Get good at watching fighting games

  • Whose turn is it? Paying attention to who is taking the lead and who is responding in any given exchange is the first step in understanding the flow of a match. Often, decisions that don’t seem to make sense in a vacuum are easier to understand if you consider how a player might feel after spending the last 10 seconds walking forward and getting punched, or getting punished for pressing buttons at a disadvantage. Tracking who is dictating the pace and how each player handles aggressive and reactive situations also makes it easier to recognize those moments in your own play as well.
  • Who is being more aggressive in neutral? The pace of a match is typically dictated by the player more willing to move forward into the opponent’s space, and paying attention to how often either player is willing to take that risk, and how they decide to do that, is a critical part of developing an early read on a player. This can sound rather hard to keep track of, so here’s an easy shorthand: visualize a vertical line dividing the screen in half at the midpoint between both characters, and pay attention to stuff like to how often either player crosses the line, how deep each player crosses into the other player’s side, and whether players are getting hit on their own side of the screen or on the opponent’s.
  • What are they doing on wakeup? Knockdowns are major moments in a match, and if you can keep track of the decisions that players make during these moments, you can get an idea of their emotional state, and appetite for risk. If a player is blocking a lot, they are likely fairly confident in their ability to read or react to whatever their opponent is going to do, and are willing to risk some health to gather data. If they’re not blocking, ask yourself what is happening in the match that would get them to swing.
  • How are they spending their resources? Super meter, health, Burst, Vorpal, stocks, assists, whatever it is, if you can spend it or risk it to get something, it’s worth paying attention to how the players are doing it. Also, just practicing the habit of tracking resources during the course of a match will make you less likely to get caught by stuff like unexpected supers when you’re playing.
  • How did they block that? You can practice defense even if you’re not in the game — just try playing along with the players and see how you do in mixup situations.
  • Why did they do that? This is the question that lies at the root of fighting games, and answering it is how we download our opponents. So ask it whenever you see something you don’t get. You may not always have a great answer, but it is in asking and answering it over and over that you build your control of the mental game.




Game Designer. Learn to play Street Fighter:

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Patrick Miller

Patrick Miller

Game Designer. Learn to play Street Fighter:

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