The Stigma of Street Fighter

Yesterday, my girlfriend and I had The Talk. She sat on the bed glaring at me, and asked, “Just how long are you going to play Street Fighter for?”

Ah, the hard questions of life. I told her that I could not give her a definite answer and that a multitude of things could happen; I could start working longer hours and no longer have the time to compete in tournaments, I might lose my interest in the game, or I might simply get too old and lack the reflexes or speed to play the game anymore.

I was failing to wriggle my way out of the situation, when she said caustically, “You’ve been playing for two years already. Who on earth plays a damn video game for more than two years?”

Yes, who indeed would play a mere video game for years and years, manipulating polygons on a screen, clashing hit boxes together? I would like to lie to you and say Street Fighter is more than a game. But it isn’t.

Street Fighter itself is just a game, but it can mean to you or you can make out of it so much more.  It probably means something different to each and every one of us who bang on sticks. And far be it for me to tell you what it is. After all, where is the line between unhealthy video game addiction, and the pursuit for betterment of self?

I explain that Street Fighter was my hobby, my passion. She replied that most people have a hobby that improves themselves; like fitness in sports, or an ear in music. I replied that Street Fighter teaches me patience. She countered by saying that she only ever sees me extorting long sighs of frustration and slumping over after losses. I tried to explain that I exhale so forcefully not because of the fact that I lost, but rather over my own mistakes, my failure to execute a strategy or mind game, or attempting to improve but falling short, but I stopped myself. After all, what was the point of explaining?

Street Fighter can be so many good things. For one, it can mean community, and I’ve met so many great people and interesting characters in the scene. It can take you places where you’d never expect to go, and meet people you’d never expect to meet. How many people play basketball, and the best player they might ever play against would be a lower division college player? I’ve gotten to play the Michael Jordan of the fighting game scene, Daigo Umehara himself. I’ve even had the incredible opportunity to interview the most famous Street Fighter couple in the world, Momochi and Choco Blanka, in a WCG game convention all the way over in Singapore. I mean who am I? I’m just a scrub. But Street Fighter can take a scrub places.

And above all, hovering above everything, there is the ever-present stigma of Street Fighter. How many times have you told your friends that you play Street Fighter, and their faces scrunch up slightly in disgust? Street Fighter? They say. Um okay. What about a real competitive game like a first-person shooter or a RTS?

You tell them you’re not free on Saturday because you’re going to spend the whole Saturday stuck in a lecture theatre playing Street Fighter with twenty guys.  They look at you like they’re going to say something, but they don’t.

When you call home, and your dad asks you how your weekend went, you don’t tell him about how salty you were when you went 2 and out at your local ranbat. Neighbours hear the sound of Sanwa buttons, and it’s an alien sound, the worst noise pollution possible.

You walk into the Hi-Fi bar for a Fight Nights with your stick under your arm, and two girls in miniskirts point at you as you go past while whispering to themselves. You stop by a Macdonalds on the highway at 3 am on your way back from an interstate tournament, and sputter an explanation to highway cops trying not to shake their heads at you. Apparently, real people play WoW, and after all, isn’t Street Fighter a kids game?

You walk into an arcade, and it’s the greatest place on earth. Put your money on the line and into every uppercut, as you feel a welling in your throat. But back in my hometown, arcades are seen as disreputable locations. Punks hang out there. You’re told not to hang out there as a kid. But your eyes constantly flash over to the blinking screens, players’ hands smattering over the buttons with staccato fury. You wonder if you’d ever be able to do that nasty juggle combo you once saw on the screen, but grow up is what they tell you, no one plays videogames once they have a life.

What’s the point of all of this? Being a stick jockey, learning how to plink. Learning how to read the mind of the other guy on the other side of the machine. Watch as his character moves back and forth, communicating to you meaning and intent. We’re debating without words, staring each other down without eye contact. You learn things about yourself. I learned that I am mentally weak, that my biggest issue is confidence.

Maybe you do this for fun, maybe you do this for competition. Maybe you do this struggling to find something worthwhile within yourself. Whatever it is, we all still have to live,

With the stigma of Street Fighter.

