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How to learn and start playing a fighting game

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Modified 08 Aug 2020, 01:25 IST

Learning a fighting game is like learning an instrument. It takes time, practice, dedication, and that’s just to get started. Once you’ve gotten past the first stage, that’s when the real challenge awaits. But getting started and learning the game is a challenge already, and if you’re struggling with how to approach a fighting game this method might help you.

Step one, picking a fighting game

If you’re already thinking about learning a fighting game, you might have one in mind. But in case you don’t you should go ahead and take a look here to see what some of the options available to you are.

Different games are going to emphasize and reward different playstyles, skills, and strategies. Additionally, some fighting games are easier to learn than others. Whether you’re an experienced fighting game player or looking to learn your first one, careful selection can help you avoid frustration and find the right fighting game community for you.

For this article, I will be using Tekken 7 as my example as it is the fighting game that I am currently learning.

Step two, picking a character


Every major fighting game has a roster of characters that range from the easy-to-use beginner friendly characters, to the more advanced technique dependent characters. It’s important to note, however, that this does not mean that a harder character is always better, or that an easier character requires less skill to perform well.

Instead, these simply refer to how good you have to be in order to play with intentionality. Intentionality, as explained by Core-A-Gaming, is what happens when you stop having to think about how to play your character and start thinking about what you want to do instead.

If you’re new to the specific type of fighting game, like I am with 3D fighters, then it can help to pick a more basic character to learn the fundamentals of the game. For Tekken 7, I read articles written by the community and watched video content about how each character plays, and settled on Leo for this purpose.

Step three, the absolute basics


Once you’ve chosen a character, load them up into training mode and experiment with the absolute basics. Press all the buttons, look at the command list, try moving around, and just feel how the character plays. You won’t know anything about what’s good or useful yet, but it’s good to get a feel for the character to make sure you’re comfortable playing them.

Afterwards, check online for what information is already available for your character. If the game is new, this might be difficult, but fortunately Tekken 7 has been played competitively for years, decades if we include older versions of Tekken.

At this point, I like to look at some beginner combos to learn what moves string together and practice them in training mode for a bit. This helps build the muscle memory needed to play the game and helps you understand how attacks string together in your chosen fighting game.

After you’ve learned how to sequence your attacks to form basic combos, try playing a few games against an AI opponent to see if you can perform those combos against something that moves and fights back. Make sure you can do this regardless of which side you are on. If you can, it’s time to move on from the absolute basics.

Step four, learning the character

Playing a character in a fighting game is more than just the first combo you learned and knowing how to press buttons. In a real match you may never have a chance to land that combo, and most of the game might be decided through pokes and jabs.

At this point, I like to see how the character is played by experienced players. In this case, I look up who the best Tekken players are and find a player called Masa who plays Leo competitively. Find someone who plays the character you’re interested in playing and watch them play a few games.

Take note of what options they use throughout the game. What do they do when their opponent is far away? What about a medium distance? What about up close? At this point, I watch Masa play in a fighting game tournament and try to identify every attack used by Leo.


After learning what is used, I then try to identify why those were chosen. For this, look up the frame data for your chosen fighting game, if it’s available. Frame data is an important part of playing almost any fighting game. If you don’t know what frame data is, or how to read it, take a moment to learn about frame data.

With the frame data in mind, I learn that most of the moves used by Masa were meant to fulfill a specific role. Either they were safe (unpunishable when blocked) or they were good in that situation (had to be blocked a specific way). By now, I understand some of the moves my character wants to use, and why. This will help me make my own decisions about when to use each one.

Step five, in depth character breakdowns

However, Masa did not use every tool available to Leo in the matches I watched, and even if he did I still wouldn’t understand all of it. At this point, it’s time to find someone who can explain the character and what they’re trying to do in more detail.

Because my chosen fighting game has a big enough community, I was able to find someone who explained many of Leo’s moves and why to use them. At this stage, I like to take everything explained and try them out in training mode again, in order to build that muscle memory and start understanding the theory behind my chosen character. 

This is a long process, but I find it helpful to know that there’s a purpose behind every action I do.

Step six, find a person or group to play with


The best people to play a new fighting game with are others who are learning that fighting game as well. This way, you can share tips and learn organically. However, sometimes there aren’t enough new players to learn the game with, and if that’s the case you’ll want to do the next best thing.

Find an online community for your chosen fighting game. In this case, join a discord group for your game and mention that you are new and looking to learn the game.

Don’t expect to win, just try to note how a real player moves and acts in a game. And don’t be afraid to ask questions, even really simple ones like how to block or side step.

Once you’ve completed these six steps, all that’s left is to stick to the game. You will improve with time, and the game will reward the effort you put into it.

Published 07 Aug 2020, 21:30 IST
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