184: Diversity, One Dragon-Punch at a Time

Diversity, One Dragon-Punch at a Time

There's one circuit of American competitive gaming where minorities are actually in the majority: fighting games. Ray Huling takes a closer look at the demographics of competitive fighting game players and what they might mean to gamers at large.

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Ray,
I still believe that Mortal Kombat 2 is the best fighter game ever. Not only did you have to memorize the moves but also the fatalites, which are very graphic and detailed for the SNES at the time, but you couldn't get away with button mashing to be frank.
yours sincerly,
grunt-4-life

Excellent article. I can think of two more reasons that the fighting game community is historically diverse.

First, the mass-market popularity of Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat introduced a lot of people to the idea of competitive gaming without the PC knowledge required to discover Counterstrike or Starcraft. The modern analog is Smash Bros. whose scene has grown organically from a large base of casual gamers who don't fit the usual son-of-privilege demographic profile.

Second, the nature of the arcade machine brings players together by pure geography, instead of a console owner and his friends, or a PC owner and his like-minded online comrades. Because players compete one-on-one, there is little opportunity for group discrimination, and a hierarchy of player skill can be objectively determined. In Street Fighter, people really are judged purely on their merits.

In addition to the arcade argument, he also points to the fact that many fighting game tournaments feature old games, which are even cheaper to come by than Dead or Alive 4.

Marvel vs. Capcom 2, now nearly a decade old, is a big draw on the American fighting game circuit, and Lugo cites it as evidence. "Let's face facts," he says. "Most people who play it are from the hood."

uh, you can get DOA4 on amazon for $30. i was lucky to find MVC2 for $75.

"Eventually I found out that Spider-Man's a shitty character, but that's why I started playing it."

Spider-man's always a shitty character.

Being a competitive player myself in fighting games in the southern Virginia area, I agree with most of the points in the article. To be honest, I think the arcade played more of a role in the fighting game community than just how rich people were. I mean, it's a social thing. Be out and about in the mall with a couple of buddies playing Street Fighter while the rest of them shot stuff and stomped on arrows. I mean out in the boony areas it's understandable when the best thing you got is a 711 that you'd want to stay home playing World of Warcraft. I mean if you visit the mall/arcade every week, and get a couple games of Street Fighter in, over time you learn and before you know it you're racking up win streaks. That's how a lot of people start playing competitively.

Honestly it's sad more fighting games aren't getting more hype and coverage. I mean, I remember playing online Counter-Strike on CAL for 2 years and that was the biggest waste of time. The most racist online players and the worst trash talk in the world. I remember reading so many hateful posts about a pro-CS player 'kmode' who was black and played Counter-strike and every post about the matches his team won on forums, was like the N word 60 times.

What sucks even worse is that companies like CGS try to broadcast crap like CS for people to watch on TV, when that is the most boring thing to be watching. Casters, camera angles, audio it doesn't matter. I'm pretty sure golf is more exciting than spectating pro-CS matches that take up an entire hour of saving guns and eco rounds.

But fighting games are dying pretty fast, I doubt Street Fighter 4 can change that. Even with more sponsors for tournaments and coverage, after 6 months, the hype dies and all the casual lazy players stop and all that's left are the OG's who've been playing for the past 5 years.

There's another reason why fighting games are still popular: You only need one console to play them.

More and more "high-end" games, especially shooters, are moving towards exclusively online play. Most shooters today literally do not have splitscreen capability. The reason for this is obvious: Four players playing on one console only spent $60 bucks on the game and $300 on the console. If you force each player to get his own console and copy of the game, they have to spend $1,440 to do so, plus the fees for the online play.

No fighting game, as of yet, has ever done away with living-room multiplayer.

There is a good reason besides all the fan favorite characters that Super Smash Bros. Brawl is one of the best-selling games: It allows four people to play one copy of the game on one console.

