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Exploring the impact of UFC and MMA on Street Fighter

Chi Kong Lui's picture

Street Fighter X Tekken Screenshot

While the recent announcement of Street Fighter X Tekken was met with applause from legions of dedicated gamers who stuck with the series or many who returned with the revival of Street Fighter 4, as someone who fondly remembers spending countless hours at arcades in the late 1980s and feeding quarters "borrowed" from his mother's purse playing Street Fighter 2, I can't help, but to think somewhat cynically of this new partnership between two classic fighting franchises that in different era of video games didn't need this sort of gimmick to stand out. For me, it highlights how the series and genre no longer hold the iconic status of an entire generation of video games.

Inevitably, there are a multitude of reasons and factors that contributed to the rise and decline of the Street Fighter series from that iconic status, but the one that I find most fascinating relates to its connection to the martial arts and exactly what role did martial arts play in Street Fighter's success. Games that reach a level of mass popularity aren't just technically great games. There are plenty of technically great games that fail to capture the imagination of audiences and fail to make an impression in the marketplace. Games that become über-popular are often ones that tap into a greater collective subconscious and appeal to our most popular fantasies.

Take Grand Theft Auto III (GTA3) for example. Prior to GTA3's release, an entire generation of consumers had been exposed to films and TV shows like The Godfather, Pulp Fiction and The Sopranos that mythologized the behavior of gangsters and made the act of behaving badly look cool. The technical aspects of the game did it no favors. The gameplay of GTA3 was far from polished and the graphics were just plain ugly. What catapulted GTA3 into a cultural phenomenon was in large part because it tapped into our desire to act out those media-fueled criminal fantasies without fear of any legal repercussion.

Street Fighter II also found similar success due to Kung-Fu movies like Enter the Dragon and Blood Sport, which defined the aesthetic for which the game was based on. Such films usually revolve and culminate around some form of a martial arts tournament, but despite its predictability, this formula continually gets rehashed time and time again because as a society we are competitive by nature and value physical superiority. No one cares if you're the best in kickball or hopscotch. The most fundamental way to prove one's superiority over another is by way of a good ass-kicking (martial arts universally representing the highest levels of ass-kickery) and we're willing to pay good money to either participate or witness such contests.

Street Fighter II Screenshot

When Street Fighter II was released in 1991, it was at the time, a near perfect synthesis of what we come to expect from a digital version of Blood Sport. Unlike the original Street Fighter, the cast of playable characters in the sequel was more vibrant and diverse. The action was also faster and more accessible, which meant more people could be their own Frank Dux and test their mettle against everyone in the neighborhood willing to lineup a quarter. Many players accepted this challenge and arcades flourished by devoting a majority of its floor space to the game to meet the demand.

So if Street Fighter II taps into our innate desire to prove our physical superiority, why did subsequent parts fail to achieve the same level of success? That in large part has to do with the changing perception of martial arts in society. We use our perception (not necessarily the practice) of the martial arts as the universally accepted vehicle/platform in which we prove our physical superiority against one another. But in 1993, a real-life PPV martial arts tournament dubbed the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) forever altered our perception of the martial arts.

The once ideal image of Hollywood-stars like Jean Claude Van Damme and Steven Segal gave way to the image of an unassuming and scrawny-looking Royce Gracie, who used Brazilian Jiu Jitsu grappling and submission techniques to defeat larger men in the first four UFC tournaments. Those Brazilian Jujitsu techniques served as the foundation for the hybrid fighting techniques that would evolve into what's now known as Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). Overnight, traditional martial arts schools, that often perpetuated the cinematic stereotypes for profit, were forced to rethink the effectiveness and validity of their combat systems.

Despite rapid growth in popularity and revenue, the UFC and MMA have yet to achieve mainstream recognition, but that hasn't stymied its perception in pop-culture entertainment as the new de facto standard for what we now consider to be the pinnacle of martial arts. When people debate who the strongest and toughest fighter in the world is, no longer are matinee idols like Jackie Chan and Jet Li considered in the running. MMA fighters like Anderson Silva and George St. Pierre are more likely to be considered. In a recent interview on Letterman, even Sylvester Stallone acknowledged that none of the many action stars featured in The Expendables, including Steven Austin, Jet Li, Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren and Sly himself, would be no match against the sole MMA practitioner in its cast, a 47 year-old Randy Couture.

Looking at the latest version of Street Fighter (Part IV), the martial arts in that game bares closer resemblance to the hyper-stylized fighting that you might see in the polarizing anime, Dragon Ball Z, rather then something that you might find in the UFC, there is a disconnect between the game and its subject. Street Fighter is ultimately a game about kicking and punching each other in the face and that is the foundation that players are able to relate to. When the game no longer represents the perception of fighting that is expected from players, then the game becomes meaningless as a competitive game of hopscotch.

Competition is a major motivating factor as to why so many people played Street Fighter, but that doesn't explain why Street Fighter II surpassed other two-player competitive games before it. What people compete in is also a large part of the equation that is often overlooked. Gamers need to feel connected to the content and gameplay in order for it to be considered worthwhile. Martial arts are the basis by which these games define their connection and value to the world and our lives. If players no longer feel like they are competing in something that at least resembles martial arts in their mind, then the connection is lost and they'll seek out other games that might satisfy their thirst for meaningful competition.

Would the Street Fighter series have remained consistently popular had it adapted its game mechanics to match the evolution of MMA? This is difficult to say because while UFC and MMA have forever changed our perception of the martial arts, it still hasn't achieved a level of mass acceptance that would result in instant popularity. More realism in fighting games may not be what consumers are craving for as even the latest game based on the UFC, UFC Undisputed 2010, has stumbled a bit in terms of sales. Ultimately the allure of a romanticized version of Blood Sport may have simply passed it's time as the world is now aware of what actual street fighting looks like and we know it doesn't involve fireballs and hurricane kicks.

