The FGC is changing. I see it in the controllers. I feel it in the netcode. I smell it at the locals. Much that once was still is, for many now play who remember it. It began with the forging of the Great Tournaments. “CEO” was given to the Floridians, unwavering, unstable and grabbing every headline. “Combo Breaker” was given to the Mid-West, barren, lacking fundamentals, 13-0. And “Canada Cup”, Canada Cup was given to the Canadiens, who above all else desire sportsmanship. For within these tournaments was bound the strength and the will to govern each scene. But they were all of them deceived, for another tournament was made. Deep in the suburbs of San Jose and in the fires of Las Vegas, the Dark Lords of the West Coast forged a master tournament, and into this tournament they poured their “hype”, their “swag”, and their will to read everyone’s souls. One tournament to rule them all.
A Dab’ll Do Ya
Even within the midst and heights of my peak days as a smasher, I never really stopped having an interest in more traditional fighters. I dabbled in games like 3rd Strike, Killer Instinct and the Mortal Kombat series. I recall trying to complete the character trials the like of Chun-Li, Akuma, Ken and Dudley in the Street Fighter 3 port on Xbox 360, learning on stick and then later pad. I played Alien casually in MKX with my friends, didn’t even know a combo or how to poke and take my turn back or pressure. I tried to get into Killer Instinct several times over the years and it wasn’t until 2021 that I began to appreciate the game. I attempted to create my own combos with Kung Lao in MK9, thinking it was sick that I could get 30+% juggles using x-ray. How little I knew I could’ve been doing more damage for 1/3 the meter cost. I dipped my toes into some new platform fighters during this time as well, such as Rivals of Aether, Super Smash Flash 2 and Brawlhalla. This habit of wading in the shallow end of the larger fighting game genre pool kindled that fire I had for these games and kept it alive, the embers just wouldn’t go out.
I grew to love watching games outside of my platform fighters, I watched Evo 2016 Top 8 for Street Fighter V on ESPN 2 and Twitch at the same to support the community that I felt was a part, albeit small, of. I saw Infiltration complete his download of Fuudo and Sonic Fox remove his hat, achieving his final form and stopping Tekken Master’s onslaught in Grand Finals of Mortal Kombat X. The next year I bore witness to Tokido’s epic loser’s bracket run and become Punk’s worst fears realized, resetting the bracket and winning two straight sets to claim another world title. I saw Marvel Vs Capcom played on the main stage at Evo for perhaps the last time ever. At the time, I don’t think it even registered just how important the game was, is and always will be to the FGC. I’m grateful to have had that experience. In 2018, Lil Majin’s King slayed gods in the Tekken 7 tournament, en route to 3rd place finish, best ever for an American in Tekken and making the entire United States scene proud. Problem X became the first Brit or American to win the Main Street Fighter tournament at Evo after defeating the reigning champion, Tokido. It was around this time I made a foray into another game that plays extremely loose with the genre’s rules, in fact, some modes of this game, including the main one, are decidedly not fighting game modes at all.
Grabs, Guardbreaks, and Hate Mail
After Evo 2018 I was really motivated to play a fighting game other than Smash and other platform fighters. Although I had access to Killer Instinct, I still couldn’t grasp what made the game so engaging to its dedicated player base and I was also flat broke so I turned to a game I already owned but that doesn’t even necessarily belong in the genre. For Honor. This Ubisoft title’s main game modes revolve around team based combat, doing battle with human controlled opponents and cpus alike. However, the game also has a mode called “duel”, where you can battle 1v1 against another person and this is where the game dips into the fighter genre. It emphasizes movement, grabs/guardbreaks, blocking/parries, unblockable attacks and mixups just like any proper fighting game. For Honor was the first game I attempted to get more than casual with outside of the Smash franchise and was also the first time I had access to to dedicated tutorials and training modes to speed up the fundamental learning process. I settled on the Kensei character, whose gameplan revolved around his access to unblockable and uninterruptible attacks and his ability to cancel into or from these attacks from just about any of his other strikes. Kensei also wielded solid movement and guaranteed punishes off of guardbreaks, a not quite top tier but excellent character. Due to my focused effort I improved at duels very quickly, practicing against others online and watching videos of skilled players of my main to learn new strategies to add to my repertoire. It was this rapid improvement, along with my low rank and mostly unused “Xbox One” I was playing on that lead to many messages calling me a “smurf”, or just complaining and being very salty in general. For a brief time, I considered getting into online duel tournaments, but decided against it due to an uninteresting high level meta. I had a fun and productive experience with the game, beginning to grasp how to jump into a new game and learn strong strategies from the jump. This had prepared me to immerse myself into 2-D fighters yet again with the release of Mortal Kombat 11 in spring of 2019.
MK was one of the franchises that gripped me when I was young and never left, I played through the 3-D era and dabbled in MK9 and MKX, so when the surprise reveal of MK 11 happened in late 2018 early 2019 I was watching and I was impressed with the graphical upgrade over the last title and the new time bending story mode, along with promises of an improved NRS’ rollback netcode and a Konquest inspired Krypt. Although I didn’t play the beta or pre-order, I purchased the game shortly after its release, ready to dig in with my guy Liu Kang. Inspired by some Ninjakilla gameplay and after some research and time spent in practice mode I was eager to find out if MK11 would be the wild thrill ride the previous titles had been. I was thoroughly disappointed by the lack of deep combo trees and how simple the strategy of most characters was, the mostly non existent oki, the recharging meter system and general lack of safe or meter less launchers. On the other hand, the movement and competitive balance was good, Krypt was really engaging and the game looked incredible, but the core gameplay just wasn’t very fun. Gone were the wacky, ridiculous, strong moves and memorable moments ever present on previous titles and in its place was a somewhat bland Street Fighter V inspired mess. MK11 seemed to be the game that comes about from trying way too hard to please very casual fighter players, who often have unwritten rules on how to play the game honorably, such as not using the same move so many times in a row, not throwing your opponent when they block, no zoning, letting them off the ground after a knockdown or letting them out of the corner. Essentially, anything that makes them lose or that doesn’t resemble mashing buttons at point blank range, which is also somehow unacceptable, the lack of logic and hypocrisy from this group of people is astounding. Liu Kang excelled at doing most of the things people hate and when I was playing MK11 I received plenty of direct messages saying so. Between the whiny player base and snooze fest game mechanics I didn’t play this title for very long and turned back to SSBM for a while after this. But during my Mortal Kombat 11 era I was constantly watching gameplay videos and hoping to get my hands on an entirely different NRS game. One that despite some prominent flaws I still play and enjoy currently and remember the strange circumstances that allowed me to get into it finally in spring of 2020.