You can become a tournament level fighting gamer in hours!

I cry a little when my friends or the Giantbomb staff (not that I don’t consider you guys friends) tell me that they’ll never become good at a fighting game, and while I can’t speak for everyone, I feel that there’s a bit of confusion as to what makes a good fighting game player. So I felt I should post a few tips on how to level up your game. IN AS LITTLE AS ONE HOUR A WEEK! I’m not even charging for this.

Step 1: Know Your Game (Learn the Basics)

Every fighting game has its own quirks and commands, and you probably know most of them already. Most of it comes from just reading the manual. Street Fighter IV and Mortal Kombat 9 both do a pretty good job of explaining their game mechanics, from the most basic to the more advanced stuff. If it was something implicitly designed by the developer, it’s usually in the manual. If you lost the manual at some point, an FAQ should do the job just fine. Either way, make sure you know what Focus Attacks and ground techs do in Street Fighter or combo breaks and Enhanced Attacks do in Mortal Kombat.

Step 2: Pick a Character That You Enjoy

People pick different characters for different reasons when it comes to fighting games. Some pick characters that have interesting moves. Some pick characters that just look cool or weird. All of that is really up to you, as long as you’re happy with the character you’ve picked. If you want to learn to play a game, you want to have fun doing it. The last thing you want to do is pick a character just because you heard they’re the best in the game.

I play Cammy and Makoto in Super Street Fighter IV AE. They aren’t the “the best” in the game, and they can have some trouble against other characters, but I like their style and their unique moves. I enjoy playing as them, so I enjoy getting better.

That brings me to the issue of tier lists. Members of a fighting game’s community will rank the characters in a list from “good” to “bad”. My friends constantly ask me about these things, and I always give the same response: “Stop it. They’ll rot your brain.” Yes, a lot of the players who develop those lists are known for being pretty good at their games. A lot of those good players also lose to “low tier” characters all the time. Coupled with the fact that most tier lists don’t come with any explanation as to how they were formed, you’re better off just ignoring them. You’ll have more fun that way. Yay fun!

Step 3: You don’t have to play constantly. Just play smart.

You might come across players who stand by their regiment. They talk about how many hours they spend “in the lab” (training mode) and online. They turned the game into a chore and it doesn’t have to be. If you play smart, you don’t actually need a huge amount of hours under your belt. Smart play consists largely of getting rid of bad habits like button mashing or relying on any one move to get out of trouble. If you’re not mashing, you’ll find that executing combos (which can now be learned in the new Challenge/Trial/Training modes of modern fighting games!) and pulling off moves when you need them becomes a hell of a lot easier. Even if you’re still having trouble grasping certain aspects of the game, your level will raise immediately. Also, you’ll suffer from fewer “What the hell just happened?” moments in matches.

What kind of matches you fight is important too. You’ve probably figured this out already, but the better your opponents are, the faster you’ll improve. Most games have a pretty good matchmaking system in place to let you select the rank of your opponents, so this shouldn’t be too much of a problem, even if you don't have any nearby friends who dig fighting games. If you do end up in matches with less-skilled players, take the opportunity to try some things you’re not too good at yet. Try out some tricky combos or see if you can win the match only using normal attacks. That’s always a good one.

Step 4: Don’t Sweat the Obscure/Confusing/Insane Stuff

I hesitated to make this a step, but I think it bears mention, just to clear the air. If you come across some strategies or gameplay tips that just make your head hurt, it’s probably unnecessary, sometimes even for high level play. This includes frame data, option selects, plinking, and the like. In my experience, Occam’s razor is alive and well in fighting games.

I unfortunately don’t have any concrete advice as to when a player should explore advanced concepts. I would say to treat it on a need-to-know basis, but it’s so rare that anyone needs to know how to do most of the crazy stuff, since this is usually where you go into things the developer didn’t intend for players to be able to do in the first place. Even most top players don't use a lot of that stuff, and some characters straight up can't. My cop-out response is that it’s up to you whether you want to venture into the dark realms of frame counting madness. Just remember that you can just close your eyes to it at any time.

On the other hand, a lot of the complex stuff people bring up when referencing the insanity of the fighting game community only seem hard until you actually look into them, so maybe it would help to pick the easiest thing from one of those and try it out?