Category Tags
Platform(s): Xbox 360   PS3  
Developer(s): Capcom  
Series: Street Fighter   UFC  
Genre(s): Fighting  
Articles: Editorials  
Topic(s): Pop-culture  

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Is Burnout irrelevant in the age of Gran Turismo?

Is Burnout irrelevant in the age of Gran Turismo? I mean, who'd want to do some crazy drifting and crashing when you could be worrying about properly tuning your spark-plug and sticking to proper racing lines? Would Split/Second have achieved the kind of sales of Forza if it incorporated hyper-realistic tire modeling?

This whole argument seems to hinge on the fact that we play these games, be it Street Fighter of UFC, for external reasons. We play these because action stars are in vogue and because MMA is popular and what not. This might be the case for a licensed product, like UFC of Fight Night, but Street Fighter was always a game and a game first.

And that's the key to it. It's not meant to replicate any realistic fighting situation, it's meant to be a finely balanced competitive force and it succeeded because it was the first and, really, the best. That's where the connection with the content and gameplay come in and what makes it feel worthwhile. It's not because I watched some dude on TV once, but it's because of the mechanics, the feel, the adrenaline of beating an opponent because of a perfectly timed move or strategic decision.

Thousands of people attended Evo to watch a Street Fighter tournament. Thousands more streamed matches live, including me. I felt more connected to that, I understood more of what was going on in that, than I ever did in the few UFC matches I ever watched. I connected with that because I can do THE SAME THING the competitors were doing. I can pull off that shoryuken. I can't do that arm bar.

And sure, relatively speaking, the audience is miniscule to that which watches UFC. But the Star Craft audience is miniscule to that which watches the World Cup, but you're not going to dismiss the competitive aspects of that for not being "more like football." It's its own thing; its own sport.

And that's why this argument falls apart. In the end, Street Fighter is Street Fighter. A competitive game finely balanced not to be realistic, but to provide a competitive and strategic experience. UFC's videogames, as good as they might be, are in the end just brand extensions meant to let you relive what you see on your TV. The difference is massive.

Besides, grappling is boring.

Couldn't disagree more

When have people ever, ever, ever turned to Street Fighter II for realism?

"If players no longer feel like they are competing in something that at least resembles martial arts in their mind, then the connection is lost and they'll seek out other games that might satisfy their thirst for meaningful competition."

So in your mind, the series has striven to reflect real-life martial arts competitions with its emphasis on fireballs, stretchy limbs, giant Brazilian dog-men, and flying megalomaniacs? Street Fighter and real life are about as relevant to one another as UFC is to boxing, or a sport in which men don't spend 75% of the match on the floor hugging each other. Street Fighter exists in that same magic-realism world that the other Capcom fighters do, perhaps one set of fangs removed from DarkStalkers, the versus series, and other, utterly fantasy-based fighting games.

Even the so-called "fighting styles" have little basis in reality. If that's not true, please tell me what fighting style T. Hawk uses. Or M. Bison (Japan's Vega) for that matter. Tell me why it matters that E. Honda is a sumo wrestler that doesn't really wrestle in the sumo style. Compare any of the representations of fighting to realistically depicted, say, Capoeira in Tekken (a series for which Namco would hardly claim realism, what with its devil men, fighting kangaroos and bears, and giant robots). It's not just that the original animation could not compete with the fluidity of polygonal movement; players don't care about that kind of fidelity with regard to Street Fighter... or even Tekken or Dead or Alive, far more realistic games. It's competitive base is underpinned by the balance of special moves, super moves, super combos, etc. Things that are rather preternatural.

And is Street Fighter actually "irrelevant?" Part IV sold several million copies worldwide. Tournaments still exist and are as popular as ever in Japan. And when they announced Street Fighter X Tekken (and vice-versa), the presser audience's glee was truly palpable. That series wasn't born out of desperation any more than the previous Versus titles were. It's simply Capcom branching out, the same way they did when putting Monster Hunter in Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker. Is that "desperate"? Strange, perhaps, but not desperate. Shrewd. They're simply trying to expand their fan base while giving the existing fans what they want: more crossovers. Look, I wish they were doing something more original as well, but they tried to rejuvenate the series with Street Fighter III and it didn't go over that well.

Asking why subsequent iterations of Street Fighter have failed to be "as successful" as part II is looking at the phenomenon from the wrong end-up. It's better to ask why Street Fighter II was the phenomenon it was. Surely, hundreds upon hundreds of doppelgangers and a far more competitive fighting game market have something to do with the sequels' marginal decrease in cultural penetration, no? Street Fighter II came along at the right time in global gaming culture. Arcades were still relevant. Capcom was a dominant arcade name from the '80s. But there was also nothing quite like it on the market.

If anything, UFC and MMA were born out of SF2's crystallization of martial arts competition mystique. Heaven forbid it should ever be the other way around. No one wants to see Ken and Ryu floor-fighting for 5 minutes.

Street Fighter still king

I think this is more of a rant on why Street Fighter is irrelevant to you. It certainly isn't irrelevant to gamers.

Street Fighter 4 sold 3.15 million copies were as UFC 09 sold 3.46 million units. That is not that big of a difference.

Super SF 4 sold 1.15 million copies compared to UFC's 1.13 million.

http://www.vgchartz.com/game.php?id=41760

http://www.vgchartz.com/worldtotals.php?name=street%20fighter

Kind of ironic since earlier today a whole bunch of guys in my office were talking about how much hey like SF 4 and are planning a tournament in our office.