Real human contact isn't overrated, it's underrated. No anonymous fratboys screaming incoherent, drunken racial slurs at me over a headset, no twelve-year-old stranger insulting my sexuality using every key on his keyboard except the ones with letters on them, no sitting around in a lobby waiting for a match to open up.

[/soapbox]

But I'm meandering. Well, the article meandered a bit too, but I agree with its basic premise, so there's not much more to be said.

Great article. Being a young, middle-class white male, it only helps to verify these theories that I mainly play online FPS games with my PC and have little interest in fighting games.

I do question the assertion made at the beginning of the article though. Yes, we've seen several televised video game leagues die, but what does that prove? That there isn't a big enough audience to make it viable? That the games themselves aren't interesting to watch? That the demographics of watching televised games and the people who enjoy those games don't match? What about places like Korea where televised gaming is commonplace?

One can't draw many conclusions from a few failed experiments. There are just far too many variables which could be responsible.

"Why do people play Street Fighter? Because they want to fight people; they want to beat people up."

Erm... no.

Fighting games are for any player who likes extremely deep, skill-intensive, fast-moving gameplay. Not only are most fighting games about as close to real combat as Tom and Jerry, the best characters are also quite frequently teen girls (the influence of many games' Japanese origins perhaps?).

fighting games are just button mashing....

From visiting a bunch of fighting game forums I've drawn 2 conclusions about the average player:

1: They will play any character as long as they have a decent tier...
2: ...unless it's a girl, "because playing as a girl is gay".

Nice article. It was strange when I first joined the ranks of fighting gamers a couple years back. Suddenly I was in a room comprised of 12 gamers with only 3 white guys whereas any LAN I'd ever seen was seriously slanted the other way around.

Dom Camus:

"Why do people play Street Fighter? Because they want to fight people; they want to beat people up."

Erm... no.

Fighting games are for any player who likes extremely deep, skill-intensive, fast-moving gameplay. Not only are most fighting games about as close to real combat as Tom and Jerry, the best characters are also quite frequently teen girls (the influence of many games' Japanese origins perhaps?).

It's not about real combat, it's about direct conflict with another player, the 'mental struggle' if you will. Fighters are the most true test of pure skill, one-on-one, out there, 100% information on the screen (why it's sometimes called chess on crack). There are loads of different slants on why an individual player plays fighting games or is interested in a certain game over another but in the end that contest is usually the main focus.

The best characters differ quite a lot actually, I've yet to find a line there. Most of the time the game's best is determined through later discoveries and change drastically throughout the 'life' of a fighting game. Case in point: the most powerful character in girl-school doa is Mr Hyabusa (if you discount the completely broken and tournament banned Spartan of course). Though I've always found it strange that Sakura is systematically better than Ryu (who she idolizes while cracking his skull open or something) but Capcom law definately states that Sagat be powerful in any game he's in.

Dectilon:
From visiting a bunch of fighting game forums I've drawn 2 conclusions about the average player:

1: They will play any character as long as they have a decent tier...
2: ...unless it's a girl, "because playing as a girl is gay".

I think the article was correct in that the only thing that determines choice of character is their worth. And I've found this applies both to race and sex alike. It's simple really, the higher tier "easier" character is played most. Chun-Li is second or third most played in the world in Third Strike (together with fellow tops Ken and Yun). Sakura is in the top five most played characters in CvS2 (Sagat, Blanka, Bison and Hibiki completing the toptier-five). Storm and Psylocke are high up in MvC2 usage lists due to their sheer power and usefulness (Sentinel, Cable, Magneto being other oft seen powerhouses).

There are loads of guys shouting that "playing as a girl is gay" line, but when you set apart the ones truly competing to be the best you'll find no such qualms there.

pyromcr:
fighting games are just button mashing....

I was honestly surprised to find you're 19 yrs old instead of 12. Learn a few basic things about fighting games and watch some top-level play on youtube (pick a random match off Ogikage or TheShend 's lists or something), you might actually find a broader world out there.

