One Move to Change a Match-Up

I was going through the SCR Norcal vs SoCal match after watching Evo and was taken back by how Ricky vs Snake Eyez played out so differently. Now Snake Eyez won both games, but the matches were extraordinarily different. At first I thought it was due to change in Ricky’s play, but I hadn’t considered the Ultra changes too much at the time.

So during SCR, we see Rufus HAVE to play like Rufus in a matchup where you don’t wanna be up and close. Rufus has to be aggressive because he has no other choice. Zangief can outfootsies him easily and most of Rufus’s moves get beat by Zangief’s standing medium punch.

Ricky vs Snake Eyez at EVO is a whole different beast and while there are many chnages that effect the matchup, but that change to Standing Medium is by far the biggest. Zangief’s biggest tool in that matchup has been weakened and now Rufus can play defensively. That change alone (an increase in St.M’s hurtbox) is enough to create this entire change in dynamic. Now Rufus can play footsies instead of feeding himself to the Zangief-Grinder.

Now I’m sure Ricky DID have an axe to grind after that match at SCR and I’d guess that matchup got a bit of attention leading up to EVO, but the biggest change was the hurtbox on a single move.

Cool Women in Fighting Games who aren’t Sexualized!

Had a fun conversation on twitter involving the sexualization of women in fighting games and was rather surprised how many examples of non-sexualized women people coud come up with. It’s not a lot, but it’s still a list and it’s fun to talk about.

Also, this isn’t to say that I think non sexualized female characters are the best female characters. You’ve seen my shitty art, you know how I roll. I love me some boobs and some pretty women and all that. But I also like seeing variety. So the point of this post is to highlight some variety that some people might not know exists so we can appreciate it and maybe learn a little by their strengths and failures.

This in no way is a list to show there isn’t a problem (the difficulty of assembling this list would say otherwise). This is just to highlight some cool examples.

The list is also not complete. I tried to stick to answers that would be largely uncontroversial, but if you have any suggestions, feel free to leave them. I might try and update the list, but try and make sure it’s a good example. I’m not going to put Ivy down in the bottom category because she’s ‘sexually empowered’ or something. That’s a different conversation for a different time.

Non-Human

The easiest way to have a non-sexualized woman in a game is to have her be non-human. This might seem like cheating, but almost invariably, when a character is non-human, it’s usually male (I’ve heard League of Legend players bitch about this quite a bit). So while these example are arguably easy ways out, their rarity tells a different story.

Justice

justiceGame: Guilty Gear

Justice is the final boss of the original Guilty Gear and a secret character throughout the life of the whole series. While Justice is humanoid, most tend to think of her as a big gundam dude with hair. The woman inside Justice is probably quite attractive if the implications of Overture’s plot are to be believed, but the Justice we see as players is a powerful, dreadful Gear with a TERRIFYING codpiece. It’s also quite possible that, while Justice was once human, that her human body was destroyed when she was converted into a gear. Being a powerful woman who commanded an army of Gears against all of humanity, Justice deserves some respect

Amaterasu

amaterasuGame: Okami and Marvel vs Capcom 3r

Amaterasu is not only a wolf, she’s also the Goddess of the Sun. Hard to get very sexual there. People also tend to know Ammie is a woman, which gives her some points over the other two characters on this part of the list.

Panda

panda

Game: Tekken

The tekken Panda is a girl. WHO KNEW?! Not much else to say on this one as Panda doesn’t really do or say anything

Minimally-Sexualized

These are characters who are very minimally sexualized. Almost all female characters get sexualized in some way, if only in passing. The exceptions in these character’s portrayal are often kind of interesting.

Leo

leoGame: Tekken

I’m not up on my Tekken so forgive me in advance. Leo is one of the cooler of a particular trope of non-seuxalized female characters. Leo is androgynous. Leo is androgynous as fuck, with no one knowing what she was for quite some time. Her style is a type of Kung fu that is both powerful and graceful and while rugged and masculine in appearance, as a guy she would definitely be seen as a pretty boy. She seems tough as nails and the only bit of sexualization she gets is swimsuit DLC in Tekken Tag Tournament 2, which puts the whole issue to rest.

