I’ve mentioned on this blog before that I sometimes bring my PS4 to work, so that me and my friends can play fighting games before work starts. And sometimes after work. Or not depending on who reads this. But we do. We have a lot of fun.
For the longest time the pair of us have talked about letting the kids who come into the library to play fighting games. The initial plan was Guilty Gear Strive but then I got nervous about some of the character artwork. There was a brief flirtation with Xrd but it turns out some characters swear and sometimes Ino just takes her top off. Then I shifted to Street Fighter, with a focus on Third Strike – of the older games it controls the smoothest and isn’t all that complicated (for kids pressing buttons) – the Alpha series being its own beast (explaining the Ism system – I barely get it). Those games never got played. In fact, tournaments didn’t happen. In part because I’m a terrible salesman, and in part because our old boss would not allow it, so I had to keep it on the down low.
However, thanks to my friend being much better at talking to kids than me, we managed to do 8-person tournament. We did manage to do 4-person tournament before this, but 8 people allows for more play time and more time for patterns to emerge. It’s fun watching people who have not played these games play them – particularly kids and teens (it was two teens and six kids). They make their own meta in real time.
And there was a prize on the line. People will hang around for chocolate. And what game did they play for chocolate? And having fun. Fun was had.
Cha La Head Cha La: Thank Kami for Dragon Ball Fighter Z. Fighter Z has a lot of things going for it. It’s not that violent – all fighting games are inherently violent – but it’s incredibly tame in comparison to other games. It is visually spectacular – the characters look cool, even if people don’t know how to play it looks great in motion and it’s incredibly colourful and vibrant. It works wonders for kids to teenagers to potentially apprehensive parents.
They do be mashing: Another thing Fighter Z has going for it is that it allows people who don’t know about fighting games to do cool stuff. Taking Strive as an example, if you just mash the square button all that will happen is a character will stand in place doing a punch. Do that in Fighter Z and any character will do a full combo. The same applies to all the attacking buttons. Auto combos are wonderful things. In addition, the buttons in Fighter Z are all forward advancing – so if someone struggles with movement they will still be forward moving. All of this let everyone do something cool in a match – regardless of ability. That’s pretty great right there.
Some kids ran with light combos. Some kids ran with heavy and medium stuff. One person, the eventually winner did an excellent job of using heavy kicks and follow up dashes to keep the pressure up. I even saw a few vanishes being used – I didn’t mention those at any point. She did a really good job at figuring out how to keep and maintain pressure. She also did a good job with spacing – she got quite a few whiff punishes. In fact, she only lost her first characters in the final match – a worthy winner through and through.
The Age of Fire: Talking about the meta developing in real time. Some children remembered the X button (PS4 controllers) is used for fireballs. It did not take long for some of those children to figure out they could stand at one side of the screen and pelt the other person with fireballs. Or Ki Blasts, since we are talking about Dragon Ball. This was dealt with varying degrees of success. Some kids died in the corner, others threw ki blasts back and some navigated by their own means. No one complained about spamming or cheating though – so that was nice. In fact, there was no salt at all (at least with Fighter Z – more on that later). I’ll take that. Because to quote the great Infil Fighting Game Glossary on Zoning “Most new players really hate dealing with zoners, usually expressing their frustration by calling you a fireball spammer and unplugging their console.” None of that here.
One of the cool things that happened was that all on their own, some kids figured out that fireballs could be done whilst jumping. This led to an avoiding of fireballs, a development in the fireball war and another way of stopping grounded ki blasts. I now realise, after thinking about it this was real life problem solving in action. A problem was presented, and ways to confront it, circumvent it or negate it were crafted on the fly. That’s pretty cool right there.
Unless Vegeta was picked. Because Vegeta can fire off 17 million ki blasts at once. Grounded or airborne. It can be quite troublesome do deal with. Particularly if a certain someone forgot to explain some mechanics…
Teaching is hard: I explained the basics of the game. That being light, medium and heavy attacks – movement – switching characters – using the bar for supers and blocking. It did not occur to me until I watched the kids play how much I missed. Nothing about anti airs, I cannot remember talking about super dashing, and I did not explain the full complexity of blocking – by which I mean high and low. I also forgot to talk about Dragon Rush. I sometimes forget just how much of these games is learned through time and becomes second nature. I have to be more aware of that. Much more. Lessons for next time. Or maybe I should just teach the basics and let the rest come naturally. I don’t know. Hopefully a good teacher will stop by here and give advice.
Rule of Cool: When it came to picking characters I just told everyone who took part to pick whoever they thought looked cool. When people start out in these games, tier lists essentially mean nothing. If you don’t know to play the game properly yet, then what’s good isn’t known. So, just pick the characters that light a spark inside of you. That’s what happened here. Not a meta team in the bunch. Well, sort of. The winner had Lab Coat 21 run the show from point. Pretty funny in retrospect.
No prior knowledge informed that pick though. Android 21 looks pretty cool, so people ran with her. I can dig that.
One thing I didn’t realise – for the uninitiated it can be hard telling who is on whose team when combat get hectic. Some kids didn’t know who won – I had to check who was on which side to figure out who to advance in the tournament (sometimes actual work stuff came up – how dare). Because the difference between Vegito, Vegeta, Gogeta, Goku and Gohan (and everyone else with spiky hair) isn’t the greatest to those who don’t watch or have not watched Dragon Ball Z. Particularly with fireballs and side switches. This is less of a problem in games like Guilty Gear and Street Fighter. That’s something to think about.
It wasn’t a big problem though. Everyone still had fun. So that was nice.
Blocking works: It’s not fancy, but it works. I made sure to tell everyone about blocking but its usage wasn’t that widespread. And I get that. Combos and supers look cool, blocking less so. But it’s fundamental. It’ll get you far. By blocking some of the time and taking hits when you can, you can easily reach mid rank. I know this because I’ve done this. But it is something that comes with playing a lot. The biggest thing about learning these games is time. Time to sit down and play them regularly. But, with kids just looking to have some fun with friends it’s all good. As long as they are having fun it’s all good. Blocking or no blocking.
Unless someone’s gloating about winning. After the tournament had finished, some other kids wanted to play fighting games and had a crack at Street Fighter 6. One child found dynamic controls and was spamming a combo with Dee-Jay (the other kid’s words). He wasn’t shy about telling the other kids about this. They asked me how to stop it. Behold, holding the back button. I held back with Lily (the character I’ve been playing with at home), and then hit drive impact followed by L1 three times. Rinse and repeat. Not much gloating afterwards.
Good job back button.
After that some kids went back to Dragon Ball – it is a great game for a first timer. The colourful nature of the combat and the characters (and backgrounds now I think about it) and the simplicity of the controls – it’s an easy way in. Also, there was one kid who knew his Dragon Ball – instantly identifying Cooler. That was cool.
All in all, I think we can call the tournament a success. The kids and teens who played had fun. Some said they would come back. Some said they would be willing to try different fighting games. And the winner got come chocolate. Actually, everyone did – we had a bunch left over from Easter Prizes, so it was given out here to all participants. The winner got the most though.
We’ll be trying this again. Hopefully we can make it into a regular thing.