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Welcome to the FGC: 5 Steps to Get Into Fighting Games!

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13 Jun 2022

Before there were esports as we know them, we had the fighting game community (FGC): a genre built on a grassroots community driven love of the game and competition. Now, in the year 2022, there has never been a better time to dive in and give these games a try. Below you’ll find a few tips to help guide you on your journey.  I want to put to paper some of the things I wish I knew over nine years ago when I was first discovering the genre. Fighting games can be an intimidating challenge, like any competitive game, but if you follow these 5 steps you’ll be sailing past roadblocks like they’re nothing.

Disclaimer: This is not so much a tip as it is merely a statement of fact: Fighting games are hard… you're stunned, I know. If you only want to buy the game, mash some buttons and move on, feel free to disregard. However, if you're here to learn the game and emulate the pros KNOW THIS: you are going to lose and that's okay. You are going to get bodied, smacked around, smoked, dusted, and perfected multiple times. Don't let a loss deter you; don't let 100 loses deter you. One thing I know for a fact is that everyone loses and I promise you FGC Legends like Daigo “The Beast” Umehara have lost more matches than you or I will ever even play. So press on, boldly and unfazed.

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Step 1: Pick Your Game!

This one may seem obvious at first but there is a little more nuisance to the decision than you might think. Fighting games are unlike other e-sports in that one game does not encompass the entirety of competition or the entirety of the player base. In the FGC, we have a variety of games ranging from popular AAA titles to more niche indie developed games. The good news is that to some extent every game has a community so if something niche appeals to you I won't stop you.

For the purposes of a beginners guide, check out some gameplay from Street Fighter 5 (SFV) or Guilty Gear: Strive (GGST); these are both great options to start with thanks to relatively “beginner friendly” mechanics. SFV is the most successful competitive fighting game, boasts a consistently large player base and despite nearing the end of its life cycle is guaranteed a sequel with Street Fighter 6 just around the corner. Guilty Gear offers a faster paced and more explosive gameplay experience, is a newer title still receiving updates for the foreseeable future, and has the best online experience out of any Fighting Game on the market.

As a beginner you will spend most of your time playing online so a good, stable experience is very important. In that category GGST gets the nod, with its consistent and stable rollback netcode you should experience flawless connections more often than not. In the end you can't go wrong with either of these two games but feel free to explore and play what looks most fun to you. Pick the game that makes you want to keep coming back.

Step 2: Pick Your Character!

Alright, now that you’ve selected the game you want to play and you’ve booted up your copy for the first time it's officially time to pick a character. In my opinion character design in fighting games is the most enjoyable aspect of the genre. Every character has its own unique design, personality and play style so there’s always something for everybody.

If you look at other guides they may try to point out that certain characters are better for beginners than others due to ease of execution or simplicity. Well, I’m here to tell you the opposite. Every character is hard and every character has depth that you will slowly uncover as you play the game. Don’t force yourself to play Ryu if you want to play Zangief. This will only lead to frustration, boredom, and dropping the game. I cannot stress this enough: pick the character you want to play, the one that looks cool, the one who does a cool move you like, the one who calls to you and makes you want to pick up the game, play, lose and learn. It’s true that some characters are harder to learn execution or gameplan-wise but don’t sweat it because this leads me straight into my next point.

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Step 3: Combos Don't Matter!

Remember when I said not to worry about the execution requirements of your character? This is why. Combos do not matter for beginner players. Execution in fighting games is hard; even pro players drop combos, so as a beginner you are going to struggle to perform even the most basic quarter circle and shoryuken inputs but don't worry about it. As a new player playing against other new players, nobody is going to be performing the most optimal combos. Instead what you want to do is build a solid foundation of fundamentals and in no time you'll be comboing with the best of them.

First, take a look at your game's tutorials and familiarize yourself with the system mechanics. Does your game have a Burst mechanic? What does the V trigger do? How do I dash? What's a “normal”? These are all valid questions for new players and thankfully many fighting games in 2022 have decent tutorials that will help you. Remember: in Fighting Games, knowledge is power!

My next suggestion is to hop into training mode with your favorite character and simply get a feel for the game. Learn how your character moves. Are they fast or slow? Can they double jump or airdash? Being comfortable with how your character moves will make the transition into real matches much easier.

Finally, learn your characters' buttons (their basic attacks). These are usually the moves performed by a single button press with no motions. If you get comfortable with the range and damage of these moves, you’ll be more prepared to play a match than any new player sitting in training mode grinding out 30 hit combos on day 1. Now I’m not saying don't practice combos or learn complex moves. In fact please do try and experiment, explore, watch a basic combo video on youtube. But if you start here you will have a solid foundation that will carry you throughout your journey. A word of FGC wisdom: “The best combo is the one you can finish!”

A great resource to check out for all things character and combo related is the Dustloop Wiki; a hub for all things fighting games and the go to source for information: Click me!

Step 4: Become the Protagonist!

Ok step four is going to get a little philosophical but I promise if you implement this mentality you will have more fun and improve faster. So, what does it mean to “become the protagonist”? It simply means to treat your fighting game as if it were a RPG where you are the main character. You want to level up your skill with each play session.

One of the hardest things about Fighting Games is that the only affirmation of skill the game gives you is a big WIN or LOSE at the end of a match… ignore this! I know it's hard, but winning a match does necessarily mean you’re improving and losing doesn't mean you’re a bad player. Sometimes your opponent just gets the better of you in one match -- it happens. What matters is, like an RPG character, you are amassing valuable experience from match to match. I strongly recommend going into a play session with small goals in mind and trying to achieve them as you play.

Let's say you’ve worked out a combo in training mode. Go into your session thinking, “I want to land this combo 3 times today.” or “I want to anti-air consistently today.” By setting and achieving small goals you’ll see large and fast improvements as you continue to play. As you gain more experience, you’ll become aware of your own deficiencies and be able to adjust your goals accordingly. In addition to the ones mentioned previously, some examples of small goals are:

  • Block after a knockdown each time.
  • Use your meter at least once a match.
  • Minimize the number of jumps per match.

Remember the most important thing in fighting games is to have fun. When you're enjoying yourself and setting small goals you’ll play better and have more fun. As a result, the wins will come. So sit back, relax, and become the protagonist!

Step 5: Join the Community!

This one is completely unrelated to gameplay, but if you’ve followed the previous four steps you should already be well on your way to Fighting Game dominance and you may be looking for some resources or a community to share your newfound love with. The FGC is community driven at its core. There are plenty of people out there ready and willing to help new players improve their game.

Every fighting game including Street Fighter V and Guilty Gear: Strive have active subreddits that will lead you to the community discord servers. If you're looking for beginner matches, gameplay strategy, or just to meet some like-minded friends these discord servers are a good place to start. If you feel really bold, they can also be a gateway into your first tournaments. Additionally, in the era of Youtube and Twitch, the FGC has its own array of entertaining and informative content creators with playlists full of videos for beginners. Below are some of my personal recommendations.

That wraps up my “5 Simple Steps to get into the FGC”. Remember to have fun and enjoy the scene. My hope is that you’ll find Fighting Games to be as much of a rewarding experience as I have and I look forward to seeing some new players online.

By: Simon Mancuso

13 Jun 2022
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