How Far Will Button-Mashing Actually Take You?


“You don’t know how to play the game! You’re just mashing buttons!” It’s a frequent accusation when it comes to friends playing fighting games… but how well does it actually work?

Now, I’m a minor devotee of fighting games, and I take my time to learn my chosen characters as best as possible. But there are many people out there who don’t bother to learn characters, or strategies, or how to do basic combos – let alone advanced fighting terminology like frame advantage, cross-ups, and wakeup games. These people? They just mash buttons until one of the characters onscreen isn’t standing any more. But is it a viable strategy? Brendan Main takes the pseudo-scientific method to find out in Issue 246 of The Escapist.

Through some impressive scrounging we managed to gather a little over thirty fighting games across a host of systems. Some were timeless classics that we had devoted hundreds of hours to in the arcades of our youth, while some were moderately obscure titles that we had heard about but never played, borrowed from friends of friends. Others were rescued from the bargain bin, bought solely because they had “fight” in the title, or pictures of guys punching each other on the cover. Once we assembled all of these games, and everyone had settled in, we hashed out a few basic ground rules.

1. No handicaps and no cheat codes. Any of my wins would have to be legit.

2. No playing characters that are already masters of drunken combat. No Shun Di in Virtua Fighter, no Brad Wong in Dead or Alive, no Chin Gentsai in King of Fighters, no Bo’ Rai Cho in Mortal Kombat. We decided that the playing field was only big enough for one Drunken Master. Plus Bo’ Rai Cho kind of sicks me out.

3. No blaming your controller. Because, come on. Who does that?

Could an unrepentant button-masher beat people who were actually trying to learn the game seriously? If you want to find out, read “Legend of the Drunken Mashter” in Issue 246 of The Escapist.

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