Naoto

naotoGame: Persona 4, Persona 4 Arena

Naoto is an awesome and troubling character. Also androgynous, Naoto and her Persona 4 story spawned a bunch of controversy as to whether or not she should be considered transgendered and whether or not Atlas dropped the ball in making her trans issues be a ‘thing’ she lets go of. Personally, I’d say she’s not trans, but that Atlas dropped the ball (The character is what they say she is, for better or for worse), so I’m including her. There is some pretty good reasons to consider he male still (She refers to her self with male pronouns in the japanese version even after confronting her shadow), but that’s a discussion other people can have.

Still, taken as a female, Naoto is very much not sexualized. She is in Persona 4 to some extent — jokes made about the size of her wrapped up breasts and the school girl outfit during christmas… but not at all in P4A (it’d be easy to assume she was a guy if you were playing without prior knowledge), and in both cases is always treated as skilled and intelligent. While Naoto is problematic, she is still awesome and very interesting to talk about. Out of any character on this list, she probably has the most words written about her. If you’re curious, look it up. I can’t do her story justice.

King

kingGame: The Art of Fighting, The King of Fighters

The original androgynous fighting game character. King could only be identified as female by defeating her with a special attack in the Art of Fighting which would blow off her top and she her to be wearing a bra. A bit crude by current standards, it was an interesting detail at the time.

King fights with the world’s most badass martial art, Muay Thai. She dresses in fancy suits and drinks wine and kicks ass. Like Naoto, she presents herself as a man to receive male privilege while at the same time becoming somewhat gender neutral. King gets more feminine in appearance as the series goes on, kinda unfortunately so by XIII. Still, her cold demeanor hasn’t changed at least.

Makoto

makotoGame: Street Fighter 3: Third Strike

While masculine and androgynous, Makoto doesn’t get included with the above 3 a she has always been presented as a female. Instead, Makoto just doesn’t care about her femininity. She is one of the hardest hitting street fighter characters and is terrifying. Makoto is a pretty great example of a non-sexualized female character as little is done wrong in her presentation. There are no missteps or mixed messages, just a really rough, tomboyish karate practitioner. At worst, when you dizzy her you can see her bra and SF4 gives her a schoolgirl uniform, but those are minor points in the scheme of things.

Hilde

hildeGame: Soul Calibur 4

Hilde get’s a lot of love as a cool, armored female. While some of her costumes are more feminine, her primary outfits are always pretty badass. I don’t know about Hilde as a character, but one of the cool things about her is, unlike the above examples, she doesn’t discard her femininity. It just doesn’t get in the way of being a pragmatic fighter.

Peacock

peacockGame: Skullgirls

It’s strange that two great examples come from a game with so many panty shots. I could write a whole lot about how Skullgirls’ honest voice and art direction is the right way to do ‘sexy’ and do it sincerely, but that’s gotta wait for another day. What’s cool is that there is actually some good cast variety. Peacock is pretty much straight up entirely unsexualized in any way. Not even in a ‘loli’ way or something. She is a foul mouthed cartoon throwback who is amazing. It’s so awesome that she’s found in such a strange place

Painwheel

painwheelGame: Skullgirls

Painwheel might be arguably a little sexualized with her leg revealing outfit, but I don’t think she was created with any sort of titalation in mind. Painwheel is terrifying and upsetting. She’s embodied medical horror and experimentation.

Tsubaki

tsubakiGame: Blazblue

I stopped playing Blazblue long ago and I don’t even particularly like Tsubaki. In fact, I kinda hate her design. It seems so stupid and goofy and awkward. At the same time, that goofy, stupid awkwardness makes no attempts to be sexy or anything like that and it makes her stand out compared ot the rest of the Blazblue cast.

Oume & Otane Goketsuji

otaneGame: Power Instinct

OLD WOMEN. How awesome is that. Power Instinct is a weeeeiiird game. In fact, Oume was even the game’s last boss.

Sexualized but Awesome Characters and Runner-ups!

Random examples I wanna talk about and a few runner up game series that do better than expected on average but I don’t feel like I would have much to say about.

Baiken

baikenGame: Guilty Gear

Baiken is a weird example. She can be drawn pretty sexy. She has cleavage all over the place. She doesn’t care about her appearance much, but she’s still a hot mess. Atop all this, she is scarred, missing an eye and an amputee. Arguing about whether or not Baiken is sexualized or not is one of the reasons I wanted to write on the topic to begin with.

I think Baiken is sexualized in an almost perfect way. It isn’t thrown in your face. They don’t go out of their way to make her pose in sexy ways or show off her huge boobs all the time and they’re also making a maimed person attractive and strong. Baiken isn’t cool despite her sexualization — it’s something that plays off her other traits in an awesome way.