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23 Responses to The Stigma of Street Fighter

  1. EXC355UM says:

    Dude… that was a good real.
    I think most of us have gone through this situation. Whether it be with parents, partners, siblings, stupid brothers in-law.

    In the end, this is something you enjoy that is not bad for your health, it’s not illegal, it’s not stopping you from working, you still take your missus out.

    She needs to understand this is part of your life now.

    • muttonhead says:

      Thanks for the words Ali. Nah, my missus is actually fine (somewhat) with this part of my life. I just used part of our daily discussion to start the article 😛
      And for the record she does not discriminate she hates all games equally!

  2. EXC355UM says:

    “Good Read”, not “Good Real”.
    It’s almost 4:00am OK!? >.<

  3. Carbonis says:

    I’ll never forget the looks people gave me when I bought my TE stick. The store had written 150$ on it on a white sticker and I had to lug it around in my arms because they didn’t have a big enough bag for it.

    Lots and lots of dirty looks, like who spends 100+ on a controller? Even the teller in the store was a little shocked that I was buying it.

    I’m pretty much nonexistent in the overall community but I can’t see Street Fighter or fighting games in general being replaced by anything. There’s too much energy and character to just leave it entirely.

    Awesome read.

    • muttonhead says:

      I know exactly what you mean man. Hey I lugged a TE and a SE back through Australian customs, just try to imagine the look on the customs guy’s face.
      These are what? Arcade what?

  4. EXC355UM says:

    I remember this one time I was holding my TE, and some kid looks at me and goes “Wow, is that the new DJ Hero 2 control!?” … =/

    I like holding my TE around to events, I don’t care about the weird looks, I like the fact that you meet some cool people because they saw the TE and wanna talk about it.

  5. garylok says:

    I bought my HRAP 3sa for $350 when SF4 first came out and sticks were on high demand and i was only a casual player.

    What is life? How do you determine how somebody has a life? Most of the time, people with a girlfriend will tell you to get a life, so i have one now but i still play games. Does that mean i still dont have a life?

    I think if you have what you need to survive, then the rest is luxury. You do what YOU want. Ive had this before with my girlfriend, i told her, you can take anything away from me but my games.

    Gaming is getting bigger where bigger events and competitions are growing. Its a sport that everyone plays whether is on the phone, pc or any console, they are prob playing a game. Whether they take it seriously is their decision, its like i play basketball, but only for fun. I dont tell NBA players to get a life because they do it for a living.

    Everyones prob played a game of soccer in their life, would you tell pro league players to get a life? or even people (adults) that they are wasting their time? Prob not because its a sport and they gain fitness from it.

    SF is like mental fitness and soccer is like physical fitness. There are obviously pros and cons for everything in this world and i should prob stop now because im starting to dribble shit and go on for days.

    • muttonhead says:

      Yeah, it’s just that sports in general have a better reputation in society than fighting games do. Try telling someone what we do is an e-sport, and watch them snort. But hey, maybe things are slowly changing, maybe one day this will be a legit sport/pugilism.

  6. sauce says:

    SF got me a girlfriend. I used to be a really timid guy. This would show in my interaction with women as well as in the way I played. During my first tournament I got beat down horribly because I would just turtle and let the other guy lead the match. Afterwards during casuals I realised that as a good player you have to take the lead and dictate the match. A few days later I ran into a beautiful girl and instead of being chicken shit.
    I applied the same mentality as in SF. Turns out it works exactly the same way with women. Don’t let life chip you to death.

  7. Carbonis says:

    Sauce:”SF got me a girlfriend”
    So did you RTSD or play it lame like Honda? I’m sorry, I read your post and thought about making a joke about Maj’s footsies guide. Is there anything it can’t be applied to?

    Mutton: Does it really matter if it’s considered a sport or not right now? The issue really can’t be forced, it’ll just happen, kind of like how poker suddenly became a “sport”.

    • muttonhead says:

      Well one quick reason I can give about it mattering is that people will be less likely to give you grief for playing SF if you can at least make some money or some kind of living out of it 😛

  8. Carbonis says:

    Fair enough, Mutton.

