We did another video, if you’d rather watch that.

[People who back my Patreon send me questions sometimes. Please consider joining the crew!]

Hey Pat,

Don’t feel obligated to respond or write an essay or whatever, this was just something that came up. Also for the record, I do not write from a place of salt, and just curious if you have any insight from being involved in the FGC/competition longer than I have.

I was trying out KI during my stream, and got to talking about the players that do things like taunting/teabagging/instant kill/etc (after having killer rank players dominate me as a bronze player and teabag make sure I knew who won). I get that it’s part of the mind game to try and tilt your opponent and make them play poorer, but I guess I don’t see the point in doing it at the end of a match as a final “haha you’re bad”, especially when you’re about to return to the matchmaking queue.

I feel like this practice can be especially harmful when done to players that are new to the genre, since they haven’t built the mental fortitude required by fighting games, so there’s a chance they might not come back. I still remember accidentally enabling matchmaking while playing arcade mode in MvC3 once, felt humiliated by the person who played me, and lost interest in really ever playing that game again. If I didn’t have friends to play SF4 with, I wonder if I would have left fighting games entirely…

I can only assume people who do this want to boost their sense of self and aren’t considering the possible ramifications to the growth of the community if they do this against random low rank people.

Thanks for everything you do for the scene. I always enjoy your articles, they give me something to keep in mind as I continue on the journey of self improvement that is life.

Keep on rockin,

DonLuke

Hey DonLuke,

Thanks for sending this! I thought this was a neat one and I ended up writing an essay. Whoops.

You already have the answer — you’re playing against people who don’t play with any consideration for their opponent. It might be because they’re a dumb kid who doesn’t know any better, or it might be because they’re emotionally a dumb kid who doesn’t know any better. Fighting games reward us for empathizing with our opponents — it’s how we make the sick reads — but it is typically the meta-game that rewards people for being considerate opponents, because it’s an important part of treating fighting as something you do for fun.

Fighting games, like martial arts, offer people a space to engage in mutually consensual violence. When two martial artists spar with each other, they typically do so under a shared understanding of how hard they’ll hit each other, which is informed by the relative skill level and size of both people, their personal comfort zone and risk tolerance, the rules of the training community and the art itself. This is all an important part of being a sparring partner because we’re literally taking each others’ health into our own hands, and if you break someone’s trust, you might have a hard time finding people to spar with. So if you’re a hugely inconsiderate jerk, you’re not likely to stick around for that long because no one will want to train with you — unless you find other people who are like you and down with it, in which case you all hang out and form the Cobra Kai.

Image for post
Image for post
OK the gi is clean as fuck.

Kids and adults in martial arts usually learn this pretty early on, because getting hit generally causes sharp emotional reactions in people. If you want to learn how to fight, one of the first things you’ll need to do is learn to control the feelings of stress, shock, panic, fear, anger, and actual physical pain that you feel when you get hit. When I taught boxing, I’d often tell people that the most valuable thing you learn in boxing is not to throw a punch, but to take one, because learning how to not be scared of someone willing to throw hands is a huge part of learning to project confidence and stand up for yourself in any situation. Once you get used to it, a fight is just a fight, and a punch is just a punch.

Fighting games are different because they (usually) don’t involve physical pain, but the feelings of stress, shock, panic, fear, and anger often still kick in. Your entire brain and body is intensely focused on constantly telling the character onscreen what to do, and when you get hit, they stop listening to you for a little bit, which gets annoying. The other player becomes this agent of frustration, intent solely on disrupting your connection to your character. And once you throw in execution errors, netplay lag, “Why did their move beat my move?”, etc., fighting games just pile on the frustration and expect the players to deal with it. Even if losing doesn’t bother you in the slightest, fighting games still have plenty of frustration in the core experience. Even though we’re not physically hurting each other, we’re still exchanging mental damage, which is what makes these games so spicy. It’s also why I think fighting games are truly special among video games, as they create a very intimate connection between the player and their character, and between the two players themselves, that I don’t find nearly as strong in any other game genre.

Back when fighting games were local-only, and you had to play at an arcade or at someone’s house, we would still have people who were inconsiderate about each others’ feelings, and people could get pretty intense about losing a quarter. But by and large, if you were a huge jerk, no one would want to play with you, so most of the people who couldn’t hold their Ls either learned how to do it quickly or stopped playing, because no one stays on top forever in fighting games. I’m not going to romanticize the past, mind you — people these days in fighting games are a lot nicer these days than they were back then, and it’s largely because we’ve grown up and learned that these things are way more fun with some love and trust to balance out the salt and spice.

However, that’s the kind of thing that people learn when they engage with healthy communities — either by going to tournaments or finding chill Discords or whatever. If you’re netplaying with randos in matchmaking, there’s nothing connecting you to the other person. You’re not training partners at the same gym, you don’t share a local scene, you’re not even in a space where you can see their body language or talk to each other (unless you have voice chat on). You’re just two people just signing up to fight a stranger for a couple minutes before moving on to the next one, and you’re about to engage in an intimate combat simulation with each other where one of you will likely leave dissatisfied. This shit makes Tinder look chaste and reserved by comparison.

Image for post
Image for post

When you play in random matchmaking, you’re playing against anyone who just wants to fight, and people enjoy fighting for all kinds of reasons. Some do it because they love to win, others because they love to learn, or style, or just hang out and make some cool friends. And some people out there enjoy fighting because they’re bullies, because they like the feeling of having power over others and using it to inflict pain. Bullies usually get weeded out in in-person fighting game events because they don’t do well in tournaments, but if they’re netplaying it’s not hard to find a couple poor scrubs to beat on if that’s what you’re trying to do.

And the thing about bullies is that they usually don’t actually realize they’re being bullies. They’re usually just acting out ways of relating to other people that they learned from others and just assumed were natural. The teabagging you’re getting after getting bodied is probably one that they got from someone else. Maybe that’s how they play the game with IRL homies from school or something, and just assumed that everyone else plays that way too. Different people have different emotional reactions to getting hit by a punch, and it’s easy to assume that however you feel is how other people feel too. But when you’re playing online, there are often few tools to pick up on whether the other player feels the way you do, so it’s very common for two players to walk away from a set with completely different experiences.

If you were playing in person, you could pick up on their emotional state through their body language and tone of voice, but in netplay there are no such cues, and their playful taunt could come off as cruel. So some people do it because they’re sadists, and others are just having rowdy fun, and others just do it because they saw a top player do it and thought it was funny, and it’s practically impossible to tell without some other form of communication besides the game itself. It’s like a Turing Test for assholes.

This is why I often tell people that if you’re not playing fighting games for the people, you’re probably missing out on the best part. And this is also why I hate playing online matchmaking. Give me lobbies or long sets on Discord or something, but please, no rando matchmaking for me ever again.

As an aside: teabagging is dumb as hell. If you want to taunt, commit to it with an actual taunt. You want to tell someone they’re trash? Play Guilty Gear and you can do a post-round taunt that will give your opponent 50 meter in the next round. That’s how you fucking taunt someone.

Thanks for reading! If you found this essay valuable and want to support my work, please do not hesitate to share it around on your social channels, follow me on Twitter, check out my Twitch stream (Mon-Thurs 830PM-1030PM PST), or join my Patreon.

💪😎👍❤

-patrick miller

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store