Round One…Ready, Fight!

I got very into fighting games at one point. I always had a semi-adversarial relationship with them while younger – I thought that a brainy guy like me would never be any good at fast-paced motion-centric games like those. Well, I was right and I was wrong at the same time. I did indeed get quite good at them, but at the same time I couldn’t do what was the most important thing of them all – think less, focus more.

I’m sure everyone remembers Street Fighter? C’mon, you can’t not know Street Fighter. Even my Dad once said “I know Ryu, I know Ken, I know Chun-Li.” I used to play Street Fighter a bit when I was a kid but I only got really into fighting games later in my life.

My poor sister had to listen to lots of that. All my tales of combos and techniques and strategy. She was never that interested but she listened all the same. She could always tell where I was coming from even if the subject matter didn’t click with her.

Have I mentioned that I’ve always loved arcades? I think it’s natural for a gamer. The flashing lights, the crash and bang of explosions in the background. Racing games, rhythm games, fighting games and more – a cacophony of light and sound which can be overwhelming but is always intoxicating.

This is a good time to mention Waffle. No, that’s obviously not his real name, but I’ve actually forgotten what that was. He would come over every Saturday to play Guilty Gear with me. We tried out this character and that and he whatever happened he was a good sport about it. One day I was trying a particularly tricky move and he said that he would call me God if I did it. I did it five times in succession. He looked at me and said without hesitation “you are God!” Nice guy, utterly without pretensions of any kind.

I’m mentioning him because well…there was precious little fun in those days and he could always be relied on for a game or two. Thanks Waffle. (and seriously I’m sorry we called you Waffle!)

I was always too analytical to be really good. I thought WAY too much when I played, which resulted in me doing the same things over and over which led to an inevitable loss. Yup, OCD again, appearing in the unlikeliest of places. I had the strategy and the tactics but not the presence of mind or the requisite focus.

But they were fun. I think the thing I took away from fighting games was that I really did want to win. Every young man needs a focus for his attention and competitive spirit, and fighting games were what I used at that time. Gamer that I was I never thought of running or badminton or tennis or whatever it is that non-gaming folks did.

In the end I think it was never finding a game that really suited me that killed my interest in the genre. Super Smash Brothers had the free-form combat that I loved, (I must have played the original for at least two hundred hours with my friends) but it wasn’t deep enough (though the latest installments have corrected that problem) Street Fighter had the tactical depth but lacked a certain something. Guilty Gear (my poison of choice at that time) was definitely a great fighter but there were just some things I didn’t like about it (like the art style) I think that if I had come in sooner, I might have stuck with SSF Turbo (which is still played at a competitive level) but yeah, It doesn’t matter now anyway.

I still love fighting games (especially fighting game girls!) and I do sometimes watch an odd match video now and then. I think the exhilaration, the thrill, the strategy of one-on-one combat is unmatched in gaming even today. When it all comes together, when you read your opponent just right and BAM he eats a twenty-hit combo…nothing like it. But I don’t think it was ever meant to be my world.

I had a lot of good times back then. I did dispel this illusion that I had held from my childhood that “brainy guys are no good at fighting games.” If did not have all that muscular tension in my fingers and arms I would have been much, much better, maybe even regional to world-class – but that would have been a completely different life. At the top of my game I could beat almost any standard competitor who came into the arcade, but I would autolose to any serious one. Which, looking back on it now, wasn’t a bad place to be.

But actually before the fighting game period was Diablo 2. I played a whole lot of D2 at one point (most gamers did) and I was again looking for the Holy Grail – play games and be paid for it. This time it took the form of wanting to sell rare items from enemies on the open market. I never actually sold anything from D2. After all my hard work one day I just quit. It wasn’t worth it.

Playing D2 was…not one of the better experiences of my life. I can’t even remember when I did it, I think it was somewhere after the suicidal period and my work but before cosplay? Yeah, that sounds about right. It was just something that I did to pass the time. I can’t even remember if I was on medication or not. It wasn’t a bad game by any means but most of my days there were spent “go cow go cow” and “kill the baal” (if you’ve ever played D2 you’ll know exactly what I mean, if not let’s just say that Koreans don’t speak very good English.) Not very inspiring or enlightening stuff – it was actually downright repetitive and BORING most of the time – but once again, slaying demons onscreen kept the real ones at bay.

Much as I was quite depressed that I had sunk to such depths, sometimes we’re just in a bad place and we can accept that. I can accept it now though I sure raged at myself then (more internalized criticism!) I did make a few good friends in D2, including Cadsuane, a mother of two who played the most badass Amazon ever. In a game dominated by gear and stats she kicked serious ass with substandard equipment and no Buriza. Cads if you are reading this you have my respect forever. (even if you and your husband weren’t as careful with the content of the chat channels as the rest of us would have liked…)

Cadsuane was part of a community known as the Amazon Basin. They were some of the most responsible, mature and nice gamers that I had ever met, and it was a pleasure to know them. I would join them again in later years for WoW, Guild Wars and Aion, stay and while and then leave. They were a community that I never grew to really be a part of, but yet who I respected and admired a great deal – especially when they solicited donations for one of their members who had cancer.

I guess I did learn something from D2 after all. I learnt that more powerful than any gear, sword, or gun was the amazing power of maturity. Later throughout the many other online games and MMOs I would play I would remember this lesson well. Recruit only the best – and by that I meant only the most cooperative and effective. Those who could communicate, who could take responsibility and delegate it equally well. Forget that kid on the street with the latest shiny toys, you wanted the Mums and Dads with at least two kids (that meant their marriage was stable, always a good sign) who could kick ass and still complete the dungeon with time to spare to change Junior’s nappy.

I played Starcraft as well. Heck I think EVERYONE played Starcraft at one point. I mean it’s South Korea’s national sport! I think I even played it back when I was still in school?

I never really got into it and never really enjoyed it. I’m just not an RTS player. I played it because I played well…everything at that time. I liked JRPGs and anime a whole lot more. I figured I would give this Starcraft thing a shot and I did and it wasn’t for me.

I would love to recount epic battles and replays here but there are none. I was so crappy I got totally trashed by almost anyone. The most interesting thing I can recount is being mistaken for a Greek person (my handle was Cthalos, which apparently is Greek or means something in Greek) and being asked to join a game in which everyone spoke Greek. All I can say is that well…it was all Greek to me. (yeah yeah I know, that’s the lamest pun in this book I will inflict upon you, don’t worry)

I played some Counterstrike and Halo at one point. Nope, not a FPS guy either. Though I did learn I was not as terrible as I thought I was, which was nice. My shining moment during CS was taking a shotgun and running into a tunnel and just blowing the crap out of everyone…to discover when the dust cleared that I had gunned down almost as many friendlies as enemies. Ah well. (I got booted from that game.)

I guess this chapter is meant to illustrate that not all games in my life were some holy and sacred experience. Sometimes they were just…games, and not very good ones at that! I can’t count the amount of stinkers I’ve played among the FF6s and Phantasy Star 2s. Some were just average and not really worth writing about. Some I just don’t have enough space to talk about here. Games are games – and just like everything, there are good and bad ones.

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