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How to Make the Most of That Fighting Game You Bought Because the Characters Looked Really Cool

If you’re like me, then there’s a chance you may have downloaded a game like GUILTY GEAR -STRIVE-  because the characters looked really cool, even though you’ve never touched a fighting game before. Worry not dear reader — if you find yourself in this camp I’ve got you covered with a simple guide that can help even the most ignorant fighting game novices leave behind button-mashing and maybe even bag a few wins.

Step 1: Learn the Terminology

Everyone knows that getting better at fighting games requires a deep understanding of jargon that would confuse even the most seasoned FPS or RPG players. Words like “zoning,” “hurtbox,” “teching,” and “combo” will need full commitment to the aspiring player’s mind. You’re thinking of re-reading Harry Potter? Wrong, it’s time to go back to school buddy; get yourself a fresh college ruled notebook and start dusting off those test-memorization techniques.

Step 2: Obtain a Quality Gamepad

If you think you’ll hold up against anyone else using that cheap, high-latency, no-name bluetooth controller from Amazon think again. You’ll at least need to get something wired, preferably with a few more buttons than a stock console controller would offer. I’d recommend finding an affordable arcade-style controller with a wired connection, or you could spend a few extra bucks and cut to the chase by disassembling an old fighting game arcade cabinet and soldering its control board directly to your console or PC, giving you the highest advantage possible with the lowest latency.

Step 3: Practice Against Bots

Nobody has to see you lose if you just play against bots with your door closed. Bots are tough! Or, at least they can be pretty tough if you’re just starting out. I prefer to set bot difficulty pretty low, somewhere in the mid-low range so that I can practice “teching” and employ “zoning” attacks to maintain an advantage, or whatever that reddit thread said I’m supposed to do here.

Step 4: Lower the Difficulty

It turns out that even bots can be even harder than you thought! That’s ok, just remember to disconnect any and all sense of pride that you had going into this—it takes a while to get better at fighting games, and you’re trying to make noticeable improvements after just a few dozen hours of play! Time to go back and lower the difficulty, but don’t jump to the lowest setting just yet; that setting is designed for folks who’ve never played video games in general, and you nearly beat Elden Ring last year.

Step 5: Learn More Terminology

I’m now finding out that there are such things as a “footsies,” “mix-ups,” and “chip damage.” Where do these fighting game enthusiasts get off? Know what they call hitting someone in an FPS? A “hit!” The opposite? A “miss!” Familiar, logical terminology right? Imagine if I filled a flask in Elden Ring and started calling it a “healy-feely,” or started shooting a pistol in Halo and called it “bullet whooshing.” Ridiculous.

Step 6: Do Not Play Online

Wait, were you playing online just now? Stop that right now! Didn’t you know that jumping into the online meatgrinder isn’t going to help you get any better? Take it from me, the bloodthirsty opponents awaiting you will prey on your lack of skill like hyenas in a commercial chicken farm. Hell, it’s a well-known fact that the Unabomber got his start after unboxing a fresh copy of Street Fighter and jumping right into online play after the tutorial—you definitely don’t want to end up like that.

Step 7: Lower the Difficulty Further

Alright, between a few discouraging rounds of online play and some ass kicking by way of bot matches, it might be time to finally lower that practice match difficulty to ground-level. Remember, you’re new, and it’s completely ok to be this bad. Not everyone has the talent for hoping into a fighting game without struggling for a good long while.

Step 8: Accept That You Need Help

It’s too bad the Steam return window has long passed, otherwise you’d be able to get your money back and put all of this to rest. Unfortunately, you’ve sunk in too much time to admit defeat and your pride is lowering with every successive defeat. You bought the nice gamepad, you figured out what zoning is, and you nearly managed to survive for 30 seconds when you drunkenly hopped into online play the other night. So what gives? Surely there’s a good reason for playing arcade-style fighting games, right?

