January 2, 2013

Buttonmasher’s Circle: Discipline In Fighting Games

Ignore your first person shooters and free roam adventure games on the shelf for a second and observe the art of the modern fighting game.

The formula for a solid fight is as clear today as it was decades ago when Street Fighter and Tekken were played with furious speed and meticulous button mashing at the arcade. Punch, Kick, and Blocking your way to a shiny perfect victory was the motive of every gamer with a few quarters in their pocket, each one sure that their glory would not be denied.

It was the absolute best place to be for fun and fond memories with your best friends and worst enemies.

In those days, fighting games were a social revolution: Got fifteen minutes before school? Let’s hit the arcade! Just got released from third period Spanish and you have an hour to kill? You better haul it to the arcade. This was the place that people preferred to spend their Friday nights and weekends when work and school didn’t demand their time.

We should all take note of the fact that the competitive nature of the crowd was as dominant back then as it is today. These kids were as serious about victory against an opponent as Rocky Balboa was about beating Apollo Creed. The skill needed to perform the best combos required much patience and skill, and any mishap in their sequence was punished with a soul crushing defeat.

It wasn’t acceptable to mash the button so violently that you couldn’t count the amount of jabs that you took at the target: Time and space was life threatening in the hands of an unskilled player.

Skill: This is an aspect of fighting games that Capcom has always kept closely in mind. If you’ve ever played Street Fighter than you know how frustrating a button combo is. Street Fighter has a reputation in the gaming industry for utilizing time between successive hits as a reward to the player. That reward is not getting trapped in an inescapable combo.

Street Fighter isn’t the only game that pays attention to these aspects. While we consider it an intensely difficult fighting game, we forget that it is stuck within the confines of a 2D plane.

What if we looked at the Ninja Gaiden series? Other than the third installment, Ninja Gaiden also has a reputation for being incredibly difficult. Since it’s in 3D perspective, we can examine its structure. Ninja Gaiden is one of the only games I’ve seen that implements all angles of 3-Dimensional space; effectively portraying a realistic environment that players can envision the difficulty of being a Ninja Assassin. Even more impressive is that this environment is completely unforgiving of your personal space and time.

I believe that what sets it apart from other fighting games is that the developers are hardly bothered with mapping out a path to a straight victory. Hardly any breaks are given to the lighthearted, and owing to that behavior, we can safely assume that only the persistent and committed can reach the end of the game.

Persistence and commitment, which we are not usually asked for in the games that we play. Is it that amount of work that helps us to grow closely attached? It is the discipline, however, that I seem to love the most.

Let’s examine Batman: Arkham City, a game that, like its predecessor, is structured with what’s been called the best fighting system in modern video games.

What makes the system stand out from every other game is that the end of each battle is the only way to recover lost health. Experience from fighting is literally your life’s blood force. Not only this, but your commitment to time management will be a reward in combat moves.

Consistently mashing at your controller will result in the failing of a combo multiplier, and ultimately your score from a fight. This is intriguing, owing to the fact that to abandon your button mashing tendencies is to abandon your hastiness and anger. The game is literally teaching us to control our anger and frustration.

A fighting game that is giving us lessons in life; lessons as crucial on a video game screen as they are in real life.

There should be no doubt in your mind that at this given point in time we have a reasonably healthy selection of well structured games to iron out the art form of fighting. I only hope that future games continue to give us as many disciplinary lessons as Batman and Ninja Gaiden have.

Image Credit: Photos.com

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