    I should have explained further, I meant to draw a connection to SF and Korean Starcraft where they have not 1 BUT 2 TV channels which play live matches. I’m not sure how that happened(wikipedia’s not helping) but it would be awesome. There’s also the whole non-affiliation with either the WCG or MLG. I remember eventhubs posted an interview where the CEO of one of those said that they wanted street fighter to become a part of their organization, but that the SF community was opposed to the idea. So yeah.

    Fun Note: I asked one of my college professors about this and he said that he had actually thought about it before. He said that part of the reason why SF couldn’t be as popular as say, Starcraft or Call of Duty is because it violates part of our prebuilt schema for videogame s, that even though we have all these offensive tools we need to exercise restraint and moderation in using them. He believed that the most difficult thing a noobie had to overcome was his urge to jump, which is also one of the worst things you could do. It has to do with subconsciously applying the schema for platformers, where jumping in usually the best answer. Also, the visual style, which he felt was too cartoony for most of the 18-30 demographic. No 18-30 demo means not a market sponsors want to tap.

    • muttonhead says:

      That is interesting Carbonis, what your professor said. Fighting games violate part of our prebuilt schema of videogames? I have to give that a think. Before going in too deep though, I would like to point out that the different genres of games themselves have prebuilt schemas and motivations, such as the economic layers of Starcraft and the linear journeys/paths of platformers that comparing them to fighting games is always going to be problematic. I agree that there is validity to his argument, but I think that games are just too varied in design and motivation for a general schema to be applied.

  9. Somniac says:

    I got far more stigma from playing WoW, and I invested far more time into that – around 295 real days of playtime. (and it’s understandable that I got that flack, it is a life stealer that game)
    I can’t say I encounter the same problems for SF, I’d say sometimes the complete opposite.

    Bit of a silly story, but many times when I’ve been playing and girls, friends or girlfriends are watching they actually say they admire how I do it and they can see how I’m winning by outsmarting the other person.

    I guess the key is to not spend too much time doing it, because anyone is going to be unhappy with sitting there for hours being uninvolved, so I make sure whenever my friends are around to do things they’d want to do and not just SF.

    For me SF is a great way to improve my problem solving skills, for each way that I lose I try to figure out how to win, and that’s how I’ve got my game to the point it is.
    The mindset carries over to work and even relationships, it taught me how to work things out logically.

    While I don’t spend anymore than about 3-10 hours max on SF a week, it’s not so much the fact that it is SF, it’s the fact that it’s a game I can improve myself in and test my limits against like minded people. The community makes the game, if no one played it I don’t think I would either.

    • muttonhead says:

      You know what Som? I don’t pretend to know your girlfriend or too much of your relationship with her, but when I see her being there at SF events supporting you or maybe dropping you off…
      I probably admire your ability to keep her happy, juggle full-time work, SF, friends etc much more than I do your Bison skills.

  10. WindDoomFist says:

    As far as adults being suspicious of adults hanging out in arcades…a man I know told me that people over 18 that hang out at arcades must be child molestors. 😦

  11. Tom Leykis says:

    Women don’t understand what is a hobby because they don’t have any. Their “hobbies” are the relationships themselves. They also think they can change us.
    If she really loves you she needs to accept you for what you are. If it really bothers her THAT much, she is free to leave. NEVER QUIT DOING SOMETHING YOU LOVE FOR A WOMAN!

    • muttonhead says:

      Hey Tom, I believe you have your right to your opinion, but I would like to say that it might be too much of a generalisation to say that all women have no hobbies except their relationships. And in my girlfriend’s defence, we were together long before I ever started to play Street Fighter. So it’s not her fault she doesn’t like it 😛

      • Tom Leykis says:

        There are always exceptions but that’s what hey are- exceptions.
        And it doesn’t matter *when* you started doing something you like. You like doing that and that’s all that matters. If she complains and tells you what to do with your life then she has no respect for you and you should get out of this relationship and fast, because you will end up being miserable. (Even if she’s smokin’ hot and the sex is amazing it’s not worth it)
        Sorry if I sound harsh or anything but all these “little insignificant things” are actually big red flashing warning signs so do not ignore them.

  12. Man, I loved this piece.

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