But it's always been more like Dragon Ball Z

I'll contend that the Street Fighter series has always had more in common with Dragon Ball Z than with Bloodsport, or even actual martial arts. It is, foremost, a Japanese game series with sensibilities that are much closer to shonen fighting manga than any of the western movies you mentioned. I lived in Japan during the era that Street Fighter II was released, which also happened to be when Dragon Ball Z was at the peak of its popularity. And like the many derivative games that Street Fighter II inspired, you couldn't crack open a comic magazine or turn on the TV without seeing numerous stories involving young martial artists kicking, punching, and most importantly, shooting spirit beams from their hands. The draw of these comic series has always been the spectacular fighting and fantastical special attacks. This was the environment that gave birth to Street Fighter. Americans in the early 90s lacked the exposure to Dragon Ball and similar series, so the point of reference here became Blood Sport or Enter The Dragon. But I think the influence of those movies is minimal - maybe throwing in a "tribute" character like Fei Long, but not much else. Otherwise, Street Fighter has always been about Hadoukens and Sonic Booms in the same way that Dragon Ball was more about mountain-leveling attacks than punches and kicks. With the continued success of similar shonen fighting series (Naruto, etc) it's likely that, like the way the heroes in these series evolve, Street Fighter will only become flashier and even more exaggerated.

I haven't been back to Japan in ages, but my guess is that MMA doesn't enjoy the same level of popularity there that it does here. Capcom might have thrown Abel into SFIV as a bone to MMA fans, but incorporating grappling and whatnot into the game engine is something I don't see happening. It would likely slow the pace of the gameplay too much. Street Fighter fans and MMA fans are probably separate audiences anyway. It's like the difference between fans of kung fu movies and actual martial arts practitioners. The latter will watch and complain all day about unnecessary movement and the ineffectiveness of certain styles, while the former will marvel at the spectacle and the perception of pain. Personally, I'd choose Tony Jaa's flying elbows and knees over watching UFC dudes writhing on the ground and clutching each other any day of the week.

I agree with the article.

You could take it even further and present how martial arts is portrayed in recent cinema, for example, The Bourne Series, the recent James Bond and the new Batman films, and even someone like Tony Jaa. They add to the current phase of perceived martial arts, as in up-close fighting instead of the old, flashy cliche-ridden fighting.

As a game, Street Fighter II was revolutionary. I'd bet however the public became attracted to the game cause of its similarity to other media, during the height of the 80's and 90's martial arts craze. It's difficult for me to deny how much of an impact martial arts of the time, had on the popularity of Street Fighter other than good gameplay.

Changes to blog post on UFC/SF

Hey everyone, the point of this blog post was to be reflective of a different time in video games and to consider what the possible impact of UFC/MMA might have had on games like Street Fighter 2. In my haste to express those thoughts, I made generalizations about the Street Fighter series and callously used the word "irrelevant" without context to the point of distraction from my main premise. So in response to some of the unexpected feedback I've been getting, I made some changes to the post so it more accurately reflects the tone and ideas of what I was trying to communicate.

Distractions aside, I am really surprised at how easily gamers are willing to divorce content from gameplay. When nearly all games are inspired by and derived from pop-culture, I don't see how anyone can get a better critical understanding of a game without examining all of the parts that make up a game. To say that we play these games because there was nothing like it before or purely because we enjoy playing games doesn't even scratch the surface of what we are playing.

Thanks to everyone for the feedback.

Thoughts...

I'm glad that I was able to read a more fleshed out version of your argument Chi. I understand your premise, but I think you're unwarrantably extrapolating a particular opinion into a broad generalization.

If there's one thing that's always irked the hell out of me about games writing, it's the frequent assumption made by journalists that everyone plays games for the same reason. Allow an example: I've heard many podcasts/blogs claim that people play RPGs for their stories/narratives, which leads to a criticism of games such as Dragon Quest IX, Oblivion, etc. where the story is not THE main reason for playing (it's more about character building). Personally, I've never played RPGs for their stories, though I've enjoyed the stories of a few. Thus, while I appreciate the opinions of such game writers, it baffles me that they're often unable to see that their opinions are not representative of the entire gaming population.

Forgive the digression, but I think you're doing the same thing here. I'll agree with you that martial arts culture contributed to Street Fighter's success; but I think you're missing the simple fact that not everyone is looking for simulation/sports games. Before you brought up the topic, I would have never even considered the UFC games to be in direct competition with traditional 'Fighting Games'. Perhaps you play them for the same reason - though I don't think that fisticuffs is the only way that people express their competitiveness - but I'd have a hard time believing that this is the norm.

I don't play either game nowadays, but I was a huge SF fan in my youth. That being said, I was never attracted to SF because I wanted an accurate simulation of martial arts; no more than I was attracted to SoulCalibur because it's an accurate representation of sword fighting.

You raise interesting points, and I appreciate hearing your perspective, but I think you need to be careful about broad generalizations: a) Many people like Street Fighter or UFC and not both - they play games for different reasons. And b) I can only give my perspective, but I personally don't play games because of any type of connection to the real world. I like my games to be logical and consistent (i.e., apply some form of grounded rules), but when offered the choice, I'll always take fantasy or the abstract (Final Fantasy, Katamari, etc.) over the realistic (Modern Warfare, Splinter Cell, etc.).

DocBrown

Cybrmynd wrote: You could

Cybrmynd wrote:

You could take it even further and present how martial arts is portrayed in recent cinema, for example, The Bourne Series, the recent James Bond and the new Batman films, and even someone like Tony Jaa. They add to the current phase of perceived martial arts, as in up-close fighting instead of the old, flashy cliche-ridden fighting.

Good point on recent martial arts in movies. People forget that prior to UFC in 1993, people had no concept of what "real" fighting looked like (even martial artists who rarely practice sparring). People honestly thought guys like Jackie Chan and Steven Segal could kill you with their pinkies. People are mistakenly surmising that I'm saying that people played SF2 because it was martial arts simulator or that we thought it was realistic. The stuff that we saw in movies and (in turn games) was the ideal vision of martial arts in our heads in the absence of knowing what the real thing looked like.