Step 9: Examine the Source Material

It’s time to get serious. This is a guide about helping you start your journey toward fighting game prowess, and there’s no point in giving up now. Everyone knows that fighting games are inspired by classic martial arts movies and shows, so why not dig a little deeper and understand the real thing? The stuff behind the screen, if you will. Karate, Muay Thai, Taekwondo, Judo, Jiu Jitsu, kickboxing, and many more forms of martial arts have inspired countless fighting games across decades of consoles. It’s time to become one with the source material and start from the ground up.

Step 10: Locate a Martial Arts Sensei

You’ve watched a few videos covering a mix of Karate and Judo basics but it’s time to take it to the next level. Practicing in the backyard for a couple months has strengthened you, sure, but if you’ve learned one thing from every martial arts movie, show, and manga it’s that no warrior is going to get anything done without a strict, cruel sensei to enforce discipline and pain. Also, you’ve completely destroyed the grass in the backyard and your neighbors don’t let their kids play outside anymore.

Step 11: Prove Yourself to the Sensei

Is this sensei what you were expecting? Maybe not, but it doesn’t matter. Sensei Eric is going to make sure you pay your class fees on time and even gives homework in the form of martial arts history printouts and YouTube core-strengthening videos. You must train tirelessly and overcome the smell of feet everywhere—it’s no Mr. Miagi experience but it’s definitely changing your view of the world.

Step 12: Defeat their Skilled Protege

You’ve come a long way and it’s time to start amping things up. Your kicks, blocks, and punches are better than ever, and most of the people in the dojo don’t want to go near you— maybe it’s your unkempt, depraved look of determination, or maybe it’s your ability to kick anyone’s ass as long as they play by the same rules that you’ve been trained on these last couple months. Your sensei’s protege has challenged you to spar in front of the entire class, and you defeat him easily given your newfound aptitude for combat.

Step 13: Defeat the Sensei and Take Over the Dojo

It dawns on you that there is nothing left between you and fighting game mastery aside from your sensei, who runs the very place you’ve come to call home during the past year. Teching, footsies, wake-ups; all terms that make sense now, seem trivial, even. The only thing that remains is to challenge the dojo sensei and assert dominance as a master martial artist. Then, take over the dojo and rename it as your own after the old sensei leaves due to the severe, overwhelming shame of defeat.

Step 14: Return Home Completely Changed

It’s been a while since you’ve seen your hometown and even longer since you’ve picked up your gamepad and settled in for a match. Things are different now; you’ve got a new appreciation for the physical world around you. The sound of wind moving through the trees, the pavement beneath your feet — you feel how much your senses have heightened since you began your journey toward fighting excellence. The whole world is your arena now.

Step 15: Destroy the Competition

The countless hours training, the mastery of fighting game jargon, the enlightened understanding of what it truly means to engage in hand-to-hand combat. It’s time to jump online and take what you’ve rightfully earned with sharpened reflexes and a keen understanding of so-called “combos.” Just make sure to remember everything that your sensei taught you, and don’t forget to count those frames while you’re at it. In no time you’ll find that you’ve finally won, and by a landslide no less! This is what it’s all about –proving true superiority over an inferior, weaker player. Time to ride this high and see just how good of a win ratio you can achieve before bed.

Step 16: Realize You Lost Again

Oh, wait, was that actually my character that was getting kicked off the side of the arena and pummeled into the ground repeatedly? I could’ve swore I chose Giovanna, why didn’t any of my hits land? By now you’ll realize that you actually lost after getting back into it, and the only conclusion to be drawn is that you’re going to need too try even harder and allocate even more time to sharpening your reflexes and memorizing combos.

Step 17: Play Stardew Valley

The next step in mastering this red-headed stepchild in your games library is pleading with Steam support for a refund exception and killing time by playing Stardew Valley. Guilty Gear? More like lookie here! Paloo and Snurf have laid eggs that need collecting! Turnips have been ready for harvest for days! What’s this? A letter from Leah?! Oh! The Flower Dance is tomorrow and I’ve still got to give out more gifts! I’m not sure what all that fighting game nonsense was about, but this game has it all. Time to settle in and become the androgynous serial-dating farmer you’ve always dreamed of.

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