Fighting games are notorious for being difficult and borderline inaccessible, with a community that seems comfortable alienating newer players.
Breaking into the fighting game community often requires either a mentor to serve as a guide, or absolute sheer force of will on behalf of players. What’s worse, the fighting game community can occasionally be very clique based, with new players judged for their lack of knowledge, fledgling skill, and naive attitude and expectations, but would being easier make a big difference in changing this?
The biggest obstacles for new fighting game players is other players
Fighting games are usually set up as a one-versus-one environment, with the only obstacle to victory being the other player. As a result, the fighting game community has embodied this harsh outlook and rough personality. In a game, anything bad for the opponent is good for you, an inherent zero-sum game which makes antagonism part and parcel to the community.
While there are some efforts from fighting game content creators to help new players make navigate the hostile environment, the nature of the games means that even the most good natured mentors eventually come to the conclusion that new players will eventually have to deal with tough lessons, have their egos shattered, and harden themselves if they ever expect to stick around.
But this may not necessarily be the only way for fighting games to function, and if the games can change then maybe the community can as well.
What would an “easier” fighting game look like?
One suggestion floated around by EventHubs editor John “Velociraptor” Guerrero is that fighting game developers could take into account the new player experience with regards to things like animations and how the game looks and feels when played with lower precision.
But there is more to this than a sense of looking and feeling better for newer players. It’s true that some fighting games have an innate clunkiness that can make them a chore to play for new players who often struggle to understand how specific button presses relate to specific actions on screen (looking at you, Tekken 7).
But Guerrero does land one point which is vital, game developers shouldn’t focus on making it so new players can expect to tackle veterans in just a few weeks, they should instead make sure the game plays well when played at a low level.
Most fighting games are meant to be played between two players of similar skill, but these games can often devolve into awkward moments of seemingly random actions when played by totally new players.
Perhaps the single best series fighting game developers can look to when trying to figure out how to make their fighting games more accessible is the Super Smash Bros. series. With just two attacks and a myriad of directional input, it’s incredibly easy for new players to pick up Super Smash Bros. and at least understand the relationship between their actions and their character’s.
This simple facet makes it so that new players never get lost in a flurry of confusing or similar actions. Of the more traditional fighting games, Street Fighter comes to mind with it’s unique six-button layout.
While Street Fighter has its own array of complex and problematic features, it can still function as a good entry point into fighting games if only because it’s very simple to understand how “heavy kick” is different from “medium punch.”
How playing online changes what fighting games need to do
Another modern dilemma he touches on is how fighting games differ today from back when they were mostly played at arcades. Most players play online, meaning there is much more tenuous connection to the fighting game community when playing.
When playing online, it can be easy to forget or ignore the fact that the player’s playing against you are other people, somewhere out there in the world trying to do the same thing as you.
Every victory means someone else’s defeat, and every loss can make players feel more and more isolated from the rest of the fighting game community.
With no one to teach new players, and no joy to be had in losing to anonymous players on the internet, it’s much easier for new players to hang up their controller and skip out on the genre as a whole.
To this end, fighting games need to find new ways to encourage players to keep playing, push past the losses, and help them out when the game gets tough.
This doesn’t mean making mechanics that allow new players to compete with veterans who have been playing the same series for two decades, it means helping new players grow beyond the novice stage.
If fighting games can help them identify why they lose, teach them solutions, and encourage them to learn new skills, and provide short term goals for players to accomplish that don’t rely on just winning games, that would go a long way towards making both fighting games and the fighting game community a more accessible place.Published 04 Jan 2021, 04:15 IST