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Melee is any form of combat that involves individual fighters making direct physical contact with each other using hand-held weapons, punches, kicks, holds, or other martial arts techniques. Often, melee is characterized by close, disorganized combat, sometimes among large groups of fighters who are not fighting as a group or formation. Melee excludes the use of ranged weapons or area-effect weapons such as explosives or chemical and biological weapons. Examples of melee combat include sword fighting, boxing, wrestling or martial arts.

Melee has been a common theme in games for almost as long as games have existed: the ancient Greeks and Romans both practiced combat sports for entertainment as well as training. Chess plays out as an abstraction of melee, since a piece must physically occupy another piece's square to capture it. The rules of Dungeons & Dragons focus deeply on the complexities of melee combat, using probability to determine who hit whom and how hard.

Melee in video games has come in many forms. The most obvious examples come from fighting games and beat-em-ups. Melee attacks have more recently become an option in first-person shooters. In the original Half Life, the player had to equip a crowbar to make a physical strike. In more recent games like Halo 2 or Gears of War, a melee attack can be performed at the press of a button while holding any weapon (see buttstroking and pistol whipping). Melee attacks performed in this way tend to be risky as they put the player at risk of being shot, but the attacks deal a high amount of damage and can knock the enemy back.

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