Vanessa Lewis

vanessalewisGame: Virtua Fighter

Also not a big VF fan, but I do know Vanessa Lewis was one of the first ‘muscle girls’ and an MMA fighter. Vanessa is sexy and shows a lot of skin, but also in a way that shows off her powerful body. Vanessa is also tastefully animated and has some badass attacks.

Runner Up: Melty Blood
No, seriously, for a “loli fighter” based on some eroge games, the characters are surprisingly very much no sexualized. It’s actually quite surprising.

Runner Up: Immaterial and Missing Power

This might be a bit of a cheat, but IaMP is a Touhou fighting game and whether or not lolis in bloomers is sexualizaiton is a whole big question. Still, they seem to be drawn respectably in both the original Touhou games and IaMP. Worth throwing that out there.

Reaction Speeds in Gaming

The topic of reaction speeds comes up a lot in my pet-genre of fighting games, especially when talking about casual players. Commonly they will exclaim “I just don’t have the reaction speed to play these games!” which I think is a fundamental misunderstanding of how one’s reactions work. There is a biological component to reaction speed that is hard or perhaps, impossible to improve, but that is not what most people lack. This is much like the concept of APM in RTSs. People commonly exclaim they don’t have the finger speed to play despite easily being able to type over 100 characters a minute. The bottleneck is rarely biological. The bottleneck is in your head.

The mental component, unlike the biological aspects of your reactions and reflexes, is readily and almost easily improvable. It represents the ‘skill’ component of reactions. The biological component of your reaction speed might represent your upper limit (which, by the way, is not perfectly represented by online reaction checkers), the vast majority of your sluggish reaction times in activities come from complex mental processes.

What I’m about to say isn’t strict science, but more so, a personal theory, coming from years of both gaming and watching other people improve at games. It might not perfectly represent the actual mental/physical model of what’s going on, but I think it’s a useful tool for understanding it in a way that will help you improve.

The Stack

The stack is the mental “post processing” that occurs once stimulus is received. Just like the post processing on many televisions, actions taking in one’s mental stack delay the time it takes to respond to something you see on screen. In the above (and silly) example, the new player is spending so much time trying to parse what’s going on, what he can do and how he’s supposed to do the thing that he wants to do that he not only fails to respond to the stimulus (a fireball), his thought process is totally out of sync with what’s going on in the game. He is getting hit and thrown before he totally can remember where the kick button is. This might sound ridiculous, but for anyone who can remember what it was like even as an experienced player to switch from Pad to Stick, the amount of extra processing that goes on in your head to remember what button you’re supposed to hit is ridiculous and frustrating.

A player in sensory overload can commonly think their reflexes and reaction speed are terrible simply due to the fact that they are not experienced enough to know what’s going on. Or how can they be expected to make a good decision after being knocked down when not only can they not parse the seemingly infinite pool of possible actions and responses, but is probably too mentally backlogged to be able to generate a meaningful decision until after the knockdown situation has passed? The problem seems overwhelming, but all the player has to do is clean up their “Stack”.

Cleaning Up Your Stack

The first part of improving is realizing you WILL get better if you try. Especially your reflexes. Games always seem to get slower as you learn them. You can help speed up the process though by really thinking about what you’re doing. My advice to all new players is to, as soon as possible, have a plan. A bad plan can be changed, modified and adjusted. Making such adjustments without a plan is often messy and unreliable. One of my favorite bits of advice is telling people to use less buttons when they play. This isn’t always applicable, but is especially relevant to Street Fighter. Lets take Ryu…

Medium Kick (all versions)
cr.LK (close up poke)
Cr.HP (easy anti air)
Hadoken (range attack)
Shoryuken (anti air)
Throw

We’re cutting a move set of 30+ moves down to 6. More so, you can have a gameplan with only like 3 of these moves. The player can use MK for basically anything. It’s a good jump in, cr.MK is Ryu’s best poke and standing MK is okay. All the player needs then is a Hadoken and some Anti Air. This GREATLY reduces the stack. When standing in front of an opponent, one doesn’t have to think about all of Ryu’s moves — if they’re somewhat close, cr.MK. If they’re far, Hadoken. Lets represent these stack processes…

One important thing to remember: Problem solving can ALWAYS be eliminated. Problem solving in match generally means you’re losing. That’s stuff that you’ll be doing outside the match. You might also experiment in a match to figure out something against a more experienced opponent. Regardless, you want to avoid it when possible. You’ll also probably never get good enough that you’ve eliminated all problem solving from your stack, but in theory you could (thus becoming the best player ever). As you learn and become familiar with situations, these should naturally vanish, even if that situation is “doing a move”. Eventually there is no overhead for inputting a move. Your muscle memory will have that covered for you. Eventually you won’t have to run all the calculations on which move to anti air someone with, you’ll just skip to the important part — getting him out of the air.

