The fighting game community: Old school versus the new generation

I was having a conversation with a friend of mine about the reasons why I preferred old school fighting games. He loves SFV and he has become quite good at the game, but I was always reluctant to switch to it. I remember not being much of a fan when I played my first set of casuals in SFV. What? No crouching roundhouse cancelled to hadouken for Ryu? No jumping fierce cancelled midair into Tatsu with Ken? I have to say one thing, there is nothing cooler in the world of fighting games than a Shoto player that is able to keep pressure with the crouching roundhouse cancel to hadouken. That is probably the one aspect of my personal technical accomplishments in Super Turbo that I enjoyed the most. I became good enough to pull off most of the hardest moves and tricks in the game and I can do them in the heat of battle both in live local tournaments and online matches. Just keeping that pressure as strong as possible and never missing a single combo while playing the tight and very difficult footsie game in that particular game.

I have always said that my main reason for linking the old school much more is because it used to be a gaming genre for those who really dedicated their time to master it. When you met someone else who played old school games like SF2 and King of Fighters. You knew they had put in the hours and they had above average reflexes, so it was like a small “elite” group in gaming.

I have to be honest about my knowledge on the old school scene. It has been entirely anecdotal thanks to the old school players from the East and West coasts of the US that I have been able to chat with online in order to get as much insight on it, but my personal experience was very different. I’m from Nicaragua. For those who don’t know, this is a Central American country that is just starting to catch up and prosper after many years of conflict in the 80’s (now the safest in the region). I lived most of my youth and teenage years in Costa Rica, the neighboring country to the south. The point is that both of them had the same level of involvement in the old school gaming scene and that was a big fat 0. The lucky ones would have a friend or two who would choose to learn to play the game at a higher level, but most people had no one to train with in my area.

There was an arcade scene, but it was very small and the guys that learned to play technically didn’t really have enough people to go against to evolve and get better. Most of them stopped playing those fighting games because they felt the competition was too scarce and they simply quit. I almost quit too, until the internet came along and eventually online play for fighting games evolved into an experience that was good enough to keep me motivated. Before some purist jumps out of the bushes to bark at me, I know that even the smoothest online connections can’t compare to online play, but no one can deny that the experience is now good enough to learn a lot by competing against people from all over the world.

If there is one thing I noticed about the old school gaming community, it was that information was only available to those who visited arcades often and they would share tricks and strategies, but there was a sense of secrecy in the community as well. It was all about the guy who managed to discover how to do super cancels first after doing one by mistake during a match. Then the search to do it again began and the technique was perfected, but only a small group of people knew how to do it. It was almost impossible for someone to figure out the most technical things about Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo by just playing against the computer on their Super Nintendo at home. You had to be involved in the community, a community that was quite small even in first world countries.

I can proudly say that the one thing F101 has been able to accomplish as a website and Youtube channel, is that we made all of the old school secrets available to people. You no longer had to visit arcades to learn how to do the extremely tricky and unknown Ryu 3 shorts to super cancel. All you had to do was visit YouTube and watch the tutorial. I had not realized that this was the true reason why Old school fighting games seemed better to me, but it wasn’t really a good reason.

I also noticed that the things I liked about Super Turbo, aren’t really helping develop a stronger dynamic when fighting. Being able to stay safe after so many normals and so many sweep attempts is something impossible now. SFV made it important for you to learn frame data. You can’t just try risky moves and still be safe and that is one aspect of the game that I really enjoy. SFV forces you to learn more theory than execution. I’m not saying the game is not flawed, all games are flawed, they are made by people after all. Some combos are insanely unfair, some characters are way too easy to use effectively and the game makes it too easy for epic comebacks to be possible, but that is beside the point.

That one thing that irritates many players is that you could be a seasoned fighting game player and if you don’t know how the frame traps and general frame data works in SFV, you will get destroyed by a fighting game amateur who has spent the last few weeks just learning the best frame trap combos for his character. This is something that would never happen in other games. You always had the chance to bring your knowledge to a new game, but things have changed in SFV and that is one of the things that makes seasoned players so upset.

From the point of view of a new comer, SFV is a dream come true. Flashy combos without much effort, a very effective comeback system with the V-Trigger and the beauty of learning some basic frame traps to destroy anyone who has yet to learn how to defend against them and punish them, but it’s up to each player to decide if they will learn or just drop the game and play something else.

