All the tier lists in the world mean diddly squat if you don't learn your character(s) inside and out.
As an alumnus of the FGC (Fighting Game Community), I have been enjoying the resurgence of fighting games as a popular genre of gaming and a spectacle sport. It's amazing to see how far the genre has come from an underground niche to a verified e-sport with blockbuster events and high-money prizes. I couldn't be more proud to see how far the genre and community as a whole have come.
One gaming series I've been enjoying the most is Capcom's third season of its Street Fighter League (SFL), a 3-on-3 team professional tournament in the United States and Japan. Six teams battle over the course of a year to win the SFL Pro Championship in their respective country. The best part is the winning team of the US and Japan Pro Championships will battle who will rep their country at Capcom Cup. Each team is comprised of elite gamers with numerous tournament placings and years of "world warrior" status in fighting game history.
One pro who I find I have, uhm, mixed feelings about this season is Philly player Victor "Punk" Woodley, team captain of Alpha-3. From what I've been able to gather about him, he presents himself as the prodigiously cocky gamer who just happens to be able to back up his disposition with phenomenal skills. Being a veteran of the FGC scene, I've seen and befriended my share of players like him, so his type isn't an anomaly in the scene; with things being more visible online these days, I WILL say his attitude definitely makes for good entertainment during tournaments and other gaming-related events. And watching Punk's OCV(one-character victory) performance in Week 7---putting his entire team on his back to ensure Alpha-3 moved forward---and his impassioned post-interview with RobTV really showed me how much the brother loves competing, how much he values his teammates, and just how good he really is at Street Fighter V. Goes to show ya can't judge a book by its anti-hero cover.
...which brings me to something Punk said in a pre-match interview with RobTV on Week 14's episode of Street Fighter League.
Rob had asked Punk if he'd like to face Team All-In in last week's playoffs, and Punk affirmed that he would, and subsequently proceeded to "punk"(pun intended) All-In via some pretty spicy takes on their gaming-skill levels. In the midst of the smack-talk, Punk said something that as a former fighting-gamer rang true to me:
In his comments about Team All-In, Punk replied that he "never plays the match-up". Meaning, according to him, it doesn't necessarily matter what tier lists dictate about SFV's characters' strengths and weaknesses, he just learns the characters and puts in the time to build his skills.
What seems to matter most, in Punk's opinion, is a player's skill level, and he asserts that game-playing skill will trump game-playing experience every time. This sentiment is something I remember coming out of my own mouth decades ago.
As someone who was active in the FGC for years, frequented arcades, and traveled for tournaments, I've come to think that there is seldom a thing known as a "weak" character. Every character comes with strengths and weaknesses. To me, character tier lists don't function so much as the "end-all-be-all" showing the weakest versus the strongest, but as a foundation on how much/less work once has to put in to learning a character. Some believe in learning the strongest characters in order to win tournaments, while others tend to pick characters they personally gravitate to and enjoy using, and neither action is wrong. Gamers become pros for a multitude of reasons. Yet I find myself rooting more for folks who pick characters they've gravitated to, because they're more likely to have put in the necessary time for practice and learning their character inside and out, regardless of tiers. Tier levels don't always matter as much as folks think they do or should, mainly because folks donot always take into account the work others may put in to learn characters brushed off as 'low tier'. And more often than not, players do not go out of their way to learn how to fight every single character in a game, especially if they're considered low-tier. This, in my opinion, is a critical mistake players make that have and can result in some amazing upsets and surprises in causal and tourneys. I've been witness to many a player getting taken to the woodshed by other players who've used characters deemed by most as weak or low-tier. So it was refreshing to hear my shared sentiment being uttered by a gamer from this generation; it lets me know that the approach to fighting games continues to evolve.
However, I don't think one should throw game-playing experience to the wayside entirely. Co-joining skill (being able to execute moves when needed and wanted) with experience (executing strategies that work after having played various players with various characters) is the forever sweet spot, and the forever catch-22 many try to combine. There will always be players who are more skilled, and there will always be players who have much more experience. There are instances where the more skilled folks win, and then there are instances where the more experienced folks win. It can really be a toss-up, which makes fighting games so competitive and fun to do & spectate. In last week's SFL playoffs, I would argue that of the two teams that won, one team won with experience yet more skill(Team Alpha 3), while the other team won with skill yet more experience(Team NASR).
What are y'alls thoughts on this? Do you agree with Punk that gaming skill trumps gaming experience all the time, or do you think experience matters most?
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