How Fighting Game Popoffs Work

Fighting games are about tension

  • The players’ previous history — Wolfkrone vs. KBrad, you vs. that online rando who always punches your ticket
  • Match stakes — pretty much any game worth at least $20 is generally worthy of tension, though even a dollar is enough to get things going
  • Match narrative — unusual character picks or player styles will add tension
  • Players’ performance in match itself — comebacks, taunting, stylish combos, etc. all help build tension
  • The audience — think American crowds chanting U-S-A, or CORN singing Somebody’s Getting Fucked
  • MAHVEL BAYBEE — pretty much everything about Marvel vs. Capcom is just slamming Max Tension at all times

Popoffs, Talking Shit, and Reciprocal Escalation

  • Player 1 talks shit, Player 2 responds with equal amounts of shit-talking back = either player can pop off
  • Player 1 talks shit, Player 2 doesn’t talk shit = Player 2 can pop off. If Player 1 pops off they just look like a jerk
  • Player 1 talks shit, Player 2 escalates with more intense shit-talking, Player 1 perfects Player 2 to take the set = Player 1 is legally obligated to pop off and spread hype to everyone nearby
  • Steamrolling someone isn’t hype unless the context is hype. Triple perfecting someone in Evo top 8 is hype because both players are good enough to get to top 8. I triple perfected someone in pools at Evo once. It was not hype, and my friends felt bad for cheering for me and stopped after the second one.
  • Popoffs are about how good you are, not how bad the other player is. In general, “I’m so nice” is better than “You’re so wack”. After all, if the other player is bad, your victory doesn’t really mean much.
  • It’s not personal unless someone made it personal. Don’t make it personal, no one wants to see that.
  • As a corollary to the above: threats and fucked up racist/etc. shit is bad, it makes it personal, and the adults in the room have to take your shit seriously, which probably means banning you from the tournament.
  • The one time you can make it personal is if you’re calling someone else out. If you win and want to take the opportunity to tell someone you’re coming for them next, that is hype as fuck.
  • Crew rules: The presence of a crew is a notable exception case for popoffs. In general, assume that if each player has a crew, popoffs are expected; if one player has a crew and the other doesn’t, only the player without a crew is good to pop off. That’s because if you pop off on someone after beating them while they’re surrounded by your homies, it looks real tacky and might make the other person feel unsafe. On the other hand, if you pop off on someone after beating them in front of their homies, all of them just have to hold that shit. (Proper etiquette for the crew is to murmur in understated appreciation whether their homie wins or loses, unless said homie is an underdog in the match, in which case wilding out is expected.)

Case studies in popoffs

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