This week saw the release of Mortal Kombat X, the latest title in that ubiquitous fighting saga that, if nothing else, well popularized the phrase “Get over here!” But this week also marks another Mortal Kombat milestone: the 20th anniversary of the release of Mortal Kombat 3 (MK3). On April 15, 1995, Midway Games released what was then the most highly polished game in this budding series. As is key with fighting game series, MK3 featured a much larger roster of fighters than previous games, and the graphics were pretty darn great, again compared to previous games. It was through MK3 that I became familiar with my all-time favorite fighter, Sindel. It was through MK3 that I actually completed my first fatality. (Having never properly learned any in Mortal Kombat or Mortal Kombat II.) It was through MK3 that I learned about how subtle a fighting game could be, as I had become quite used to mashing my way through a number of Street Fighter games. And it was probably through MK3 that I finally became a fan of the series. But…
…that’s not to say I was any good at it. In fact, I don’t think I would call myself good at any fighting games, even the ones I’ve played over and over. And yet, fighting games appeal to me more strongly than most games; though it’s really the thought of playing them that’s more exciting than actually playing them. And what’s even more exciting than thinking about playing a fighting game is watching two really great players duke it out. It’s a strange relationship to have to a genre, but it remains one that I continually cherish because of the place fighting games have in my gaming life.
Fighting games for me are all about bonding. My younger brother and I bonded over fighting games. Neither of us were big talkers way back when, but nothing could get us more riled up than a few heated rounds of Super Street Fighter II. One of my dearest friends and I bonded over Killer Instinct Gold. We fought on the virtual battlefield and discovered just how much we had in common concerning games and pop culture. My husband and I bonded over fighting games generally, a vast number over the past couple decades. And there’s nothing quite like getting to know what a person is truly like through hadokens and finishing moves. There have been, of course, exceptions to this – I’ve been on the other end of more than one hate-filled stare after beating good players on luck alone – but for the most part, fighting games and positivity have gone hand in hand.
And yet the issue of me as a poor player of fighting games remains. Sure, I can manage my way through a Street Fighter game on muscle memory alone and try my best to not die all the time in Mortal Kombat, but why would I put myself through the paces and thumb pain only to mostly end up on the losing team? Honestly, it’s because I have nothing to prove. Fighting games are my last bastion of gaming nirvana.
I know that sounds a little haughty, but you have to take into account that, as much as I hate to admit it, I can be an angry gamer. Rage quitting is simply a way of life, and, though the levels of rage vary, I do it all the time. Points of frustration can make or break a game for me, and when things have turned the wrong way, I’ve quit and never looked back at some games. This has happened with all manner of games, from the notoriously difficult (Mega Man) to the super rainbow happy (Super Mario World) to the rambunctious open world (Skyrim) to countless, fast-paced adventure games and shooters. All manner of games except fighting games. I’ve never nearly broken a controller playing a fighting game. I’ve never taken an “accidental” swing at my real-life opponent when playing a fighting game. I’ve never rage quit or gotten sincerely angry at a fighting game. Playing a fighting game is, and will hopefully always remain for me a blissful pursuit.
I’m keenly aware of where my strengths and weakness lie in a fighting game and how bad I am at memorizing control schemes. I don’t personally have anything to gain by getting angry in a fighting game – it doesn’t motivate me to do better or want to beat the other player more. Instead, my approach with fighting games has been almost lazy and sinful, especially when you consider just how seriously many take them. Do I care that I don’t know but one Mortal Kombat fatality? Not in the least. Do I care that I may never face M. Bison in a perfectly matched game? Not really. Do I care that by beloved Morrigan may never know her full potential? Nope. I don’t care that I may never become a fighting game champion. What I do care about is providing plenty of entertainment for the other players as they try valiantly to overcome my silliness.
I may never take fighting games as seriously as some players, but that doesn’t mean I can’t love them dearly all the same. I’m looking forward to eventually getting round to Mortal Kombat X, and I’d be happy to play you in a match or two. Just be prepared to…win.
What games/game genres remain for you perpetual sources of happiness despite the fact that you’re no master of them? How about thoughts on fighting games — favorites, least favorites, not on your radar?