PS3A Writer’s GOTY: What Is It You Seek From Gaming?
Sometimes, there are games you can always go back to no matter what. Even though Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, Bayonetta, and God of War III are all awesome, they never fully satisfied my needs as a gamer. There was just something missing and they all felt too familiar. Unique experiences like Heavy Rain are great and all, but it’s not exactly what I’m looking for in a game. Is it a must have? Absolutely. There’s only so much you can get from Heavy Rain though, and that’s a problem when you want more.
This year, there was one game that went beyond pushing buttons, understanding an intriguing story, or simply having fun. It became something far more significant, shaping the way I think, the things I want to do, and provided experiences that are both nostalgic and new at the same time. That game was Super Street Fighter IV, my 2010 Game of the Year.
My history with fighting games started with Street Fighter II Champion Edition. I was quite young at the time, too young to even remember my age. My step-father used to own a corner store and I remember being there often. I was always intrigued by the intro from SFII: CE, it’s pretty hard to forget (some dude gets punched in the face). I never played on an arcade machine before and I was far too short to even reach it. One day, I was given change and someone lifted me up to the machine so I could play. Even though I lost, I had this weird feeling afterward. It was that feeling you get when you think you figured something out, as if you learned something new. I wouldn’t lose again, I thought. I was quite wrong. And so the quarter stealing began.
There used to be an arcade in the neighborhood that my brother would take me to. He didn’t really have a choice in the matter, if I recall. I remember playing Samurai Shodown and Street Fighter II a lot, mostly losing. My brother would make me cry, winning almost every single match I played. We had pretty much every version of Street Fighter II released on the SNES and Genesis at the time, and if we didn’t, we rented a copy from the Hi-Fi Video a block away from home. I would always get destroyed by my brother no matter what. Blisters, tears, and wanting to get better are the only feelings I remember. He would play mind games with me and this made me think differently. I had to always be on my feet, thinking, changing strategies, coming up with new ways to outsmart my brother at every possible moment.
I’ve played too many fighting games back when it was the genre to play in the 90′s. I would go on field trips to Enchanted Castle and spend all my hard earned quarters playing Street Fighter Alpha, Tekken 3, and eventually Marvel vs. Capcom. It was there that I had my first taste of competition outside of my brother. My friends didn’t know how to play, so they were easy wins. I couldn’t say the same about every other random encounter I had. I never won, not even once. When the PS2 came out, my first game was Tekken Tag Tournament. I played that game to death and all of my friends in High School did the same. It was constant competition and I loved it. Thinking of new ways to win, mastering combos, and learning new characters were my only desires at the time. Eventually, that fun disappeared after I graduated. We just couldn’t hang out like we used to. People moved on and things just weren’t the same anymore.
While my interest for fighting games never died out, there were so many other games to play I couldn’t invest as much time as I wanted to. I played Tekken 5 Dark Resurrection a lot, and the flawed online mode was my only source of competition really. I never played in a competitive level or anything like that, I just loved the genre and was an avid reader of SDTekken and TekkenZaibatsu. I would win some matches, lose some, and ultimately did pretty well for myself. I never really bothered to step up my game, though. I didn’t see a need for it at the time.
When Street Fighter IV was announced, I was excited. I wasn’t much of a fan of the SFIII series, and I’m still not. It’s a game I can appreciate but I never bothered learning it. I just didn’t like the style and the characters didn’t interest me much. After all, Chun-Li wasn’t even a playable character until 3rd Strike (profound sadness). Once Street Fighter IV hit the arcades, I did nothing but watch matches on YouTube at the UIC computer labs. I was already mentally playing the game before it was even released. Several months later, Street Fighter IV hits consoles, revitalizing a forgotten genre to the masses, and reawakens a desire that I never truly understood. Despite playing the hell out of that game, it wasn’t until the release of Super Street Fighter IV when things really changed for me.
It was from that point on that I actually cared about how I played and wanted to get better. I analyzed matches, read forum posts for strategies from popular sites like SRK, and played non-stop every day for an unhealthy amount of hours. I reviewed Super Street Fighter IV in April after several months of hype and weekly articles. I’ll refrain from rehashing my praises, although they still hold true. Fast forward to the end of 2010 and not only do I have over 430+ hours of gameplay clocked in, SSFIV changed the way I view things, the way I live, and brought about past experiences in a new light – one I could actually understand now.
The constant learning, relearning, and understanding of gameplay mechanics are what keeps me playing Super SFIV. It doesn’t matter how good I think I am, I know I’m going to lose. There’s no point in thinking otherwise, really. And to be honest, I don’t think of myself as that great of a player anyway. I just enjoy the game too much to stop and I care enough to keep trying. There’s always room for improvement and tons of challengers to face. This makes playing a rewarding experience that never get old. While it’s impossible for me to travel and play actual pro-players and learn from them, I do my best and deal with annoyances like lag online and my inexperience and scrubbiness. I can’t even imagine how many hours I put into the training mode.
I went to my first fighting game tournament in May 2010 called Midwest Championships. I didn’t compete but I did get to see the fighting game scene up close and personal. The hype, the community, the passion – it was all there for me to soak up. While most of these people were having a good time, you could just tell that they loved what they do. MWC was also the first time I met MarkMan, Mad Catz’s Community Manager. He travels to so many fighting game events, supporting the community, showing everyone love. It’s a passion that you don’t see very often. One that really opened my eyes. I would later confirm my appreciation for the community at the MvC3 FightClub in Chicago.
I reviewed tons of games this year that I liked: White Knight Chronicles, Final Fantasy XIII, Lost Planet 2, BlazBlue: Continuum Shift, Lara Croft atGoL, Sonic 4, Mega Man 10, etc. When I reflect back on the year, almost all of my free time and beyond was spent playing and watching Super Street Fighter IV. I would dedicate entire weekends watching various fighting game streams, getting all hype for some Street Fighter action taking place all around the world. I didn’t care much for the other games being played, and it was obvious that SSFIV was the highlight each and every time. Hundreds would enter these tournaments, with thousands more watching it live on ustream with commentators that provide brilliant insight on the art of street fighting (some better than others). This is what I looked forward to and most people I talked to knew it.
It was because of Super Street Fighter IV that I actually got involved with the fighting game community. I’ve been writing about fighting games non-stop for readers of a site that aren’t particularly interested or care, but it doesn’t matter. I loved doing it. I enjoyed being a part of the community, providing whatever little insight I had, even if it was a bit redundant in the long run. When you get that exciting butterfly feeling in your stomach, you know you’re doing something you enjoy.
2010 was a great year for gaming in general, but it was quite obvious to me that Super Street Fighter IV would be my GOTY. It has provided me with new, yet familiar, experiences that I never expected to have that I will remember for a lifetime. I met new people, got involved with a new community, and play the game every chance I get. If I’m not playing, I’m reading about it. If I’m not reading about it, I’m watching matches online. I’ve even helped a long distance friend learn the game by teaching her the basics for countless hours. It was fun (read: frustrating).
So what happens now? Well, even though Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is coming out in February, that’s not going to stop my super street fighting ways. In an ideal world, Arcade Edition will be released as downloadable content sometime soon. With the new additions there’s even more of an incentive to play a game that I enjoy so much. Whether or not the SFIV series becomes timeless remains to be seen, but it’s quite obvious that it did something no other fighting game could do for quite some time. Super SFIV continues this legacy and has provided me with experiences that transcend anything I’d ever expect from a game.
Perhaps this is an unorthodox choice for Game of the Year to some people, but it’s the one I felt the most passionate and certain about.