Just because we don't know anything about fashion and the fashion industry doesn't mean it doesn't affect the way we dress. Similarly, just because you aren't a fan of UFC/MMA or practice martial arts doesn't mean this stuff doesn't affect our perception of fighting in the media we consume (as Cybrmynd helped to illustrate).

Is MMA that influential?

I'm a bit confused by your thesis. You point, correctly I think, to the idea that the popular imagination on many subjects is informed by the movies' take on them, and that this affects the kinds of games that we are given. While I agree that movie fighting has changed since the time of Street Fighter II, I don't really see how it's changed to be more like MMA.

I'm hardly a connoisseur, but the few UFC and other MMA fights I've seen were relatively measured affairs, as you might expect from guys who actually know how to fight and how to judge another fighter. The movie fights, however, are quick and acrobatic, thanks to the wires, elaborate preparation, and that appalling camera work that makes fight scenes look like they were directed by the Old Spice man. ("Look at the knife, now back at me, now look at the wall, now back at my hand: the knife has turned into diamonds! I'm on a horse.") This visual style is necessarily difficult to translate into games (except perhaps in the form of QTEs) because it intrinsically relies on making the action almost incomprehensible.

However, the action style from movies -- intensively acrobatic and spontaneous, using the environment as a weapon -- doesn't seem to have been translated into fighting games either, even though it certainly could. Fighting games seem instead to have ossified in the same basic shape they took back in 1991. If your argument is true, and we want to play the fights we see in movies, then couldn't one conclude that fighting games are fading in relevance because they're not unrealistic enough?

Re: Is MMA that influential?

Sparky Clarkson wrote:

I'm a bit confused by your thesis. You point, correctly I think, to the idea that the popular imagination on many subjects is informed by the movies' take on them, and that this affects the kinds of games that we are given. While I agree that movie fighting has changed since the time of Street Fighter II, I don't really see how it's changed to be more like MMA.

One of the biggest misconceptions about what I've written is that I implying that MMA has taken over all video games and movies. At two points in the article, I mention that MMA does *not* have mainstream recognition and I question whether including MMA would making something more popular in the end.

However, because MMA has changed our perception of what fighting/martial arts looks like, games and movies (as Cybermnd pointed out) have to make adjustments to meet the audience's expectations of what real fighting should feel or look like. So its not that Jason Bourne has to perform MMA moves, but it has to appear to be more real and reflect the MMA/Bruce Lee philosophy of using and adapting whatever techniques are effective.

Fun factoid: In final fight of Lethal Weapon 1, Riggs chokes out Gary Busey with a BJJ triangle choke. (not that this proves anything)

Sparky Clarkson wrote:

However, the action style from movies -- intensively acrobatic and spontaneous, using the environment as a weapon -- doesn't seem to have been translated into fighting games either, even though it certainly could. Fighting games seem instead to have ossified in the same basic shape they took back in 1991. If your argument is true, and we want to play the fights we see in movies, then couldn't one conclude that fighting games are fading in relevance because they're not unrealistic enough?

Spontaneous, yes, but I disagree that fighting in movies has become more acrobatic. Most of the fighting techniques that you see in popular movies like Dark Knight and Jason Bourne are rooted military combat systems like Krav maga, which have many connections and similarities with MMA. And we no longer use movies as sole reference for what we know about the martial arts thanks to the UFC.

Chi Kong Lui wrote: I

Chi Kong Lui wrote:

I disagree that fighting in movies has become more acrobatic. Most of the fighting techniques that you see in popular movies like Dark Knight and Jason Bourne are rooted military combat systems

Are grappling/punching even in the same genre as fighting games? Older fighting games did not mature into modern day combat, because they are just separate things (or so it seems to me).

Street fighter in particular, was/is a very specific product, with ridged definitions. Forget about adapting to a new era. People are counting frames with that franchise. Im no expert, but the only discussions I hear about Street Fighter, are how the tiniest change, makes a huge impact.

Why We Play

I can't say that I agree with the premise of this article. I don't think Street Fighter achieved its success by tapping into some cultural zeitgeist surrounding kung-fu flicks. I speak as a 30-something gamer who spent a lot of time at the arcade on his lunch breaks, and, for me, the rise and fall (and subsequent resurrection) of Street Fighter had to do with completely different factors.

First, the death of the arcade had something to do with my loss of interest in Street Fighter. Playing a game like Street Fighter II in the arcade was a social event; gangs of kids would crowd around, waiting to feed their quarters into the machine and challenge the champ. As much as I loved the SNES port of SFII, I have to say that playing at home wasn't quite the same. Some of the magic of the arcade experience was lost.

Second, I got completely lost when Capcom decided to release about 500 versions of SFII - SFII Turbo, Championship Edition, Alpha, 3rd Strike.....I didn't get why Capcom seemed to be stuck on SFII, and I guess I wasn't enough of a fan to care about the endless tweaks and character additions. Rather than opening up the SFII audience, I honestly think this series of rehashes made Street Fighter a game for a niche audience.

Third, the rise of 3D kinda killed 2D fighters for a while. Tekken (a game series I've always hated), Virtua Fighter (a series I've never really played much) and Soul Calibur (a series I've always LOVED) were the newest and prettiest fighting games available, and I think gamers were looking for something new beyond a simple rehash of SFII. Hardcore fighting game fans will scoff at this point, perhaps, but that just reinforces my point; namely, that 2D fighters like SFII were increasingly viewed as niche games.

I came back to the series with the release of Super Street Fighter 4 (I held off on buying SFIV because I figured there would be a second release). This game is the first step forward in the series that really got me excited about SF again, and the internet community surrounding fighting games has really captured my interest. EVO 2010 was amazing for me to watch online, because it reminded me so much of the old arcade magic that happened around a single cabinet, when two skilled gamers would square off.