Sylocat:

No fighting game, as of yet, has ever done away with living-room multiplayer.

And pretty much can't, basically.

Timing is so crucial to higher level play (down to individual frames) in fighting games that any amount of lag destroys them completely.

Soul Calibur 4 shows it worse than most, Guard Impacts are all but impossible to time even on a good connection compared to local play, reducing the whole game to basically a knockabout rather than any kind of high skill competition.

I've never been a competitive gamer, but I have experience in both the fighting game and shooter competitive scene, and the article is spot on.

On a semi-related note, here's my idea to make spectator gaming work. Serve booze and have live music. Make it more of a party for the people at the event, and more people will be there. You draw huge numbers to the events live, TV audiences will follow.

pyromcr:
fighting games are just button mashing....

Highly coordinated and extremely selective button mashing in a perfectly timed pattern... but that really depends on what fighting game you're playing I guess.

Guys, don't feed the scrubby trolls. It's not button mashing, and he won't listen to you.

Anyways, having been part of 3 major hotspot arcades (FFA in Cali, Einstein's/PZero in Texas, and Chinatown Fair in NY), I can tell you that the fighting game genre is indeed starting to die. Fighting games have probably the most competitive and high-level play out there, but we've become so hardcore that new players have a hard time breaking into the loop. Even in one of the nicest fighting game communities (Einstein's in Austin, Texas), it's hard to draw people in simply because it's not the easiest path out there.

It's really sad that online lag hasn't been defeated, because that's a great way for fighters to survive. I hear Ogawa still mashes on GGX# Reload Online, but I've never been able to play him on-line.

And there's something that needs to be said about the article: the people who play these games aren't looking to beat people up. They're looking for something that all competitive players look for: respect. Justin Wong might not be the richest man in the world, but I guarantee you that anyone who runs into him and knows about the fighting game community worships him (or hates his guts, but still respects his skills). Daigo Umehara may not be an impressive person to most, but I bet you everyone who cares notices him when he enters an arcade.

It's the same reason people compete in Halo LAN tournaments or tried to go to CGS: the money's decent, but the feeling you get, knowing that you're the best, is something not easily taken away.

A good number of fighting game fans are just hoping lightning strikes twice: that there will be another game like Street Fighter II. Street Fighter II was basically our Holy Grail: it bridged the gap for hardcore players and casuals, it brought a lot of competition not only to the arcades but to home consoles as well, and basically had a very strong following for a number of years.

But this year looks pretty bleak. We've got SFIV (which is good, but probably not going to dethrone 3rd strike), Blaz Blue (Guilty Gear after Sammy got sued), and Tekken 6 (Which always attracts a specific crowd. + Bob: the first fat non-sumo wrestler?). Maybe KOF 12 (which, supposedly, isn't Maximum Impact 2). Same companies as always, and nothing really revolutionary.

Article is interesting, to be sure. Something I always noticed about fighters, even in my younger years when there were still decent arcades near me. Never thought I would see an article about it.

who the hell puts hibiki in a cvs2 top five? the fact that she can't use her qcf+p against bison is enough to pull her out of there.

from the article:
While debates continue over whether games belong under the rubric of art or if they can play a role in education, the question of whether they can serve as a spectator sport seems resolved: No - or at least not yet.

A few hundred thousand gamers beg to differ (especially South Koreans). What about StarCraft? They have TV channels dedicated to StarCraft and other gaming tournaments. What about WCG? Millions of people already been there, some of them even attended the tournament. You can watch matches of a wide variety of games online, even with commentator voiceovers. This may seem insignificant compared to the rest of the world, but games, especially RTSs, have developed a real spectator sport side of their own. I myself watch StarCraft and C&C 3 matches from time to time online. Gaming have become a spectator sport already, just some people are not aware of it.

IMHO, the whole article is a little racist. Don't get me wrong, but I don't think racial diversity and segregation is that big of an issue in gaming. Yes, some people are throwing around racial slur and thrash-talk during gaming, but it's not a matter of racism, it's a matter of education and upbringing.