“But wait!” you exclaim! Eliminating DECISIONS? By what sorcery do you just ANTI AIR automatically? In fact, anti airing every time someone is in the air seems like it’d be kinda dumb and would fail all the time! You only want to AA someone when the AA attempt will succeed and with that, aren’t there tons of other observations that weren’t included? Wouldn’t they read like…

“The opponent jumped.” “Is he going to be able to reach me?” “Is he attacking?” “Have I noticed in time to do a Shoryuken?” “Normal?” “Do I just block?”

Well yes, but we can not only explain that, but greatly simplify what and you need to observe!

Simplifying the World

One of the big pieces of speeding up your reaction time is deciding what is worth observing and looking for. If an opponent is right next to you, you do not generally need to look for them to jump (unless they’re a dirty, dirty dive kick character or have a brutal crossup). If they’re totally across the screen, putting priority on the fact they’re jumping isn’t important either. If you’re at midscreen, you generally shouldn’t be setting up your stack to respond to overheads. If you’re knocked down, you can go slowly break down what your opponents options ACTUALLY are with experience, and once the basic high/low/throw/meatie okizeme situation is internalized, you can put all your observation can be put toward tiny details to help you make the right decision. If an opponent doing something in a situation wouldn’t make any sense, or if responding to it wouldn’t give you any benefits, then there is little reason to be looking for it and by looking for less things, we can respond and act faster.

I also want to introduce the concept of Autopilot. Autopilot is the subconscious script your gameplay follows once you get good but aren’t terribly playing attention. You can learn to play the game quite competently without really “thinking”. The advantage here though isn’t that you don’t have to think — it’s that you can use your autopilot to free up mental resources to make more decisions. Combos are something that are often able to be done on autopilot after a while. The great thing there is you can use your mental energy during the combo to either plan on what you want to do after the combo, or look for things going on in the combo that might be concerning. In games like Guilty Gear, realizing that your opponent is a bit out of position in an air combo and finishing the combo differently to compensate can be a big deal. It’s also something that can only be reasonably done when the combo is running on auto pilot. If you’re looking to anti air your opponent because they seem to be in a “jumpy mood” it is super beneficial to be able to play decently while waiting for the jump. If you just stand there and wait for the jump, they will likely never jump (and might even gain an advantage). Having a functioning Autopilot allows you to decide what things you want to put your focus on. Your auto piloted actions will never be as good as they would be if they had your full attention, but by choosing where you full attention goes, you can pull off things that seem, to inexperienced players, super human.

This is also why having a plan is SUPER IMPORTANT. Even if your plan is to do cr.MKs -> Hadoken, just doing that all reflexively gives you the breathing room to think about what you’re doing in more detail. It gives you the focus necessary to decide what should be in your Stack. By managing whats in your stack and using your focus carefully, you can, with average or even bad natural reaction speed, do things that seem stupidly robo-fast.

It’s not about being about to perceive and react to everything, it’s about being able to simplify the problem and removing the clutter from your brain that slows down your actions. It’s experience that holds you back more so than your inherent abilities.

Cross Assault, Sexism and Community Growing Pains

This will probably be a rambly mess, so here we go.

First off I’m not going to rehash all that happened, so read This piece from PA Report, But also this piece by Tom Cannon (also on PA Report). Also read this fine piece of work by The Brog, and some of the things he links to (Aris’s apology and Sp00ky’s comments).

I guess if you already know whats up, you can skip all that, but seriously, read The Brog’s post if you haven’t. He’s covers some stuff I wanted to cover (and probably will cover anyways).

So first I want to talk about Aris. I never interacted with Aris personally but I know several people who have. Everyone seems to like the guy. He’s smart and clever and funny, apparently. I believe all of that. Then I hear someone describe him as a Lunatic on the GiantBomb podcast. I certainly understand why someone would say that, and saying it offhandedly is fine, but we gotta remember, you don’t need to be a lunatic to say crazy, misogynistic things. If you needed to be a lunatic to say or do awful things, we’d have an easier time fighting this sort of thing. Instead this comes from someone that people enjoy to be around and that’s unfortunate.