I think SFII just hit the arcades at the right time - all the young 80s gamers were now teenagers and this was the coolest, deepest, most-flat-out-fun-to-play game in the arcade. For me, the factors that made it a success had more to do with the cultural zeitgeist surrounding arcades.

I don't think anyone's

I don't think anyone's saying that Martial Art flicks were the basis for SFII's popularity. There were many reasons why SFII was such a cultural phenomenon. The zeitgeist of the time, was just one factor.

However, that factor has not translated well into the 21st century. It's as if people could no longer suspend their disbelief, and a progressive change started to occur (I don't think this applies only to movies, but to practitioners as well) Therefore this would put new Street Fighter titles outside the realm of trends happening today. Because of this, Street Fighter IV might be a popular game, but might never reach that cultural impact it once had in the past. The best it can do is play off of its past success and nostalgia, as well as its hardcore SF players.

I'm not saying that Street Fighter will have to try and become a part of the MMA trend. I don't know if I'd personally say that MMA and UFC is the cause of these cultural changes, since I think it's been more of a progressive change from many different factors.

Kudos, Chi

I still disagree with aspects of the post, but I can more clearly see where you're coming from. I can appreciate you backtracking on the "irrelevant" part, which, for better or worse, is what I and others picked up on. Thanks for revisiting and revising.

Quote: there is a

Quote:

there is a disconnect between the game and its subject... the game no longer represents the perception of fighting...

Don't agree with this.
I never thought of SF of anything else than a street fighting game, following Capcoms definition of what (virtual) street fighting looks like. Its subject was itself, only a game.
Rocky never showed real boxing, neither did Punch Out. Did anyone connect those together or think of it as the way boxing looks like? WWF was a funny show but it was only a show, similar to Bud Spencer movies. Why should i connect SF with Bloodsport or any other movie or even get the idea of it being a representation of real martial arts or my perception of what MA might be?
UFC and the coming MMA try to be like FIFA or Madden: simulations, but any other fight game was just a fight game, sometimes with insane brutality, swords without edges, aliens, demons, skeletons and all sorts of block systems and sometimes not. None of them cared for reality or movie reality or whatever. Of course everything is interwoven in one or another way, but i don't think a game that doesn't try to be a sim ever will try to mimic any reality if it doesn't help the gameplay.

To get to a point
If NBA Jam TE (or Nintendo World Cup) would have been the earliest basketball game and then NBA Live (ISS/PES) would be for the first time released then TE would get meaningless? I don't think so. Their subjects are different, as are those of SF IV and UFC 10.

This blogpost should be called loveletter to MMA

Just heard the podcast... I guess I'm a bit late to the party ;-)

Quote:

If players no longer feel like they are competing in something that at least resembles martial arts in their mind, then the connection is lost and they'll seek out other games that might satisfy their thirst for meaningful competition.

Would you then also argue that Starcraft 2 is meaningless, because it doesn't resemble real warfare? That Mario is meaningless, because it doesn't resemble olympic gymnastics?

Of course there are people who appreciate a more realistic martial arts game, but I think the majority of gamers couldn't care less about realism, as long as the gameplay is fine. Gameplay is where Street Fighter shines. I didn't play UFC but from what I've seen in gameplay videos I'm not inclined to play it. I still prefer throwing fireballs at enemies or battle dragon ninjas with a gun that fires shuriken and lightning... and is on fire.

I prefer even rather wacky looking dungeons in WoW over the bleak dungeons of Dragon Age. I prefer the colorful space battles in Starcraft over the gritty realistic look of World in Conflict. I also prefer the stylized look of Saboteur over all those CoD's, MoH's and derivatives. I'm also really looking forward to the movie Sucker Punch, especially because it has no footing in realism.

Realism vs Reality

crackajack wrote:
Quote:

there is a disconnect between the game and its subject... the game no longer represents the perception of fighting...

Don't agree with this.
I never thought of SF of anything else than a street fighting game, following Capcoms definition of what (virtual) street fighting looks like. Its subject was itself, only a game.
Rocky never showed real boxing, neither did Punch Out. Did anyone connect those together or think of it as the way boxing looks like? WWF was a funny show but it was only a show, similar to Bud Spencer movies. Why should i connect SF with Bloodsport or any other movie or even get the idea of it being a representation of real martial arts or my perception of what MA might be?

It's funny that you bring up Rocky because for a lot people who know nothing about real boxing, what they saw in Rocky was in a sense became a form of reality. Kids use to ask Ali all the time whether he was better than Rocky. We are more quick to reference Ivan Drago in sports metaphors than any actual boxers. Just because something isn't real or is fictional doesn't mean it doesn't help shape our sense of reality/pop-culture and vice versa (in the case of SF2).

Nor am I saying that games have to be "realistic" in order to be popular. That's a generalization of my theory on why Street Fighter 2 became a cultural phenomenon. Punch Out is not on same level of iconic games like GTA3 and SF2

crackajack wrote:

UFC and the coming MMA try to be like FIFA or Madden: simulations, but any other fight game was just a fight game, sometimes with insane brutality, swords without edges, aliens, demons, skeletons and all sorts of block systems and sometimes not. None of them cared for reality or movie reality or whatever. Of course everything is interwoven in one or another way, but i don't think a game that doesn't try to be a sim ever will try to mimic any reality if it doesn't help the gameplay.

As I said on the podcast, I wasn't trying to argue that the Street Fighter series needed to be more realistic or that the current crop of MMA games were more popular (I said just the opposite).

What I find most interesting about everyone's comments is that they frame their arguments in the present-tense of games when I'm talking about the past. Think back to 1992 when SF2 was first released. While there were simulators on PCs (which were barely realistic by today's standards), there wasn't much distinction between realistic and non-realistic games. Games were just games and all games were based on some form of reality/pop-culture or inspired by it. They either connected with us or they didn't. That's not to say that gameplay doesn't have its role, but that doesn't fully explain why games like GTA3 and SF2 reach iconic status and many games don't.

crackajack wrote:

To get to a point
If NBA Jam TE (or Nintendo World Cup) would have been the earliest basketball game and then NBA Live (ISS/PES) would be for the first time released then TE would get meaningless? I don't think so. Their subjects are different, as are those of SF IV and UFC 10.