I myself had no problem playing with other people belonging to a wide variety of human subgroups, blacks, asians, latinos, philippinos...etc. They are just people too, wanting to play a game and have fun. I even made friends with some. On the other hand, I did meet some obnoxious douchebags, who threw around racist remarks and thrash-talk, but they were like this towards everyone, not just the (other) minorities. These people are usually sorry losers and have self confidence issues or whatever. They are like this because they are protected by the anonymity of the internet and huge distances. They won't say these things in person. As for picking characters in a game, usefulness, playing style and power is what matters, not the character's race.

Playbahnosh:

from the article:
While debates continue over whether games belong under the rubric of art or if they can play a role in education, the question of whether they can serve as a spectator sport seems resolved: No - or at least not yet.

A few hundred thousand gamers beg to differ (especially South Koreans). What about StarCraft? They have TV channels dedicated to StarCraft and other gaming tournaments. What about WCG? Millions of people already been there, some of them even attended the tournament. You can watch matches of a wide variety of games online, even with commentator voiceovers. This may seem insignificant compared to the rest of the world, but games, especially RTSs, have developed a real spectator sport side of their own. I myself watch StarCraft and C&C 3 matches from time to time online. Gaming have become a spectator sport already, just some people are not aware of it.

IMHO, the whole article is a little racist. Don't get me wrong, but I don't think racial diversity and segregation is that big of an issue in gaming. Yes, some people are throwing around racial slur and thrash-talk during gaming, but it's not a matter of racism, it's a matter of education and upbringing.

I myself had no problem playing with other people belonging to a wide variety of human subgroups, blacks, asians, latinos, philippinos...etc. They are just people too, wanting to play a game and have fun. I even made friends with some. On the other hand, I did meet some obnoxious douchebags, who threw around racist remarks and thrash-talk, but they were like this towards everyone, not just the (other) minorities. These people are usually sorry losers and have self confidence issues or whatever. They are like this because they are protected by the anonymity of the internet and huge distances. They won't say these things in person. As for picking characters in a game, usefulness, playing style and power is what matters, not the character's race.

I'd type a response but this was already said, Sooo... seconded.

wait, who sued Sammy, and how does it affect guilty gear?

Sylocat:
There's another reason why fighting games are still popular: You only need one console to play them.

More and more "high-end" games, especially shooters, are moving towards exclusively online play. Most shooters today literally do not have splitscreen capability. The reason for this is obvious: Four players playing on one console only spent $60 bucks on the game and $300 on the console. If you force each player to get his own console and copy of the game, they have to spend $1,440 to do so, plus the fees for the online play.

I saw this as a letter to the editor and realised what a complete load of rubbish it is.

The best shooters of last year - Gears 2, Left 4 Dead, COD World At War, Resistance 2, all featured multiplayer splitscreen, with most of them having cooperative gameplay.

Theory debunked.

FunkyJ:

Sylocat:
There's another reason why fighting games are still popular: You only need one console to play them.

More and more "high-end" games, especially shooters, are moving towards exclusively online play. Most shooters today literally do not have splitscreen capability. The reason for this is obvious: Four players playing on one console only spent $60 bucks on the game and $300 on the console. If you force each player to get his own console and copy of the game, they have to spend $1,440 to do so, plus the fees for the online play.

I saw this as a letter to the editor and realised what a complete load of rubbish it is.

The best shooters of last year - Gears 2, Left 4 Dead, COD World At War, Resistance 2, all featured multiplayer splitscreen, with most of them having cooperative gameplay.

Theory debunked.

Which is WHY they were more popular than the 3651364276 shooters that DIDN'T feature splitscreen multiplayer.

Failed attempt at controversy debunked.

Playbahnosh:

A few hundred thousand gamers beg to differ

A few hundred thousand is an irrelevant number, when it comes to mainstream media.