It seems like the general consensus in the community is that SFV is crap but people play it because that is where the money is. Perhaps we are now entering the era of noob-friendly games and we just have to STFU and adapt to it. The day Capcom sees all SFV players protest against the game by quitting the tournaments and ripping up sponsor paychecks as a sign of protest, then, just then, they might do something about it, but guess what, that is never going to happen. Because someone is always going to take the place of the protesters to pocket the money.

Modern games like SFV have a huge community of people who support it and release even the deepest and most powerful secrets of the game even if this means helping others beat them. The reason is not that we have suddenly felt the urge to be helpful, the reason is that there are 2 things involved in it now that we didn’t have before. The first one is that fighting games have made it to the mainstream and the second reason is the consequence of going mainstream and that is the money involved. Yes, the fighting game community is making people money now and it’s great to see that.

From stick builders and tournament event organizers, to professional players being sponsored by niche brands and people reviewing games and providing live commentary for matches, there is plenty of money to be made and it all seems to be moving faster than ever. This is the reason why you have guys like Daigo Umehara selling a book on how to get good at fighting games. It’s great to see something like that happening. Gone are the days when someone would say the world “sellout” or “you are in it for the money”. Let’s get real, we are all looking to earn a living and those who can earn that income by doing what they love are definitely the happiest and most accomplished.

The point is that information is now widely available for people who want to compete – Not only that, but Capcom saw the value of making the game friendly to casuals by making the inputs more lenient. I was playing Super Turbo casuals with a decent Street Fighter V player a while ago and he wasn’t able to do a dragon punch half of the time, so, there is no denying this changed, but I used to see it as a bad thing and I was doing that because I was experiencing the same thing that a person with a college degree feels when someone who didn’t even finish high school becomes successful and they don’t. I felt like I deserved to be good at fighting games because I had put in the hours to get really good at the technical aspect of the games I played. Then, all of a sudden, everyone seemed to be able to do flashy combos after a few days of practice.

The problem is that this was the wrong mindset to have. You need to adapt to the way the world changes and the modern world gives us information for everything we need and it’s usually free. The guy that went to college to study programming for 5 years, needs to come to terms with the fact that many programmers are just as skilled and they learned programming by using free tutorials on Youtube. This is not an exaggeration. There are many individuals who are now largely successful and they learned everything online. So, that whole “elite” mindset makes no sense anymore. We are all exposed to the same amount of information now. Everyone has a fighting chance with access to how to play fighting games effectively. It’s all up to each person and the level of determination and focus they can achieve when earning how to use that information properly.

I remember the same thing happened to me when I was playing guitar and I reached an above average level in that instrument. I put in the hours and I felt like a top shredder that was able to compete with the best metal guitarists. Then Youtube came along and punched me in the face with a barrage of 9 year old male and female Japanese shredders. Talk about a rude awakening.

The point is that making the games technically easier is not a problem, it’s actually a way to help bring the competition to a higher level and this is even more rewarding now to those who achieve a top levels, both emotionally and financially. We all know that video game companies make the games to earn money, not to entertain us, but every gamer in this world wouldn’t want to have a business that makes a living out of making video games, so to those who bash Capcom for being greedy money makers, please stop and smell the reality pie. A business is meant to make money and they will always cater to the masses instead of the purists and the retro gamers. Sure, some companies will take their chances with old school stuff, but their results will be terrible from a business standpoint

You can choose to stay retro and there is nothing wrong with that, but if you want to be competitive in the modern world, you need to adapt to the changes. The same goes for those who simply want to test their abilities against a large number of opponents, they need to play popular mainstream games because that is where the real competition is going to be.

So, if you are still old school. That is great, I still find SSF2T to be my favorite fighting game ever made, but the problem is that I was being a snob about it and this was making me bash the new games without giving them a good chance and by following first impressions of how different they felt. Just make sure that you are avoiding new games for the right reasons.

In conclusion – new games are not better, they are simply different and they aim to allow a larger number of people to pick them up and perform high damage combos with ease. This makes it easier for them to focus on learning to use the footsies, the zoning and the frame data, all of which is also available for everyone who wants to learn it.