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Posted by Anjon

I cry a little when my friends or the Giantbomb staff (not that I don’t consider you guys friends) tell me that they’ll never become good at a fighting game, and while I can’t speak for everyone, I feel that there’s a bit of confusion as to what makes a good fighting game player. So I felt I should post a few tips on how to level up your game. IN AS LITTLE AS ONE HOUR A WEEK! I’m not even charging for this.

Step 1: Know Your Game (Learn the Basics)

Every fighting game has its own quirks and commands, and you probably know most of them already. Most of it comes from just reading the manual. Street Fighter IV and Mortal Kombat 9 both do a pretty good job of explaining their game mechanics, from the most basic to the more advanced stuff. If it was something implicitly designed by the developer, it’s usually in the manual. If you lost the manual at some point, an FAQ should do the job just fine. Either way, make sure you know what Focus Attacks and ground techs do in Street Fighter or combo breaks and Enhanced Attacks do in Mortal Kombat.

Step 2: Pick a Character That You Enjoy

People pick different characters for different reasons when it comes to fighting games. Some pick characters that have interesting moves. Some pick characters that just look cool or weird. All of that is really up to you, as long as you’re happy with the character you’ve picked. If you want to learn to play a game, you want to have fun doing it. The last thing you want to do is pick a character just because you heard they’re the best in the game.

I play Cammy and Makoto in Super Street Fighter IV AE. They aren’t the “the best” in the game, and they can have some trouble against other characters, but I like their style and their unique moves. I enjoy playing as them, so I enjoy getting better.

That brings me to the issue of tier lists. Members of a fighting game’s community will rank the characters in a list from “good” to “bad”. My friends constantly ask me about these things, and I always give the same response: “Stop it. They’ll rot your brain.” Yes, a lot of the players who develop those lists are known for being pretty good at their games. A lot of those good players also lose to “low tier” characters all the time. Coupled with the fact that most tier lists don’t come with any explanation as to how they were formed, you’re better off just ignoring them. You’ll have more fun that way. Yay fun!

Step 3: You don’t have to play constantly. Just play smart.

You might come across players who stand by their regiment. They talk about how many hours they spend “in the lab” (training mode) and online. They turned the game into a chore and it doesn’t have to be. If you play smart, you don’t actually need a huge amount of hours under your belt. Smart play consists largely of getting rid of bad habits like button mashing or relying on any one move to get out of trouble. If you’re not mashing, you’ll find that executing combos (which can now be learned in the new Challenge/Trial/Training modes of modern fighting games!) and pulling off moves when you need them becomes a hell of a lot easier. Even if you’re still having trouble grasping certain aspects of the game, your level will raise immediately. Also, you’ll suffer from fewer “What the hell just happened?” moments in matches.

What kind of matches you fight is important too. You’ve probably figured this out already, but the better your opponents are, the faster you’ll improve. Most games have a pretty good matchmaking system in place to let you select the rank of your opponents, so this shouldn’t be too much of a problem, even if you don't have any nearby friends who dig fighting games. If you do end up in matches with less-skilled players, take the opportunity to try some things you’re not too good at yet. Try out some tricky combos or see if you can win the match only using normal attacks. That’s always a good one.

Step 4: Don’t Sweat the Obscure/Confusing/Insane Stuff

I hesitated to make this a step, but I think it bears mention, just to clear the air. If you come across some strategies or gameplay tips that just make your head hurt, it’s probably unnecessary, sometimes even for high level play. This includes frame data, option selects, plinking, and the like. In my experience, Occam’s razor is alive and well in fighting games.

I unfortunately don’t have any concrete advice as to when a player should explore advanced concepts. I would say to treat it on a need-to-know basis, but it’s so rare that anyone needs to know how to do most of the crazy stuff, since this is usually where you go into things the developer didn’t intend for players to be able to do in the first place. Even most top players don't use a lot of that stuff, and some characters straight up can't. My cop-out response is that it’s up to you whether you want to venture into the dark realms of frame counting madness. Just remember that you can just close your eyes to it at any time.

On the other hand, a lot of the complex stuff people bring up when referencing the insanity of the fighting game community only seem hard until you actually look into them, so maybe it would help to pick the easiest thing from one of those and try it out?