Now truth is, Aris is a repeat offender, from what I understand, having been thrown out of a smaller event for similar behavior before. At worst he’s a horrible scumbag and at best he’s got a lot of shit to work out, as does a lot of the community.

There is an upside to this though. While the stream monsters were certainly in full force with the sexual harassment, there were plenty of people, especially on twitter who basically said that Aris wasn’t speaking for them. So many FGC members who were embarrassed by his terrible comments. Tom Cannon is right though when he says there is a grain of truth to what Aris said. The FGC is loud and rowdy and it’s generally hard to draw lines. It’s hard to tell when someone is being legitimately sexist and when someone is just using vulgar language for the fun of it. Aris was so well over the line that it may have served as a wake up call for some people. There is a difference between a bunch of guys yelling “Rape her!” when someone is comboing Phoenix compared to when a guy causes legitimate emotional grief to a woman, live on air. There are people who are going “This is different, and I don’t like it”. Seeing who sides with Aris and against Miranda is giving us a way to see who the real fuck ups are. We get to see a clearer picture of the issue.

Unfortunately that might not happen due to this being a PR disaster. The Media has been fairly responsible with the FGC. I wasn’t able to put into words how they were being unfair, but The Rog did it for me. We’re being used as a spectacle and no one wants to look at whats good in the community (see: Tom’s article). No one looks for the professionals in the community who would speak out against Aris’s statement. They just want the drama and they just want to point and say “Wow, these guys suck”! In a lot of ways we as a community do suck, but stereotyping a diverse community isn’t helpful.

Unfortunately I think this is more than just “not helpful”. It might actively hurt the cause. The FGC is very insular and anti authority already. This is the community that scorns sponsorship and scoffs at the concept of eSports. The community could just as easily put up new walls rather than open up from the poorly handled criticism and opening up is desperately what we need.

Starcraft didn’t get where it is now, community wise, by virtue of their character. Being in the public eye did that. Sponsorships and events made people clean up their act. The top players acted professional and the community, to a degree, followed. We’ll never be the SC community and I don’t think anyone wants us to be that. But we can, lead through example by the community leaders, be made to see the line better. We can be rowdy without being exclusionary. The most important people who can speak up now aren’t random gaming journos, but people in the community it’s self. We’ll probably always have asshole stream monsters. I think we’d even miss them if they were gone, but we can’t condone them. Even the SC community has a seedy underbelly, but everything above that is much more presentable. Team Liquid even had their own sexism scandal. But they don’t put it on GOM TV and when it does happen, personality figures within the personality don’t defend it. Classiness trickles down. We emulate the players we idolize.

We’re growing faster than we can keep up with. Miranda having to deal with sexual harassment is a symptom of that. As long as the community doesn’t reflexively yank back and top community figures act appropriately, we should slowly move toward being a stronger community.

I’m deepely disappointed about this whole incident, but in some ways it had to happen for what may be everyone’s ultimate benefit. I hope Miranda doesn’t give up either I enjoyed watching her play and she’s no joke. If you were to compare Sherry, Miranda, ChocoBlanka and BurnYourBra to any random sampling of Male tournament players, they’d almost certainly be better. As the community grows and open, we’ll only receive more female players and we need to learn to treat them fairly and know the difference between trolling and harassing.

That was all surely one big mess of a post, but I felt like I needed to post something.

EVO2k Live Stream was Hype

<div class=\"postavatar\">EVO2k Live Stream was Hype</div>

I spent the last 3 days watching the live stream and being super hype. The SF4 5 on 5 team tournament was amazing, especially with Team Wildcard, the non regional, scrappy team everyone thought would go out in the first round making it to finals. DaggerG’s Guile was GDLK and team Northwest had an excellent Gen player. I think Wildcard vs EC was the first time I’ve rooted against my home town players ever.

Also congrats on Thelo making top 8 in HDR. Same to David Sirlin too, but he’s a vet so it’s not as special — besides for the fact he used Fei a lot. <3 HDR was also a lot of fun to watch. Afrolegends was just way too strong. The old players can't really get by anymore with no practice. Anyways now that the stream is over, I feel strangely empty. .. In other news, Brave Earth is getting it's development time split with another game that will likely come out a lot sooner. But Brave Earth is still kickin'. More announcements will come whenever I eventually feel up to it.