NBA Jam is an interesting case study for this discussion because while everyone knew NBA Jam was wacky and a skewed version of basketball, in a lot of ways it was the reality that casual fans wanted. They wanted to be able to throw elbows without fouls and literally set the ball on fire. At the time of NBA Jam's release, I don't think there wasn't anything that could be considered a basketball sim (NBA Jam came out in 1993 and NBA Live 95 came out two years later).

Li-Ion wrote: Just heard

Li-Ion wrote:

Just heard the podcast... I guess I'm a bit late to the party ;-)

Quote:

If players no longer feel like they are competing in something that at least resembles martial arts in their mind, then the connection is lost and they'll seek out other games that might satisfy their thirst for meaningful competition.

Would you then also argue that Starcraft 2 is meaningless, because it doesn't resemble real warfare? That Mario is meaningless, because it doesn't resemble olympic gymnastics?

I would if Starcraft 2 was called "Real WarCraft 2" and if Mario was based on gymnastics. Let's not forget that the concept of "Street Fighter" is based on a martial arts trope that is reinforced by the characters who are suppose to be practitioners.

Li-Ion wrote:

I prefer even rather wacky looking dungeons in WoW over the bleak dungeons of Dragon Age. I prefer the colorful space battles in Starcraft over the gritty realistic look of World in Conflict. I also prefer the stylized look of Saboteur over all those CoD's, MoH's and derivatives. I'm also really looking forward to the movie Sucker Punch, especially because it has no footing in realism.

I don't think there is one universal reason why certain games are more popular than others. I was simply trying to dissect why SF2 was more popular than it's successors. StarCraft 2 isn't that well known by non-gamers in the US, but is now a national past-time in Korea. Why it connected with Koreans on a mass level is a host of other factors and topics that aren't covered by what I'm trying to communicate here.

Chi Kong Lui wrote: I would

Chi Kong Lui wrote:

I would if Starcraft 2 was called "Real WarCraft 2" and if Mario was based on gymnastics. Let's not forget that the concept of "Street Fighter" is based on a martial arts trope that is reinforced by the characters who are suppose to be practitioners.

It's still Street Fighter and not Real Fighter ;-)

I'd say Mario bases as much on real gymnastics as SF does on real fighting. I think nobody playing any SF really believed that practitioners of Karate can hurl fireballs. Ok, maybe 2 or 3 dudes, but not the majority.

Quote:

I don't think there is one universal reason why certain games are more popular than others. I was simply trying to dissect why SF2 was more popular than it's successors. StarCraft 2 isn't that well known by non-gamers in the US, but is now a national past-time in Korea. Why it connected with Koreans on a mass level is a host of other factors and topics that aren't covered by what I'm trying to communicate here.

You could ask the same question about Guitar Hero. The plastic guitar doesn't have much in common with playing a real guitar. Despite this it was a huge success, because it made Joe Average feel like a rockstar. A new wave of music games is about to come out, which are more realistic. I doubt it will repeat the success of the first couple of Guitar Heroes and Rock Band, since the majority of players doesn't need/want a intricate simulation of the real deal. I think Street Fighter 2 was just the right game at the right time. Going head to head with your friends in the arcade and beating them in flashy unarmed combat was something new and exciting back then. It made Joe Average feel like a master ninja. I assume that Joe Average doesn't need a intricate fighting simulation as well. Like with guitar hero did with being a rockstar, it captured the fantasy of being the unstoppable warrior better than later (more realistic) fighting games. Maybe not despise but just because it was not realistic?

Starcraft was also the right game at the right time in Korea. About Starcraft I read an interesting article on a german games magazine:
http://tinyurl.com/24ofh9j (google-translated)
original here: http://tinyurl.com/26mblbh

p.s. the captcha-thing is getting annoying, needed to reload 3 times until I could read what was standing on the picture ;-)

Chi Kong Lui wrote: I would

Chi Kong Lui wrote:

I would if Starcraft 2 was called "Real WarCraft 2" (...) Let's not forget that the concept of "Street Fighter" is based on a martial arts trope that is reinforced by the characters who are suppose to be practitioners.

Where did SF claim to be "Real Street Fighting"?
It was a name like Mortal Kombat or Killer Instinct. SF did it to place their fights in streets or actually anywhere and MK and KI tried to be the rougher SFs.

SF had the same idea as later had the american UFC or netherland Free Fight guys by revitalizing the ancient pankration sport. Put together different techniques and see who wins. But it never was a direct movie game, based on anything real or hollywood real, since it got hadoukens & stuff, which didn't appear in Bloodsport or any fight movie i have seen ... of course it took the idea of fighting, but i don't think it's success was based on some specific movies or now not as successful because we now know how MA looks really.

All sorts of fighting were established everywhere. Karate lessons for kids, who want to, are quite usual. Boxing never was out. The Kung Fu series, Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris were known too some extend. All sorts of fighting were well known and let it be bar fights...
It was time for a game roughly based on that, a competitive game, a fighting game. It was one of the firsts and the mechanics of SF are still considered on top so the success is quite plausible.

Now we have got SF, the mentioned MK and KI, Tekken, VF, Soul Calibur, BlazBlue, Super Smash Brothers, Fight Night, wii sports boxing or games like Enter the Matrix, Oni, Ninja Gaiden or even Fear, Killzone and MW, where i also have melee attacks. Of course the success can't be equaled anymore, there is more competition and some genres sort of almost die or transfer into other genres.
Like the adventure genre. It was more popular because it was new and great for some years but now adventure mechanics are integrated in many games so why bother with the real thing that has often pixel hunting and illogical puzzles.
I think it's similar with beat em ups. The peak is over because the genre is not as "necessary" like it was.

btw
I would like to see a game based on Chok Dee. MMA got its sim-game, which has only slow, unfun action for me and SF-like b'em'us are about fantasy (M)MA, but normal MA is missing.

