I’ve been playing Street Fighter games a good chunk of my life. I’m not sure when the whole thing started, but I remember popping quarters into the arcade machine back when things like arcades actually existed, and recall distinctly waiting for the very best version of Street Fighter II to be released for Super Nintendo before having my parents plop down their hard-earned money for it, which ultimately resulted in my never owning a copy of the game. They just kept releasing the damn things. Like Homer Simpson’s ill-fated attempt to visit Mr. T at his local mall, I kept on thinking, “I’ll just get it a little later.”
Well, later never came. But, I still rented the game’s various incarnations from time to time. I considered myself a descent player — not a pro by any stretch of the imagination, but I could hold my own. Sure, I didn’t know the intricacies of timing or count the individual frames of animation, but I could execute Ryu and Ken’s dragon punch three-fourths of the time. That move was pretty tough.
Once, while at Walmart, I found a copy of the game playing on the demo station in the electronics department. Since my parents were undoubtedly shopping for boring, adult stuff like cat litter and headache medicine I decided to spend a little time with the game. While I’m playing, some dude walks up all cocksure and confident. He stops and studies me as if he’s trying to pick out the best dog in the pound or something, watching intensely my every move and noting my flaws.
Finally, he says, “Have you ever beaten the game?”
I hadn’t, and I tell him this.
“Yeah, well, I have…on ‘hard.’”
I was impressed. I hadn’t even attempted the game on “hard.” Hell, I could barely make it through on “very easy,” let alone “easy” or “normal” or “extra normal” or “hard.” This dude was the real deal. Of course, I couldn’t let him know that.
“Well…you can’t beat the ‘Master of Video Games,’” I said. No kidding. I told this dude I was the “Master of Video Games” like it was an elected position or something. Honestly, I don’t know what that is or where that came from. I suppose I felt threatened and blurted the first thing that came to mind, which is usually something stupid. Naturally, he laughed at me.
“Well, the ‘Master of Video Games,’” — and his voice was full of mocking contempt — “doesn’t stand a chance against a dude who’s beaten the game on ‘hard.’”
I realized he was probably right. I didn’t stand a chance…not against a person with that level of mastery. Still, I couldn’t wuss out. Not now. I nodded down the second controller, which stuck out of the demo station like one of those springy door stoppers that used to be all over the place in my Grandma’s house. He took it in hand and hit “start.”
It was a hard fought battle — one full of sweat and tears and hard feelings and me eventually beating the shit out of him. I was playing Ken, if I recall, and he Blanka, and he left that demo station with his head hanging low — a pitiful loser adrift in a major retail chain. I’m almost certain that his defeat at the hands of the “Master of Video Games” cleared the way for a life full of disappointment and, inevitably, a miserable, noteless suicide inside the abandoned cardboard box building in which he was squatting. Serves him right.
Years later, I purchased one of the Alpha series ‘ games on the Playstation, but eventually had to give it to my friend Sam because I accidentally destroyed copy when I pulled his game system off the ledge on which it sat, causing the game disc to somehow dislocate itself from the system, defy gravity by ducking beneath said system right before they both collided with the concrete floor of the dorm room, which caused the disc to crack in two. It was disastrous.
So now, ten or so years after I broke my buddy’s copy of a Street Fighter game and 17 or so years after effectively ruining that Walmart kid’s life, I’ve purchased a copy of Super Street Fighter IV for the Xbox 360. I love it, of course, having played and loved the original Street Fighter IV. This is really more of the same, so I couldn’t go wrong.
I’ve put a good bit of time into the game already, and have even taken it online for a little international competition. If there’s one thing I’ve learned via my purchase of SSFIV, it’s that all my years of playing Street Fighter games and the pride that came with defeating worthless opponents like the Walmart kid and my dumb old friend, Sam, have been totally wasted. I’m absolutely terrible. In a grand total of 35 online fights, most of which were people of the “same skill” level as I, I won a grand total of zero. Non. Nada. Nothing. I am handily defeated each and every time, sometimes by the simplest of means. For instance, this one dude — some ass named UsuxOrsHaHaHa6969 or some shit — played Ryu and just threw Hadokens the entire time. Every time I tried to jump over the barrage of flying fireballs, he’d freaking dragon punch me. Rinse. Repeat. I couldn’t do a freaking thing to the guy. I’m not one to complain that a person’s “playing the game wrong” or anything; I’m just lamenting the fact that I’m absolutely terrible at something I’ve been doing for a long time and was unable to counter such a juvenile tactic. It’s like spending years teaching yourself to play guitar without ever actually listening to music, thinking you’re pretty damn great because you’ve been playing for, like, ever and then being entering a music competition against Dream Theater or the zombified remains of Stevie Ray Vauhn or something. There’s a feeling of immense disappointment, embarrassment and horror. I have been living a lie.
That’s right, the “Master of Video Games” is a lie. What a twist.
The worst part of it is that Walmart kid died for nothing. What a waste.