Last time, we looked at three introductory ways to interact with fighting games: as a Fan, a Hobbyist, and a Daredevil. By proceeding through those levels, newcomers to the genre will develop their taste for fighting games without being put off by the challenges that are inherent to the genre. If you haven’t read that post yet, go take a look! Then, when you’re ready to move on, we’ll learn about two more levels below.
Level 4: The Scholar
This is where things start to get serious. For most people in the FGC, it’s enough to be a Fan, Hobbyist, or Daredevil. After all, fighting games routinely sell millions of copies, but tournaments don’t have millions of entrants (at least, not yet). But maybe you want more. That’s when you should consider becoming a Scholar.
If the Daredevil phase is centered on the rudiments of self-expression, this level takes self-expression to the next step: originality, customization, and imagination. As any artist will tell you, there’s no surefire algorithm that will always produce a new creative work. Still, the FGC has several good starting points.
The lab (i.e., training mode) is your best friend at this stage. By now, you’ll have encountered a number of impediments to your preferred style of play. Maybe you’ve got bad character matchups. Maybe there’s a player who just knows how to beat you. Maybe it’s just your own character who has advanced techniques that are currently beyond your reach. No matter what the obstacle may be, the lab is the place where you’ll learn to break through it.
You’ll have to shoulder most of the real work at this level by yourself – nobody else can lab for you. Still, you shouldn’t go it alone. Remember, the FGC is called a “community” for a reason! No matter which games or characters you play, there are people who have gone through the same struggles, who are currently going through the same struggles, or who will be willing to go through the same struggles just to lend a hand. Part of the fun of being a Scholar is making discoveries of your own, but another part is joining a community of researchers, theorists, and mad scientists. Reach out to your local scene. Look around on social media sites, Reddit, and Discord. One way or another, you’ll surely find a group of like-minded players who will help you build gameplans, develop tech, learn new skills, and more.
This may sound a lot like homework, but labbing can and should be fun. If it isn’t, then it’s time for some introspection: can you still have fun as a Daredevil or do you truly need to reach a higher plateau? Remember, there’s nothing bad or wrong about remaining a casual player! Think about it: how many people play pickup basketball, and how many play in the NBA? How many artists show their work for fun on Twitter, and how many show their work in museums? We couldn’t have a Fighting Game Community without players and fans of all levels. Plus, you don’t have to be a top player in order to be a beloved and vital part of the FGC. Our community is full of heroes, from tournament organizers and bracket runners to commentators, streamers, content creators, and more.
But if you do want to continue down the path of a serious competitor, there’s one more level that we’ll cover.
Level 5: The Warrior
If competition flows in your life’s blood, you’ll have the most fun when you’re challenged. Yet as you improve as a player, you may find that your friends are lagging behind. There’s no need to worry, though. The FGC has the perfect solution: the local.
The local tournament is one of the FGC’s finest traditions. There are hundreds and hundreds of locals across the globe, and they feature everything from brand-new titles to old-school classics. You may already know where your local arcade is. If so, great – get going! If not, take a look at our Event database. You may have to make some minor sacrifices in order to get out to your local, but the experience will be worth it. A local is every FGC competitor’s home away from home. A good one will be a source of fun and fulfillment for life.
You may find that your local is a little overwhelming at first. You’ll be entering an established social scene, your routines may be disrupted, and you’ll almost certainly run into players who are much stronger than you are. To help cut through all the noise, set small, realistic goals for yourself. Whatever your record is the first time you go, aim to win one or two more sets the next time – and then one or two more sets, and so on. Or, if you realize that players are taking advantage of a weakness of yours, work on improving that area of your game until the other players have to approach you in a different way.
You can also target specific individuals. By focusing on beating one person at a time, it’ll be easier to decide which skills to practice. Better yet, if you make things personal, you may be able to find a rival who you can race to the top. Just be sure to keep the rivalry healthy and respectful.
Be True To You
No matter which level you settle into, embrace it! This year alone, we’ve seen two champions rise from humble origins, so we have ample proof that there are many “right” ways to be part of the FGC. Ultimately, this is all a matter of taste and enjoyment, and the only person you have to please is yourself. If you treat fighting games like other games, you may find that the hardships overwhelm any positive experiences that you have. But by approaching the genre patiently and remaining true to yourself, you’ll open up a whole world of new joys and achievements.
Eli Horowitz (@BODIEDnovel) is a scholar in real life, but his hands aren’t smart enough to be a Scholar in fighting games. He writes novels; his first one is set in the FGC.