Playbahnosh:
Gaming have become a spectator sport already, just some people are not aware of it.

Some people do like to watch competitive gaming. Outside of South Korea, which is a unique case, no one's been able to make a sustainable business out of it.

Playbahnosh:
IMHO, the whole article is a little racist...Yes, some people are throwing around racial slur and thrash-talk during gaming, but it's not a matter of racism, it's a matter of education and upbringing.

There is no discussion in my piece of racial slurs or trash-talk.

Ray Huling:
A few hundred thousand is an irrelevant number, when it comes to mainstream media.

You realize what you've just said, right? A few hundred thousand is irrelevant? How can you say such a thing? You are talking about yourself too, you know, you are a gamer too, are you not? You like to watch these event's, do you not? Then you just called yourself irrelevant, along with me and, yes, many hundred thousand others just like us.

Mainstream media. You are saying that like it is some big, faceless, ignorant monster who controls our lives and doesn't care about anyone. When in fact, the mainstream media is us! The "mainstream media" is what's irrelevant in gaming! That crowd is made of you, me, the guy posting above me, every gamer. And yes, some of us like to watch StarCraft matches online and still like to play Tekken 4 with friends. I'm not saying that we are the ruling majority around, but we are far from irrelevant, so please don't say that.

Some people do like to watch competitive gaming. Outside of South Korea, which is a unique case, no one's been able to make a sustainable business out of it.

So you are saying, that only those people count, who can make a sustainable business out of competitive gaming? No offense, but you have pretty weird mindset. If you are talking about corporate interests, then you are right. But I though your piece was about the people who watch and play competitive games, not the ones trying to get a profit from that. But, I go with that for the sake of common ground.

Outside of South Korea there are competitive gaming broadcasts/podcasts/shows/etc. From the top of my head, there is C&C's BattleCast (a part of C&C TV) for example. They are very American, and that is not South Korea, if I'm not mistaken. There is HLTV, which you can use to watch matches of many Half Life based games. There are many more like these all over the internet. Sure, these are not commercial TV channels, but don't say that the Internet is irrelevant too.

There is no discussion in my piece of racial slurs or trash-talk.

Maybe I wasn't clear. I think your article regards this issue with a strong racial (not racist really) overtone. Maybe I'm too accepting, but I never thought there is a problem of racial segregation in gaming. And I'm not talking about racism or trash talk here in general. What I wanted to tell in that post was, for most people, this isn't an issue at all. Most people I know never even considered to choose or avoid a game character based on race or ethnicity. This stands for the people they play with too. They are humans, just like everyone else. They are gamers, just like us, and that's all that matters. If they are from the hood, from the West Side, from Guatemala, from South Korea, from Hungary... what does it matter? If we all speak at least one common language, gaming, why should the color of our skin, or the size of our wallet matter? I always thought about games like activities making people come together, to forget all their prejudices and have fun together. Boys, girls, blacks, latinos, caucasians, rich, poor... everyone.

I think the issue you are talking about has more to do with "cliques" and less with racial segregation. But that's just my opinion...

Pat M.:
who the hell puts hibiki in a cvs2 top five? the fact that she can't use her qcf+p against bison is enough to pull her out of there.

I'm pretty sure that's the whole roll cancelling glitch at work making most of Bison's moves impossible to land consistently.

Akas:

And there's something that needs to be said about the article: the people who play these games aren't looking to beat people up. They're looking for something that all competitive players look for: respect.

I'm going to disagree here solely because that isn't the way I feel about fighting games. I like playing the competitively, I like improving in them but that's because I consider them a challenge. A brain teaser if you will. Outsmarting another smart player is immensely rewarding and respect? Well...that's just a possible extra.

Also, if the folks doing the SF4 netcode have learnt from the guys who did the netcode for HD Remix, I think we'll have a pretty lag free experience.

Playbahnosh:
You realize what you've just said, right? A few hundred thousand is irrelevant?

