So Street Fighter, as mentioned in my last my mind, revolutionized the gaming industry. And psychologically, I think I know why. The reason was because they made a game that was sufficiently complex enough and responsive enough to be a fair measure of gaming skill. What I mean is that for the first time you could really play against each other and for the most part, who won was largely a measure of skill. This was revolutionary. There have been competitive games before, but often they weren’t directly competing. Like Tetris, you can play against each other, but you don’t directly compete, you just kind of both play against the computer and whoever does better wins. But that’s not the same as Street Fighter where you directly oppose each other.
Then there were games before where you do directly oppose each other. But these games’ weaknesses were that the game was not responsive enough to be a true measure of skill. Too often, they would be just lucky, or based somewhat on skill, but not entirely. In Street Fighter 2, perhaps for beginners luck played a significant role but among the elite, the outcome was based almost entirely on skill. Furthermore, those previous games where outcome was based entirely on skill were not complex enough to merit psychological vindication. Like Pong. Sure, the better person wins, but in the end, all the winner knows is that he can move the paddle better. Whoop.
That’s why Street Fighter was so hugely popular. It had other aspects also. For example, gamers love the feeling of secrets. If you know a secret, you’re cool. It’s just a good feeling, and really, an extension of that male-competitive nature where we think we’re better if we know something that others don’t. Kind of lame, but really, true. This started with the Warp Zones and negative worlds in Super Mario Bros. The secret thing was huge. Street Fighter 2 had these glitches that were secrets, which also contributed to its popularity. I mean, I know after I found out about something, me and all my friends would rush to the 7-11 to try it out. Repeatedly. Another thing about that day was that maybe the Internet wasn’t as big as it is now, and the secrets weren’t intentional. So information about them would trickle out over the course of a long time. I remember I would have played SF2 for a year or more and still be learning new things. That’s a cool thing that made the game so popular so long.
Stuff like that just doesn’t happen anymore. Games today will never have the impact, or I think, the popularity that Street Fighter 2 did when it first came out. We may never see it again. I know for a fact that it hasn’t happened since. I mean, when it first came out, there were crowds around every SF2 in the nation. Many arcades had like 5 machines or such in a row, and most would be played on. I still go to the arcade occasionally, and it’s never like that. Even the biggest arcades almost never have more than 2 of the same machine, and even then they aren’t always played. And I think I know why.
The fighting games that come out now just don’t seem to understand why they were popular in the first place. Let’s take the secret thing. All those secrets in Street Fighter 2 made them really popular. But as I mentioned, they were unintentional and became known through time, which made the popularity last a while. Now with the Internet, secrets become known immediately, as soon as they come out; all the more so because the secrets now are intentional, and the game makers reveal them. That will attract interest for a while, but I think that the makers don’t understand that the long run impact will be bad. Once all the secrets are known, people don’t really have much to play for anymore.
Two recent fighting games, Mortal Kombat and Killer Instinct, capitalized on the secret thing. I think this is a big reason why they got so popular. Mortal Kombat in particular has always been packed with these secret things you can do. And if you know them, you’re cool. MKII was pretty popular for this reason. There were just a ton of secrets. And people wanted to know them and practice them so they knew them better. Gamers just love secrets. Same thing with Killer Instinct and the mercy things and super combos and all that.
But I hate Mortal Kombat. For many reasons. One – the game designers don’t understand that game play is the most important thing. I hate MK because they place graphics (and gore) and the secret thing first, and game play second. So the controls to the game are, in my opinion, pretty poor. I can’t deny the graphics, but I don’t think that’s the primary thing. I really hate the game play of MK. In too many situations, there a lot of randomness involved. I could be more specific but I don’t think that’s necessary. So what invariably happens with MK is that ultimately it becomes a contest of who knows more secrets. Which is cool, but it again doesn’t offer the psychological feeling of vanquish that gamers love. It’s a different kind of better, and I think that deep satisfaction of being better than your opponent is lost, because the best players recognize that there really is randomness involved. That is lame.
MK started a dangerous trend because where games placed more emphasis on graphics and secrets than game play. KI is basically the same theme – cool graphics, decent number of secrets, and relatively horrid game play. If you took away all the secrets in MK and in KI, you would not be satisfied, because the secrets are the game. Whereas that is not the case with Street Fighter 2 and it is a superior game.
So I am pretty certain that financially, no game has really done as well as Street Fighter 2 (the original). Because of this, all companies are constantly adding new versions and revisions to try and recapture the market. But this also is backfiring. Here is why.
I think it’s obvious why MK isn’t as popular as the original SF2. Not that it’s not popular but it’s just not the phenomenon SF2 was. The people at Midway are idiots. They intentionally made the game secret heavy. This is cool for hard core gamers, and maybe that’s all they want, but SF2 was great because it sucked in previous non-gamers into becoming gamers and attracted semi-gamers as well, eg. John Yoon(!) and Eddie Ahn. They didn’t really play video games a lot, but they did play SF2 from time to time. That will never happen with MK. The reason is because it’s just too overwhelming for a beginner to know. There’s just too much and you feel overwhelmed and you never want to get into it. No joke – you need to do research before you can start playing MK or KI. I’m serious. If you don’t know a lot of the secrets beforehand, you’ll get your butt whupped regularly, and that’s never any fun. So those semi and non-gamers will never get sucked in, and already, MK has limited the scope of it’s appeal.
But further SF2’s have not been as popular either. This is because both SF2 and MK have had this trend where the computer player is impossibly good. In the original SF2, if you just played against the computer it was easy enough that you would do decently well even if just a beginner, maybe even really well. That also got people to play. I think the idea the game makers have had is that if you make it harder, their games will last shorter and thus they will put more money in. Idiots. Because the game is so hard, people don’t want to play the computer. Beginners especially. They play once and then find it’s just too hard a game, so they take off and never play it again. This is particularly true of MKII and MKIII. Because the computer is so hard, beginners will never start playing and even more experienced people don’t really want to play the computer.
So the result is that it has to be all or nothing – at arcades, either people play each other or they don’t play at all. Maybe that’s something else the game makers want. But too often, it’s just the nothing – no one plays. And no one will start playing because there’s no one else there. I really don’t understand what game makers are thinking. The only time a game starts getting played is when a pair comes and they start to play together. Then people are willing to play. But you have to wait for that first break.
So beginners won’t play a lone machine because it’s too hard. They also won’t play against other people because they are too good! To be able to play the game, like MK or KI, you already need to know so much. Otherwise you won’t stand a chance. So beginners simply don’t start playing. That’s why the audience for a game never builds. The only people who play now are hard core gamers, and even they lose interest after time, so the fighting game population is steadily decreasing. And I think Capcom and Midway have no one to blame but themselves.
But all is not lost. I think the solution for them is to design a game, start with game play, make it complex enough but not overwhelmingly complex. So that there is enough to make long timers interested, but not enough to overwhelm the casual player. That’s a delicate balance but it can be done. Around this design great graphics. My bold claim is put in few if any intentional secrets. If there’s a glitch, cool, but don’t put in 50+ secrets. That’s part of the overwhelming thing. Then finally make the computer opponent fairly easy. That I promise would be a huge game.