Thoughts on Street Fighter After Two Years

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It is now May 2016, which means it has been two years since I began my Street Fighter journey. After watching Maximilian’s ridiculously hype videos of Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike matches in 2014, I caved in and decided I had to be part of that hype. I bought 3rd Strike for the Xbox 360, asked my friend Drew for advice on how to play, and the rest is history.

I played a lot of 3rd Strike. Not a whole lot, not nearly enough to actually get good, but a lot for me, personally. I set aside whole afternoons to practicing combos or seeking online matches. I watched countless hours of 3rd Strike matches online and took notes. I filled notepad files with numbers and information about my favorite characters. I invited Drew over numerous times just so we could play long sets and learn more about the game.

I began treating 3rd Strike like a sort of social therapy for myself. All my life I’ve been terrified of competitive gaming, and what game is more competitive than a 1-on-1 fighter? Playing Street Fighter against strangers online was a terrifying prospect, and I hoped that by doing it a lot I’d be able to overcome my fear and realize that it wasn’t a big deal. This sort of worked. I stopped being terrified by online opponents, but I started being bummed out by them. After spending a long afternoon getting schooled by ridiculously good players, it dawned on me just how high the skill ceiling was in 3rd Strike and how long I had to go before I could really start enjoying the online experience. I had players telegraph every single one of my moves and end rounds in the blink of an eye. I had players destroy me for both rounds by doing nothing but sweeps or knock me out with taunts. It was simultaneously infuriating and awe-inspiring.

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I began to feel bad whenever I went online, as I could tell when players were sick of whooping me and getting hungry for a real challenge. I really wanted to put up a good fight and give the online players some hype 3rd Strike matches, but I was often dealing with players with over a decade of experience and unfathomable work ethics. Or just players who were really damn good.

Drew told me that 3rd Strike was not a great place to start getting into fighting games. It’s way different from other Street Fighter titles and carries a cult following of players with tons of experience. It also didn’t help that the character I ended up falling in love with – Remy – is widely considered to be one of the worst characters in the game. I was going nowhere fast. I was dabbling in 3rd Strike. And you can’t dabble in 3rd Strike. You either dedicate yourself to it or move on to something else. I needed to develop fundamentals, improve my execution, improve my adaptability, work on my footsie game, work on my parrying, stop dropping combos and missing punish opportunities… and instead I was playing every two weeks or so just to make some silly compilations to put on YouTube.

My social anxieties began catching up to me, and the concept of my “3rd Strike Diaries” videos was starting to make me nervous, as I felt weird about uploading videos of other players without their permission. Would they be upset if they found the video? I made sure to be as respectful to them as possible in the videos, but if somebody uploaded a video of me losing in an embarrassing manner, I don’t think I’d be too happy about it! I was also having trouble recording matches in which I actually won or at least played decently well, and the idea of uploading a “Sean Loses at 3rd Strike” compilation was just depressing.

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So in spite of how much I loved the concept and design of 3rd Strike, I wasn’t having much fun with it by the end of the first year. I still LOVED watching Maximilian or other experienced players have some hype matches, but I was beginning to begrudgingly accept that I most likely wasn’t going to be part of that hype – at least not until I developed some fighting game fundamentals and really started practicing. I continued to dabble in 3rd Strike as the months went by, but I mainly played arcade mode or sets with Drew. My 2nd chance to dive into the fighting game community arose, however, when Street Fighter V hit the scene and the playing field was leveled once again! Well, sort of. I still sucked at Street Fighter, but at least I wouldn’t be running into players who knew the game inside and out.

I got really excited about Street Fighter V… for a few weeks. I started learning some Ryu combos, winning some online matches, and discussing the game with friends. I started to feel like I was part of a “thing” and could actually call myself a SFV player. Then I slammed into my skill ceiling. After ranking up, my online opponents suddenly became an insurmountable force. My lack of fundamentals became glaringly obvious as I flailed desperately at savvy opponents who could train me like a dog and exploit my every weakness. And as I sat in the darkness of my living room, hunched over my controller and staring at the YOU LOSE text on screen, I realized that… I wasn’t having fun.

I love Street Fighter. I think it’s cool. I love watching it. I’m glad it exists. But it’s not for me. As someone who wants to play every video game in the world before they die, the idea of dedicating myself to a game for years is crazy. I never liked competitive gaming in the first place, and it seems that no amount of dedication or overexposure will change that. Mortal Kombat 3 is one of my favorite games of all time, and I’ve played it against another human maybe three times in over ten years. Player-vs-player matches have never been what I like about fighting games. I like memorizing moves, practicing combos, doing cool-looking things, and figuring out how to beat the AI. Fighting other players just makes me nervous, stresses me out, and saddens me when I realize that my skill level just isn’t high enough to really get the most out of it. And the kicker is: I don’t really want it to be. I have no interest in going to tournaments or really investing myself in the scene. A tournament? Are you kidding me?! Playing live in front of a big group of judging eyes?! Ack!!!

All I ever wanted was to sit at home and have some good one-on-one fights, and I can do that in arcade mode without all the stress and work. With fickle interests and a short attention span catching up to me, it’s finally time to stop lying to myself and just admit that I’m not going to be a “Street Fighter player”. I’ll still play 3rd Strike to press some Remy buttons and goof around in arcade mode, but there will be no more videos and no more online matches for me. I can’t dedicate a bunch of time to Street Fighter – I’ve got, like, 10 other games I need to get around to playing! 10 other relaxing, competition-free games that I can just… chill out… and… plaaaaayyyyyyy…..

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