Yes.

The intention behind CGS was to elevate gaming to the level of other professional sports competition. That didn't happen.

What hundreds of thousands of gamers do may be interesting (obviously, I think it is), but just because it's interesting doesn't mean that it qualifies as a mainstream, professional sport.

Playbahnosh:
So you are saying, that only those people count, who can make a sustainable business out of competitive gaming?

No. I'm saying that only those people who make a sustainable business out of competitive gaming count as people who have made a sustainable business out of competitive gaming.

You're taking the statement of a fact--no one has made competitive gaming into a sustainable business--as a value judgment. They're not the same thing.

Playbahnosh:
Maybe I'm too accepting, but I never thought there is a problem of racial segregation in gaming.

What you accept or don't accept doesn't matter. Look at other responses to the article. They agree that the demographics of fighting game competition are precisely what I've reported: mainly black, latino, and asian. It doesn't matter what you want or what you think of the situation. The fact is that whites constitute an obvious minority in this arena.

Now, you're arguing that we shouldn't pay attention to this fact. Ok. Get out there and pay no attention!

Ray Huling:
What you accept or don't accept doesn't matter. [...] It doesn't matter what you want or what you think of the situation. [...] Ok. Get out there and pay no attention!

What's with all the hostility? I don't think I did or said anything to insult you in any way, or incite that kinda response. If I did, please elaborate.

On the other hand, in a discussion, it is considered rude to simply ignore the other's opinions or blatantly dismiss them as irrelevant. I think what I said about professional gaming and the spectator side is very relevant to this issue at hand. I don't know what you consider professional sport or event that is big enough, but I think WCG is quite a large scale tournament to fit the description. It's worldwide, has different "sports" in it, and it is sometimes called the Olympics of gaming. It may be not focusing on fighting games per say, but it's anything but irrelevant.

But, it seems like you don't want to have an intelligent discussion about anything, so if you don't care, respond with hostility and dismissal, there is no point really. If you think my opinion, and some hundred thousand gamer's opinion is totally irrelevant compared to yours, suit yourself.

Have fun...

Playbahnosh:

What's with all the hostility? I don't think I did or said anything to insult you in any way, or incite that kinda response. If I did, please elaborate.

Playbahnosh:
IMHO, the whole article is a little racist.

Here's your problem: you think that any investigation into race implies a racist perspective.

I don't think I can help you with this problem.

Playbahnosh:
I don't know what you consider professional sport or event that is big enough, but I think WCG is quite a large scale tournament to fit the description.

WCG is big for games. It's not big compared with even minor professional sports. It's nowhere near the size of, say, professional mountain biking, despite having the sponsorship of Microsoft.

The test of whether a competition meets the standard of a professional sport lies in the ambitions of CGS. CGS thought it could attract pay-per-view audiences and a sustainable stream of advertising. It couldn't.

The key aspect of professional competition is money. Professional gaming competition survives as a form of advertising itself. WCG is a Microsoft/Samsung ad, rather than a revenue-generating business of its own.

The community you described is an amateur community, not a professional one. There's nothing wrong with that, but that's what it is.

Woe Is You:

Pat M.:
who the hell puts hibiki in a cvs2 top five? the fact that she can't use her qcf+p against bison is enough to pull her out of there.

I'm pretty sure that's the whole roll cancelling glitch at work making most of Bison's moves impossible to land consistently.

just for the record:

No.

"Roll Canceling" is when you cancel a special move into a roll, getting the roll's invincible frames added to the special move.

What I'm talking about is that Hibiki's best move, her qcf+p slash, which is basically the only thing she has to end a combo, is punishable by Bison's scissor kick EVEN WHEN IT HITS. Which means that a decent bison player can basically LET Hibiki hit him, and if she tries to get any more damage off a combo than a few c.lks, she'll eat a custom combo for 90%+ damage.

Loving the name. Lol.

 

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