Fists of Forty or: Can a 40-Year-Old Gamer Learn to Play Fighting Games? (Round 1)

A weird thing happened to me last week. First, I turned forty years old. That wasn’t really the weird part. I mean, I’m not psyched about being forty, but it happens.

Anyway, I found myself watching the Evolution Championship Series (EVO) 2014 streams on Twitch. And like just about everyone else who watches high-level fighting game play but is terrible at fighting games themselves, I lamented the fact that I never stuck with fighting games long enough to get any good at them.

And since I’d been looking for some kind of midlife crisis thing to focus on, I thought “Hey, I should really give this fighting game thing a go.” And by giving it a go I mean really put some time into developing the skills to be at least be decent enough to hold my own with random opponents online, or when I go to comics and gaming conventions and people are playing some of the more popular games.

And so, I decided I was actually going to do this. I was going to make a serious effort to not suck at fighting games. I mean, as far as midlife crises go, I could be trying to recapture my youth in many worse ways, right?

Now, it’s not like I’ve never played a fighting game before. I grew up in arcades (I’m 40, in case I didn’t mention that), so arcade fighters were certainly something I pumped plenty of quarters into. But I never spent enough time with them to really get any good.

I was a freshman in college back in 1992, right after Street Fighter II: The World Warrior was released for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Two twin brothers that lived down the hall from me in the dorm had that game running pretty much 24-7. I didn’t get a ton of time with it, as I would get beat pretty regularly, but I eventually was pretty decent with Dhalsim.

Once NHLPA Hockey ‘93 came out though, I moved on from Street Fighter II and never looked back. In 1993, I grabbed Mortal Kombat for the SEGA Genesis on “Mortal Monday,” and my roommates and I played that for the better part of that school year. I was a Johnny Cage guy, and I got good enough to beat my friends on a fairly regular basis.

My longest and final foray into fighting games was the first PlayStation game I bought when I got the console in 1996–Tekken 2. If I remember correctly, there had been a demo of the game on the pack-in disc that came with the console. Either that, or I first played it in a store demo. In any case, that game completely blew me away.

In addition to being a great fighting game, the fact that each character in Tekken 2 had their own cutscene ending gave me a reason to play though with each one. The two characters I settled on for the long haul were Lei Wulong (I was a huge Jackie Chan fan) and Armor King (I was also a huge wrestling fan). I played Tekken 2 regularly for a couple of years, and I could hold my own against pretty much all of my gaming friends at the time. The battles we would have are some of my favorite gaming memories to this day.

But that’s pretty much it. Once I moved in with my wife-to-be (who is not a gamer, except for an addiction to Pandemonium in the early PS One days), I no longer had the couch co-op situation going on, and my time with fighting games was done. I’ve certainly tried to get back into them over the years, whether it be the various Street Fighter entries, Marvel vs. Capcom, and other Tekken installments. But even with ability to play online, I never stuck with any of them.

And so here we are. My goal is simple–for the next year, I will dedicate the majority of my precious gaming time to becoming a competent fighting gamer. I will blog about it here on Co-Op Critics, and I will probably do a few podcasts along the way as well.

Anyone reading this post is welcome to join me, midlife crisis or not.

In my next post, I’ll talk about doing some research, getting the proper equipment, and what game my training will begin with.