“Should I give up my old people games to play Guilty Gear?”

[One perk of supporting me on Patreon: you get access to a supporter-only email address you can use to ask me questions! If you want some fighting game coaching, consider joining the crew.]

Hey Patrick,

In your “TL,DR; Play Guilty Gear” article from a while back, you closed out the piece by saying,

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“I have long believed that given a long-enough time playing fighting games, everyone eventually comes around to Guilty Gear. I think that if you love 2D fighting games, Guilty Gear is for you, though you may not be ready to love it back. If you want to know why people love 2D fighting games, Guilty Gear will show you why, though you may decide it’s not worth the work.”

This is a longstanding conversation that I’ve been having with one of my friends, and I’ve never been able really sort it out in my head. My favorite games of all time are VSAV and ST. The communities for those games are small, and aside from a few people nearby, I don’t have anyone to play with. I’d end up spending most of my time on Fightcade. I care about offline community and playing with people too much, so I don’t think I have the resolve to grind night after night with randoms online. I still hang out in VSAV training mode every once in awhile, just because that game appeals to me on so many levels. There’s always some hard bullshit to practice. It’s like my FG fidget spinner.

ST is a bit easier to get games in, so I still play that online and in person from time to time. I have a supergun dedicated to it. SFV still feels very unrewarding in the year of our lord 2019, so I play ST to get my fix.

Meanwhile, Gear has a decent presence in here. I enjoy Gear, but I’ve always been intimidated by it and enjoyed VSAV more. I’ve never committed to it fully, so both my Faust and Pot are baby level as a result (I don’t have a real main). Since VSAV devs went on to make Gear, it seems like a logical progression that I’d end up at Gear now. I do love 2D FGs, after all.

I turn 30 this year, and I’ve been reevaluating what I want out of FGs. I stopped going to so many tournaments in 2018. The return on time invested just started to feel out of wack, because I’m not very good at any game I’ve played. I’ve been playing since 2012, and I’ve always been that one guy who was kind of decent at every game on a local level, but never a real threat in any of them. I don’t have any dreams of becoming one of the best in the world at any game, but I’d love to be able to hold my own at a regional level.

So my question is this: Should I give up on my dreams to play old man games and embrace Gear, especially since I have an offline community to hangout with for Gear already? Or should I stop messing around and put all of my efforts into starting a Vampire and/or ST scene?


Vampire Savior Savior

Hey VSS! I love this question.

First off, I can’t believe I’m talking to someone whose fighting game dilemma stems from the desire to play a game even less widely played than Guilty Gear. (This may be more rare than the birth of a baby sea turtle.)

So let’s start with this: It’s not an easily answered question, because the answer depends largely on what you find to be the most personally rewarding as a fighting game player. But — predictably — I’d answer this with “Play Guilty Gear”. :P Let me explain why.

For most people, the value they get from playing fighting games is mostly in how it connects them to other people. When you pick up a fighting game, you’re not just learning a new skill, you’re tapping into a hobby that is shared socially. You’ll make friends by asking questions and seeing who is generous enough to respond, you’ll swap tips with people who share your characters, and eventually you’ll earn people’s respect and admiration through winning and passing on knowledge yourself. And since netplay doesn’t usually create conditions conducive to these relationships, you’re going to get a lot more of these good feelings offline.

VSAV and ST are fantastic games, but if you have no one local to play with, you’re going to have to put in a lot of work making the game available and getting people into it. You won’t be playing the matches you want to play for a long time, and winning will be less rewarding because you’re beating up the people you taught. So unless you’re traveling a lot to play in other VSAV + ST scenes, you won’t really be feeling good enough about it much because you won’t be getting to connect with people through those games. And it’s those good feelings that make it easier to grind netplay, study videos, hit training mode, and keep yourself motivated for the next tournament.

Personally, as someone who rides hard for Capcom vs. SNK 2 and still has opportunities to play it competitively, I still choose to focus on Guilty Gear because a) I think it’s an amazing game and b) connecting with the player community is just way more rewarding.

If you take up GG seriously, you probably won’t see very good results, but at least you’ll be hooking into an active community and you’ll be able to see yourself progress. You won’t be pulling in results quite as good as you would in VSAV and ST, but you’ll still get those good validating feelings from getting better, and no one would expect you to be very good at first anyway.

As for being intimidated by Gear: I get it, it’s an intimidating game! But VSAV and ST are also both pretty scary in their own ways. GG execution tends to be a lot more forgiving in timing than those games, and you’re already going to be used to studying matchups and grinding tricky shit. There is a lot to learn, but you’ll learn that more easily playing with other people and talking with them about it over post-tournament Denny’s than you will netplaying. You’re turning 30, you’re getting your shit together, and you’re going to tournaments because they’re an important part of this awesome hobby you have, not because you’re going to make a career out of it, so your results are less important than having a good time. And trust me, you’re in a much better position to learn GG than you would if you were coming from SFV.

So: Play Guilty Gear. But also, spend some time in the week before a tournament warming up your VSAV and ST, and enter side tournaments whenever you can, bring a setup to locals if anyone wants to play. I’m willing to bet you’ll have more fun at tournaments than you would if you focus exclusively on GG, and you’ll still get to play the games you love. Plus, you’ll be surprised by how much Guilty Gear you can bring back to VSAV.

Thanks for reading!


-patrick miller

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