I’ve always had a poetic relationship to fighting games in spite of me not being about that life. The wonderful world of these hands comes with lessons on handling anxiety. Over the course of the pandemic, I’ve come to enjoy fighting games even though I once hated them. It made me reflect on decisiveness, persistence, and acceptance, specifically Tekken 3. What does growth with crashes and reboots look like?
The first anxiety attack I can remember was in the 5th grade. I hated doing homework as a kid, so I learned how to calculate my grades where I would get enough “As” where my parents wouldn’t become suspicious or try to push me to try harder. There were many variables to take into account, participation, test scores, extra credit, class assignments, and of course homework. I first learned about variables and their effects by playing Tekken 3 with my brother. Timing, combos, and power levels in a faced paced game requires you to be quick on your toes. Growing up my brother tormented me in Tekken. After about 19 losses, I’d be devastated. By loss 20, I’d be pissed off and go on to win a five-game winning streak. To which I would be pleased, and then put the game down so that I don’t get too greedy and lose again.
I learned my best lesson on persistence looking at my brother’s ruthlessness. Fighting games were tiring. First of all, my brother is nine years older than me, I was out here like eight years old trying to figure out what series of button mashing will get me a flashy result. Will it be a punch, a sudden grapple? The surprises unbeknownst to me. But that made me realign my strategies. What will bring me that same smile with something flashy but in the same breath provide my ego a much-needed boost?
A Decisive Kick
To this day, I’m never good with blocking. When I pick up fighting games, I’d rather dodge than block. I came to realize that blocking addresses the conflict. In certain games, blocking will still make you take damage, but it would be minimal in comparison to getting a kick to the face. Dodging completely avoids contact, but the problem with dodging is that without proper timing you suffer a worse fate, a kick to the face and embarrassment. Unlike me, Tekken is decisive. I learned decisiveness through fighting games where the health bar is damn near zero, and you only have 5 seconds on the clock to get a swift kick in. I should’ve expected those variables would be able to disrupt my system.
On my best days, while using my favorite character Ling Xiaoyou, I’d be able to cartwheel or tumble my way out of a couple of my brother’s punches. I remember when my brother started feeling petty he would use King, because King had that triple low kick that would stun you. He would use it over and over, and God that would piss me off. I forgot exactly how I escaped that kick, but from that moment on, every time he picked King, I would make sure to stomp him out before he got a chance to crouch. Another defense mechanism I admit, to combat one I already built. I tried to establish a belief system where if I can beat out the sadness or fear before it arrives, I would be invincible. Alas, much like Tekken, life has many kicks to the face from characters you haven’t even faced yet. This would manifest in love, work/life balance, and various phases of grief.
Arguably the most humorous part about fighting games is the oversized font at the end of the battle. Win, lose, or the rare draw, it’s hard to ignore the end result when it’s in bright colors floating in your face. The announcement followed by the hyped cut scene. I wish that life’s losses were as tame and easy to deal with like a Tekken 3 cut scene. Growing up and playing Tekken 3 helped me realize when I’m just not ready for certain battles. Because getting up and trying and trying again is fun until you’re like 10 losses in with the final boss and you’re two seconds away from throwing hands with your television.
Tekken 3 helped me analyze how losing has different energies, sometimes you got the stamina to get up and try over and over until it settles in, other times it’s an uphill battle and you just rolling down with no helmet. In spite of me not being about these hands, I admit that fighting games bring me a peace of mind. Tekken 3 helps me see energy in retrospect. I’ve experienced exhaustion, pain, and upliftment while holding up a PS1 controller and button mashing with Ling Xiayou into oblivion.
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