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The Rise of Tier List Culture and How it Hurts Your Growth

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15 Nov 2022

As the era of online discourse and content creation flourishes in the FGC (fighting game community), time for nuanced conversation is not a luxury we’re always afforded. If parsed incorrectly, some of the information you find online can hurt your development as a new fighting game player. 

With the release of GG:ST Season 2 we'll be seeing a whirlwind of information and hot takes flood social media. Specifically, debates surrounding character strength and viability. Below you’ll find some things to know before venturing out into the wild west that is the FGC discourse. Hopefully, this article will help guide you in a positive direction. 

For those who have spent time in the FGC you’ve probably come across a tier list or two. But, for those newcomers to the community the concept may be unfamiliar: A tier list is a chart that separates characters into groupings based on their “strength” relative to the rest of the cast. Often these charts are labeled and ordered with the strongest characters in S tier followed by A tier, B tier, C tier, etc. 

Here is an example of a tier list you might come across:

Although innocent enough, the propagation of tier list culture has taken a toxic turn in some parts of the FGC. It becomes very easy as a casual, mid level or even high level player to fall into the trap of allowing a tier list to dictate your view of the game. This is a pattern you’ll often see on social media and it can hinder your growth as a new player. 

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I want to clarify that tier lists are not inherently a bad thing to consider. I’m even willing to admit that talking about tier lists is fun. But for new players, here a some key things to remember when you take your first steps into the discussion:

1.They DO NOT Matter:

The untold truth about tier lists is that for beginner level and mid level players they’re completely irrelevant. At early levels of play, things like fundamentals, game knowledge and execution will always be the deciding factor above all. Tier lists are only relevant for esports players with tournament winning aspirations. If you're playing to have fun and improve you won't feel the effects until you reach the highest ranks of online play. Even then, I guarantee that you can beat any player you face online regardless of your character's spot on the tier list. Don’t let a tier list dictate who you play. Play who you love, play to have fun and play to improve. Always.

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2.Tier Lists are Not an Excuse:

It’s very easy for casual fighting game players and even esports pros to fall into this trap. Blaming your character for your losses instead of owning your mistakes is an easy way to get tilted online and stunt your growth. In this way, tier lists are a hindrance as they become affirmation for a toxic mindset. I know this because I’ve done it myself. Saying things like “Oh I only lost because Leo is a brainless top tier.” or “I only lost because Anji is a dumpster character.” are easy ways of shifting the blame away from the real reason you lost, yourself. Owning your mistakes, and reflecting on them, is an essential step to becoming a better player. Don't let a chart on twitter get in the way of your improvement. Always try and actively foster a healthy mentality.

If you’re interested in learning more about positive mentality from an esports pro check out this video:

Tier Lists are Frying Your Brain:

3. Things Change:

Fighting games are complicated, and each character is deeply nuanced. Therefore, it’s simply impossible to come to any sort of reasoned or intelligent conclusion one day into a balance update or new release. Meta’s change, and characters move up and down tier lists all the time. It’s important not to treat an early tier list as gospel because you could be misinforming yourself in the long run. As you explore you’ll find that many top players will echo this sentiment. In fighting games, knowledge is power and an essential part of elevating your play to the next level. 

Check out this video to learn more:

If you’re looking for some informative resources that increase your game knowledge and improve your play I’ll provide some links here:

If you’re new to fighting games, and want help understanding all the terminology, check out the Fighting Game Glossary: 

Dustloop is the go to source of info for anime FGC: 

Looking for Street Fighter V? Look here: 

Guilty Gear: Strive has just recently received a balance patch that will alter the game. This means it’s tier list season for the FGC. I want to stress this point now, any tier list you see within the first month of a release should be taken with a grain of salt. Knee jerk reactions and speculation often dominate the discourse following a new release. A true competitive meta takes time to develop. Don't let initial reactions dissuade you from exploring and experimenting for yourself. Even the opinions of top players should be listened to with healthy skepticism. It’s ok to have fun watching a tier list video, and as long as you keep these traps and pitfalls in mind you’ll be fine. Fighting games simply need time, but the development  process can be an incredibly rewarding community driven experience so hope on and enjoy the ride!

By: Simon Mancuso

15 Nov 2022
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