Where do we go from here?

I’m riding the bus into work reading about the new Soul Calibur game. It looks fun, it’s going to be a single player beat ’em up focused on story. It’s going to be free to play which is another interesting trend that fighting franchises are taking lately. I’ve never played LoL but from what I understand of it it sounds like they might be trying to follow that model.

I’m reading quotes like:

“They didn’t like playing against other people – when you lose it’s not exactly a great feeling. So we decided to tailor something to this player base.”

and

“Soul Calibur fans really want to look at the characters and enjoy the atmosphere, and we had an overwhelming response in that direction, so that’s why we chose that.”

All I can think in response to that is… How did we get here?

***

When I first discovered Tekken I was in high school. I didn’t really play fighters other then SSF2 for Sega Genesis back in the day & the odd jaunt into SF2T on SNES at other people’s houses. Tekken was a brand new thing to me, like the evolution of the fighting game. Amazing graphics, hugely deep gameplay, three dimensional movement… it was exciting like the way playing Grand Theft Auto 3 for the first time was exciting. It felt like the next jump in video gaming and another step closer to having a Holodeck (which is what we all really want, c’mon).

Tekken 4 came out and I had a group of buddies to play with but it quickly became obvious that I had a much higher level of enthusiasm about the game when I started going ton TZ a lot, downloading vids from the ftp, and generally trying to get better. My buddies weren’t ready for that kind of commitment and eventually I was a player on an island. I tried my hand at community organizing after meeting the guys from Tekken Canada but looking back on it I just really didn’t understand what was involved in that nor would I have been willing to commit to it even if I did.

After a while I inevitably trailed off & life turned in another direction for me. People that know me well know that I’m a jack of all trades and have tons of different hobbies/interests. Eventually I got married, got a real job, and then it worked out so that I had an abundance of free time, a brand new X-Box and Tekken 6 was about to come out. I gave it a try and loved it. Loved what they did with my characters, loved where the series was going, wasn’t sold on the new mechanics right away but eventually grew to love them.

On top of that there was a general resurgence of fighting games happening, which was awesome, but Street Fighter?

When I cut my teeth in fighters Street Fighter was a fond memory from the past lost in a sea of sequels with uncreative names. Soul Calibur & VF were the rivals because they were the legitimate contenders to Tekken’s top spot. This was very odd indeed.

I found some local guys, reconnected with people from out of province, waded into it and decided that I needed to do what I needed to do to bring Tekken back to where it belonged, the forefront. Surely once people embraced it than they would be hooked…

It hasn’t worked out that way…

***

Now let me get this out there right off the top. Despite how this article may sound & despite some of the rants I go on to people every once and a while, not only do I respect SF but I also enjoy it on a personal level.

I just believe that sticking with 2D fighters is a step in the wrong direction.

I feel like this genre is very unique in the way that when new technological innovations came forward they were embraced for a while but eventually it took a step backwards. Instead of sticking the new canvas put forward with the post-cartridge generation of video games, at some point this genre said “no” and decided to stick with what was comfortable, familiar. In my mind it would be akin to rejecting Grand Theft Auto 3 and going back to the top-down GTA2 style. Can you imagine how much we would have missed out on if we had rejected sandbox style games because we just liked the old ones and wanted more of that?

Which is fine, people can play whatever they want, but we’re starting to see the fruits of that labour now.

Inevitably, we’re seeing new games every few months which are very similar to each other. Games that are largely built around generating hype more than having a lasting, fulfilling experience. This is also largely to do with market forces but a community such as this has the power to make a change there if we were united. Unfortunately it seems that we’re united toward flavours of the month.

Again, people can play what they want, I just don’t think people think about what they play in that way. At least not in that way. I personally am repelled by frequent sequels and constant quest to keep dumbing down games. Sure, we want new players but what kind of players do we want? Do we want a cluster of new players clamoring to the newest, shiniest fighter and then moving on when the hype dies down?

***

“Where do we go from here?”

As far as the 3D community goes it’s at a crossroads right now. Either stand up for your game, find another one, or just move on to something else.

Personally I’m turning 30, married, kid on the way, and I actually have way more commitment than I did at the beginning. I think I just look at it as it’s just some other hobby. I’ve played music all my life, I used to play street hockey once a week for years, and I also play Tekken. It’s that thing that gives me that kind of fulfillment that you can’t get from Work & Family. It’s just part of me at this point. If I didn’t play Tekken I wouldn’t play fighters at all. I’d just move on to something else. I don’t even really consider myself much of a gamer really, it’s just another hobby

There’s that other thing too, the desire to be the best. I still do have some of that in me but it’s not my main motivation anymore. I found out that I love organizing and teaching new people how to play. My goal is no longer to go out of town and win, it’s to have out of towners come here and have a really rough time winning anything because the general skill level is so high.

For that, I need a community, and a community of players that play Tekken specifically. For that, I need to give them a reason to play Tekken specifically. What I believe Tekken, and all 3D fighters, need is people that stand up for their games. People who are vocal and stubborn about where they feel like their respective game should be.

We need a 3D tournament.

Tekken, Soul Calibur, Virtua Fighter, DOA… all communities working individually and together toward a common goal. This is my dream & my work won’t be complete until it’s done.

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