Re: Li-ion on Guitar Hero

Li-Ion wrote:

You could ask the same question about Guitar Hero. The plastic guitar doesn't have much in common with playing a real guitar. Despite this it was a huge success, because it made Joe Average feel like a rockstar. A new wave of music games is about to come out, which are more realistic. I doubt it will repeat the success of the first couple of Guitar Heroes and Rock Band, since the majority of players doesn't need/want a intricate simulation of the real deal. I think Street Fighter 2 was just the right game at the right time. Going head to head with your friends in the arcade and beating them in flashy unarmed combat was something new and exciting back then. It made Joe Average feel like a master ninja. I assume that Joe Average doesn't need a intricate fighting simulation as well. Like with guitar hero did with being a rockstar, it captured the fantasy of being the unstoppable warrior better than later (more realistic) fighting games. Maybe not despise but just because it was not realistic?

Thank you for the comment above about Guitar Hero because its more or less the same point I've been trying to make about SF2. Our fantasies are based on our sense of reality. As you said, SF2 made us feel like a "master ninja." Ninja is someone who practices martial arts. Our perception of the martial arts was driven by media. Our generation grew up wanting to be Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee. Kung fu stars aren't really around anymore. Donnie Yen and Tony Jaa aren't really internationally known. Kids today grow up wanting to be Chuck Liddell and GSP. That's how MMA has changed our culture when it comes to fighting/martial arts and in turn our video games about fighting.

crackajack wrote: Where did

crackajack wrote:

Where did SF claim to be "Real Street Fighting"?
It was a name like Mortal Kombat or Killer Instinct. SF did it to place their fights in streets or actually anywhere and MK and KI tried to be the rougher SFs.

Prior to 1993, the general public didn't know what real fighting was.

I'm surprised that you don't think there is any cultural relevance to the title "Street Fighter". I think the problem I didn't anticipate with my blog post is how the SF game and title is so ingrained in the gamer lexicon that to gamers, SF is actually the sum of its own parts, which to me is impossible. Ryu and Ken are wearing traditional karate gis and yet people seem want to deny the connection to martial arts, fictional or otherwise.

crackajack wrote:

SF had the same idea as later had the american UFC or netherland Free Fight guys by revitalizing the ancient pankration sport. Put together different techniques and see who wins. But it never was a direct movie game, based on anything real or hollywood real, since it got hadoukens & stuff, which didn't appear in Bloodsport or any fight movie i have seen ... of course it took the idea of fighting, but i don't think it's success was based on some specific movies or now not as successful because we now know how MA looks really.

Do you believe that Street Fighter wasn't inspired or took cues from martial arts movies?

crackajack wrote:

All sorts of fighting were established everywhere. Karate lessons for kids, who want to, are quite usual. Boxing never was out. The Kung Fu series, Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris were known too some extend. All sorts of fighting were well known and let it be bar fights...
It was time for a game roughly based on that, a competitive game, a fighting game. It was one of the firsts and the mechanics of SF are still considered on top so the success is quite plausible.

When I use to take tae kwon do as a kid, we all passed around Blood Sport and watched it like it was religion. My friend use to tell me that attendance in his school would go up whenever popular martial movies came out. There has always been a symbiotic relationship between martial arts movies and the practice of martial arts. Nearly every UFC fighter cites Bruce Lee as their inspiration. All of this ties into our cultural perception of fighting and martial arts.

Chi Kong Lui wrote: Prior

Chi Kong Lui wrote:

Prior to 1993, the general public didn't know what real fighting was.

The general public won't know more about how professional fighting looks also not in the near future. Only real figthing, average joe style, the common knowledge everyone might have.
MMA will hardly be ever in mass market media, movies, because part of it, the rolling around the floor part, is rather awkward, so it will be Kickboxing and something like that in movies.
Figthing fans did always know how fights looked like in the specific class?
1993? then UFC was founded. As above mentioned Pankration is ancient and Vale Tudo existed decades ago.
Everything allowed fighting seem to never have got into mass market. Ok, maybe now after American pr-machinery is behind it...

Quote:

SF is actually the sum of its own parts.

What else?
Would you describe Titanic as a love story copied from Dr. Zhivago, with a boat in it, similar to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and a bad guy, similar to Goldfinger and some underwater documentary of Costeau. (sorry for the stupid examples but i hope its enough to get the idea)
Why should a game be depending on some other media, movies? Movies that might only be known to genre fans, similar to the knowledge base games have. Kung-Fu stuff is a very specific genre not really big in the general public in my perception.

Quote:

Do you believe that Street Fighter wasn't inspired or took cues from martial arts movies?

which action movie featured a sumo wrestler, a tiny girl which could kick every mans ass no matter how big he is, a flexible whatever he was guy(Dalsim), a hulk figure ... would love to watch it, if it isn't SF- the movie. ;-)

That's just a potpourri of characters that were logical to put into a fighting game which didn't want to be specifically "Mike Tyson biting your ear off", or "Bruce Lee - dragon claw", or whatever.

Quote:

Donnie Yen and Tony Jaa aren't really internationally known. Kids today grow up wanting to be Chuck Liddell and GSP.

Really? Only saw Jaa movies so far and Donnie Yen sounds familiar. Do i have to know those other guys?
MMA is or was temporarily (don't follow that) forbidden to broadcast in Germany, so it's hard to grow up here wanting to be like MMA-fighters, also since Austrian TV has no room for that niche sport.
A few months ago it was legal but it was only shown after midnight on a sports channel, in exchange for the usual erotic clips, and i doubt many kids watched that show that late.

