The Accessibility of Fighting Games and How I Feel It Should Be Handled
I am very much a casual gamer. Meaning I play video games for fun. I apologize if that offends alleged hardcore gamers, but I like to enjoy something that causes me to escape the daily grind of work, school, and daily responsibilities. This from my cynical and bitter perspective gives me impression that so-called "hardcore gamers" are the basement dwelling, NEET(Not in Education, Employment, or Training) stereotype society's poked fun at since the 80s. But I'm not here to mock my devoted brethren, I'm here to talk about a problem Capcom seems to be having with developing fighting games. A problem which Capcom, Namco, Midway(Now NetherRealm Studios) and Arc System Works solved in the 90s. And that is making fighting games with simple controls that anyone can use on the surface, however under the surface are more complex movesets that the most dedicated players can learn and master. An example of this were the console ports of Super Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat II. On the surface these game are easy to play as they're button masher friendly. But underneath that surface were special moves set to button combinations that only dedicated players could master. How Capcom has lost sight of this baffles me. But let's get into that.
What Capcom Seems to Have Forgotten
Capcom seems to be having trouble making Street Fighter V, hence why I wonder why they're not implementing what they did in developing Super Street Fighter II, Street Fighter Alpha 3, Marvel Capcom 1 and 3. Instead they've reduced control input to where anyone, even a casual player like me can parry a close-quarter-combat super-move with simple mashing of two buttons. Well, with enough practice of course, but why does that bug me? Because despite my self-proclaimed casual status, I like improving my skills in video games. For me that's part of the fun to improve with characters in fighting games. The feeling of learning new moves, and maneuvers to counter attacks, avoid getting hammered by a string of combos, and then utilizing these new skills is satisfying. But not every players wants to learn new moves and techniques to better their skills. Some just want to have fun, which is where difficulty settings, and simple surface level controls that are button masher friendly come into play. Console ports of older fighting games had this all the way to Super Street Fighter IV back in 2010. So I don't why Capcom's felt the need to simplify the entire control scheme for Street Fighter V. Actually yes I do know, because in watching videos about discussing and analyzing fighting games, it's come to my attention that the Fighting Game Community(FGC), Capcom, and by extension gamers who have issues with fighting games only focus on PvP a.k.a "player vs. player." Which leads to our next problem...
Ignoring the Real Problem With Fighting Games by Focusing on the Wrong Target
Like I said before, the Fighting Game Community(FGC), Capcom, and by extension gamers who have issues with fighting games only focus on PvP a.k.a "player vs. player." Like I said in the prior point too, console ports of fighting games have a difficulty setting and surface level controls that allow casual players to have fun with the game in single player. I've also heard from a youtuber NickolaiButton that fighting games don't use game design to teach players how to play them. This in my opinion is a load of crap. Why? Well since I've played fighting games since the original Street Fighter II as a salty four year old child in 1992.(Man, I'm old...) And from my experience you learn how to play fighting games through experimentation and observation. By observing what the CPU characters do during the fight, and how they react to attacks. This is where you also utilize experimentation with observation. After you learn the basic control scheme from reading the manuals and in-game menu screens, you experiment to see what CPU characters block, and how much damage your heavy and light attacks do to the CPU characters. Or if you don't read the manuals, just press buttons and see what they do. This is what makes training modes in modern fighting games so useful, as you don't have to worry about the CPU reacting while you learn the basic controls.(Unless you go the menu and turn on the in game A.I.) This is how fighting games taught players how to play them. This is why the final boss on "easy mode" of fighting games would come off as hard to casual players because what their methods of play style weren't effective enough to beat the boss. Not to mention in "just playing for fun," there's an inability to adapt.
But my point is, the problem with what's going on with the simplification of Street Fighter V's control scheme, is Capcom is focusing too much on competitive playing and not single playing. This is where I feel, Capcom needs to go back to what they've utilized in the past before the current competitive scene:"a surface level simple control scheme and in game difficulty setting with an easy mode for casual, and more underlining complex move-sets for more adept players to learn. I mean Persona 4 Arena Ultimax has this element of simple surface level control scheme and easy setting. And Marvel Vs. Capcom 1 and 3 as a "simple/beginner" control setting for casuals to pull off super moves with the press of a button. Thing is fighting games have always had these traits, and I don't think it helps to make the control scheme easier to make casuals feel they're on the same equal footing as more adept players.
If anything, if casuals don't enjoy playing against other players, then they should stick to playing locally against friends, or playing single player on easy mode.
In Conclusion, Who Am I Flipping Kidding...?
No really, who am I kidding? I could say "I hope Capcom learns from this," but unless I bring this to their attention, things won't change. Yet to be fair, unless people who share my criticisms are loud enough, Capcom won't change or go back to the old ways. Plus there seems to be a marketing problem, which I neglected mention in the previous segments. I rarely saw any ads for Street Fighter V online and on T.V. when it launched and as a result helped in its lack of sales in my opinion. Street Fighter V didn't have an accessibility problem, it had a marketing problem. Meaning no matter how much they simplify the control scheme, it won't mean anything unless the potential consumer knows about it. And you'd think after being in business for thirty eight years, you'd think they'd know that.
But Capcom will be fine, as their loyal fighting game fans will be willing to buy their products regardless of quality. Plus is helps for Capcom to not give away the state their games are in at launch.