting games as a genre in video games is quite small compared to the mainstream gaming trend. However, the special quality of fighting games is that they hold different meanings to almost all of the descriptive terms in modern gaming.
Fighting games may not be open world, but its community certainly is one. Fighting games traditionally are not free-to-play, but some of its player base can be considered quite free. The genre is not known for including incredible narratives, but its history and legacy will not be easily forgotten.
The list can keep going forever, however, the message it conveys is a simple one; fighting games walk to the beat of their own drum, and no one else’s. While the fighting game genre may be small, its community is grand.
Perhaps it is the extreme accountability fighting games require, or their simple concept, yet difficult climb to proficiency, or even an amalgamation of factors like less direct goals, license recognition, etc. Fighting games have proven to be for individuals looking to start a challenging long term journey, not a casual walk in the park.
The ability to compete and challenge myself both against the games hardest difficulty ladder mode, as well as face worthy adversaries in local arcades, who would often become both friends and rivals, was the best gameplay loop a fighting game player could wish for.
However, like all good things, even fighting games can’t peak forever, which was something experienced by many, myself included, with the eventual dissolution of arcades, and offline venues the FGC often recognized as a second home.
As the gaming industry shifted its focus more on online incorporation, and fighting games going through a stretch known in the FGC as the “fighting game dark age”, with an unclear future ahead of it. I decided to open the door to a new genre gaming, and considering my dedication and focus to fighting games, the only comparable genre I could consider worthy of time investment was the constantly growing realm and ever popular MMORPG genre.
My MMORPG journey had only a few, but memorable stops along the way. My introduction to the genre was with the then immensely popular MapleStory, a game which I ended up dedicating countless of hours on, and by far my most played game in the genre.
The appeal of MapleStory, similar to fighting games, was its self-accountability. In a somewhat underdeveloped era, players had very few options to gain the upper hand at high levels. There were those who were recognized as the best, but parody certainly still existed.
The sense of community during that time was perhaps the game’s best attribute, despite it being different from fighting games in which competition wasn’t the focus, but rather everyone had a common goal, and shared the same hardship of climbing up the unforgiving leveling tree.
However, as MapleStory continued to evolve, and change, along with slowly losing my connection with both the community and game’s appeal, I dabbled in other MMORPGs that I felt had somewhat captivating features.
The game I attempted to recapture MapleStory’s magic with was the MMORPG then known as Ghost Online. The usage of similar character design and class system to MapleStory’s gave off a certain feeling of comfort, as well as having more of an arcade style combat system which allowed for unrestrictive mobility and fast paced gameplay.
In addition to Ghost Online, the other MMORPG pit-stop I made during the MapleStory era, was with Talisman Online. Unlike the previous two aforementioned, Talisman Online lured me in by featuring 3-D character design and combat that reminded me of fighting games.
However, whatever fire MapleStory began, could not be rekindled by its replacements, or even with its updated self. Despite its preferred combat system, Ghost Online’s scarce community was the root of its eventual downfall, as the North American server shut down shortly after my last login to the game.
In addition, Talisman Online’s inviting character visual and combat could not excuse its repetitive and linear questing system and leveling structure, eventually leading me to quit the game for good. The fate of its two prospective replacements consequently left me with only one option. The original MMORPG I began my journey with—MapleStory.
However, similar to the special era I enjoyed with fighting games during my arcade days, MapleStory’s golden era also came to an end. In hindsight, the quality that fighting game’s lacked during the time I spent away from them, was something that MMORPGs had an abundance of, and that was the sense of community.
Though, the quality that was void in MMORPGs—a form of honest individual competition, was practically the definition of fighting games. Therefore, I elected to return to my old home in fighting games, in hopes that the community aspect returns with time, which was something I witnessed happen during my reentry to the genre, with the FGC’s impressive growth and near rejuvenation during the SFIV era.
Lastly, and despite being once again fully committed to the fighting game genre for a few years since my return. I attempted to give the MMORPG genre one last chance as somewhat of an homage to the fond memories I had experienced with the genre in the past.
The MMORPG Black Desert Online, on paper had everything it needed to capture my attention. As it is one of the most impressive visuals I’ve experienced in any game, let alone MMORPGs, as well as it featured some character designs akin to fighting game characters, and even some combination based combat mechanic.
Though, despite being remarkable in many ways, the result was one and the same. The sense of community was simply not there as the gameplay loop was more so geared towards simple character enhancement, within any means attainable.
Additionally, the gameplay may resemble something seen in fighting games, however, due to its PvE nature, the combat posed more so the question “When is it going to happen?” rather than “Will it happen at all?”
In conclusion, this is not to say that all MMORPGs are linear experiences done in solitary or that all fighting games encompass a sense of close community and feature gameplay depth. However, as a visitor of one, and resident of the other, my experience with both was still quite valuable, and the time I spent with each is something I’ll never regret.