MA-movies are also hardly shown often in TV here. You very often see Bud Spencer reruns, and Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee occasionally, the international successful ones like Hero, Hidden Dragon, but then? Martial Arts is hardly present, maybe on DVD, but then its only reaching the already fans.

But my perception might widely differ from yours because "we" here hate violence and get erotic as compensation, while it's in america the other way around.

captcha is great
deciphering something that looked like a greek Kappa and a micro little "T" which might have been a "F" or a "r" and a block of... err... i have actually no idea, is becoming entertaining...

I think you see that topic too US-centered.

Lolwut? Seriously, the Captcha is getting ridicilous: I just had A-lambda-H-theta-H ... how am I supposed to type in lambda (capital lambda that is) and theta with a normal US-International keyboard layout? After 4 times reloading I finally got no greek letters. However, I had something that resembled what birds leave behind on the windscreen of a car... (why do we need captcha anyway, since the postings have to be approved by a moderator now?)

Chi Kong Lui wrote:

Our generation grew up wanting to be Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee. Kung fu stars aren't really around anymore. Donnie Yen and Tony Jaa aren't really internationally known. Kids today grow up wanting to be Chuck Liddell and GSP. That's how MMA has changed our culture when it comes to fighting/martial arts and in turn our video games about fighting.

I think you are writing from a very US-centered perspective here. The term 'international' doesn't just mean Alabama AND Kentucky ;-)

In Europe, nobody knows Chuck Liddell. People who are into martial arts know that MMA exists, but that's about it. I had a discussion with some guys I know from Karate, but nobody there watches MMA or knows much about it. For example I didn't know who Couture was in the trailer for expendables and while I heard of 'stone cold' Austin I had to google to figure out who Couture should be.

Yesterday night I saw wrestling on a telly in a bar and people to whom I pointed that out were genuinely surprised that wrestling still exists, since its all staged anyway. Incidentally, a couple of weeks ago I was at a party where a fan of MMA was talking about how awesome it is and showed some fight on a livestream. Nobody else was remotely interested. I think that's a good indication for Europe as a whole: some people know it exists, there are some fans of course, but the majority of people doesn't really care if you show them MMA, Boxing, Wrestling or Hopscotch.

Also nobody really knows Donnie Yen. Tony Jaa is the only 'new' martial artist of whom at least some people have heard of, but he's an absolute nobody compared to Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan or even Jean-Claude van Damme. Martial Arts as a genre is pretty much non-existent here right now. There was a phase in the 80ies and 90ies where MA movies and games were really big, but that's over. That also reflects on games like SF of course, that's why I think SF2 was just the right game at the right time. It came out when MA movies were on their peak of popularity.

Every time has some type of movie that's typical for that time. After the decline of MA movies, we saw loads of buddy movies for a while (Lethal Weapon, 48 Hrs up to Bad Boys). Now the buddy movie genre is pretty much extinct. The subgenre of hard-boiled cop movies went by. So did the Matrix-era and the rope-fu-era. When did the last Western hit the box office? Movies based on Comics and Superheroes were really big, but I think this is the next declining genre.

Fair Criticism by Li-ion

Li-Ion wrote:

I think you are writing from a very US-centered perspective here. The term 'international' doesn't just mean Alabama AND Kentucky ;-)

This is a fair criticism. I don't deny that its a very US-centric perspective. Some of my statements will not apply to every like Docbrown and you, but that's the limitation when discussing broad topics. In my defense, this is a blog/rant and I didn't have the wherewithal to qualify all of my statements.

Li-Ion wrote:

In Europe, nobody knows Chuck Liddell. People who are into martial arts know that MMA exists, but that's about it. I had a discussion with some guys I know from Karate, but nobody there watches MMA or knows much about it. For example I didn't know who Couture was in the trailer for expendables and while I heard of 'stone cold' Austin I had to google to figure out who Couture should be.

I'm sure there are people and societies out there who have no idea who Pablo Picasso and The Beatles are, but does that make their work any less influential?

Li-Ion wrote:

Yesterday night I saw wrestling on a telly in a bar and people to whom I pointed that out were genuinely surprised that wrestling still exists, since its all staged anyway. Incidentally, a couple of weeks ago I was at a party where a fan of MMA was talking about how awesome it is and showed some fight on a livestream. Nobody else was remotely interested. I think that's a good indication for Europe as a whole: some people know it exists, there are some fans of course, but the majority of people doesn't really care if you show them MMA, Boxing, Wrestling or Hopscotch.

Also nobody really knows Donnie Yen. Tony Jaa is the only 'new' martial artist of whom at least some people have heard of, but he's an absolute nobody compared to Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan or even Jean-Claude van Damme. Martial Arts as a genre is pretty much non-existent here right now. There was a phase in the 80ies and 90ies where MA movies and games were really big, but that's over. That also reflects on games like SF of course, that's why I think SF2 was just the right game at the right time. It came out when MA movies were on their peak of popularity.

Every time has some type of movie that's typical for that time. After the decline of MA movies, we saw loads of buddy movies for a while (Lethal Weapon, 48 Hrs up to Bad Boys). Now the buddy movie genre is pretty much extinct. The subgenre of hard-boiled cop movies went by. So did the Matrix-era and the rope-fu-era. When did the last Western hit the box office? Movies based on Comics and Superheroes were really big, but I think this is the next declining genre.

Matrix was actually a resurgence for the genre. So was Hidden Dragon Crouching Tiger. While there are many reasons why martial arts movie in are in a decline, as someone who follows the martial arts and general pop-culture, I see a trend in relation to MMA. We can debate the amount of impact, but I don't think you can deny MMA is a factor and you don't have to be a card carrying member of the UFC to understand that.

And thanks for sharing the above balanced comments. I really appreciated them because it showed that you thought about the ideas I was trying to discuss rather than just trying to prove me wrong.

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