The importance of fighting game friends

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[This essay was funded by my generous Patreon supporters. If you liked this and want to see more, please consider joining the crew!]

I made a video essay version of this! Check it out. Irene cleaned it up real nice too.

Why you need the homies

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Irene drew some super cute pics of the NorCal GG crew!
  • Persistent practice partners keep your dumb shit in check. If you’re constantly just playing randos in matchmaking, you won’t have to worry about all the dumb little habits that people won’t pick up on in a quick two-out-of-three set, and you won’t learn to pick up on theirs, either. Playing against the homies will give you more practice adapting over time, and will keep all your bad habits in check in the long run.
  • Talking is fun. Fighting games are a conversation, and talking while playing adds to that conversation. It’s fun to talk while playing, and it’s more fun when you get to catch up with (and talk shit to) a friend instead of a stranger.
  • Shared work and rewards = shared accountability. Most people are not so motivated by the pursuit of strength that they’re able to stay self-motivated for a long time. (If we were, we’d all be in a lot better shape as a species.) As social creatures, we find joy and reward when we can do things that benefit the people around us, not just ourselves. For fighting games, this is about learning that you’re only as strong as the people you surround yourself with, and if you can all collectively agree to get stronger together, it’ll benefit all of you. Conversely, if you’re only playing these games for yourself, it’ll be easier for you to decide to put off that session until tomorrow (or next week, or until you’re done playing Final Fantasy VII Remake, etc.) because you are the only person who is affected by that decision. But if you think of your fighting game practice as something that connects you to other people, it’ll be easier to stay consistent, because the rewards of your practice will strengthen your friends, too.

“If only I had some friends to play with…”

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I wanna watch a DBZ spinoff that’s about all the DBZ characters playing DBFZ.
  • Discord is a fantastic tool for finding people who are generally more socially inclined to play with; at the very least you’ll find that people who are down to run sets with someone on Discord are at least more likely to talk over text/voice chat, so you can have an easier time asking questions than you would tapping them out on PSN’s messaging system. If you can find a Discord for your general region and games of interest, that’s fantastic, because it’ll be easier to find low-lag matches within your timezone, and you’ll be meeting people who you might be more likely to see at local or regional gatherings (when those come back, anyway). If you need help looking for Discord communities, try checking this list and feel free to @ me on Twitter so I can signal boost your asks. Yes, this is more work than just mindlessly grinding lobby/matchmaking sets, but it’s more rewarding, efficient, and fun, so just sack up and do it.
  • Even if you’re in a fairly remote area and can’t find persistent play partners, it’s still useful to have a group of people you can talk to about this stuff together. Streams, memes, clips, and tips are all great ways to dig deeper into fighting games that don’t need you to play together.

“But I have social anxiety/I’m weird/People don’t like me/I’m bad at making friends”

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Ryu is the most socially awkward motherfucker ever, and he ends up making plenty of friends. You got this.
  • In general, keep your tone even and lighthearted to start; some people get really frustrated with themselves when they play, and it makes it harder to interact with them, because talking to an upset stranger is uncomfortable, especially if you’re the one pressing buttons that make them upset. If you’re agitated at yourself or them, you’re not in a good place to make a friend, and it’s rather inconsiderate to force your play partner to deal with cleaning up your emotions.
  • If the other person is responding to your questions with cues that invite you to continue the conversation (asking you questions, offering to try stuff out in training mode, that kind of thing) then you’re good to keep going. If they’re not really talking that much, they’re likely not in the mood to talk, so just let them rock.
  • If you’re having a decent back and forth about the game, the next step is to engage them with something that shares some information about you, and see if they reciprocate. This is where you go from “People playing a video game together” to “People who kinda know each other”. I often start this by asking how someone got started playing fighting games, or why they play their main character, to see if the other person is interested in talking about it, and if they are, I can talk about my own experiences and continue the conversation. Eventually we might talk about work or school or whatever, but the safest way to get there is usually to keep things close to the game.
  • A good conversation is like a good set — it keeps going back and forth. If it stops, that’s fine. In general, people don’t often become friends through a single moment but through a series of interactions that escalate over time, starting with small talk one day, and a little bit bigger talk the next, and so on. So don’t rush it.

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