The F word
Valve’s recent offerings of Team Fortress 2 and Left 4 Dead were both games I was pretty excited about. I kept track of them months before their release and purchased them early and played them much.
This, though—this is something different. Something has happened to me, and I do not know what it is. It has been suggested that sexuality is mostly formed before one actually engages with or recognizes it. Perhaps one’s gameality or whatever it is is the same.
I am thoroughly and unhealthily possessed by an overwhelming desire to do nothing but three things:
--Figure out how to procure a copy of Street Fighter IV as early as possible
--Become a freakin’ legend for being so good at the game
--Figure out which tool is best for me to personally bring this about, and then acquire said tool
I am not interested in food. I am not interested in playing other games though I have plenty of time to do so. I am distracted. I got laid off a few weeks ago and I don’t even worry about it. This is partly because I’m waiting to hear on a good job opportunity that I interviewed well for, but it’s no guarantee and I really shouldn’t hold out for it. The last two times I got laid off I spent all my time trying to figure out how to get employment; if not that, I worked on distracting myself so I could forget about it. Games helped, obviously. But now, I spend even more time thinking about how to best acquire, enjoy, and dominate Street Fighter IV.
The roots of this are likely fairly common; when I was 11 years old could make a dollar go for over an hour at the arcade while my parents shopped. I’d play at malls or at a store within walking distance from my house, “Fun Fever.” Fun Fever was a new and perhaps used game retailer that had consoles available for play by the hour in addition to 8 arcade units. These were only awesome arcade units, though, units like a shorter, squattier Neo-Geo unit with four rotating games, Mortal Kombat, and of course variants of Street Fighter II.
SF II: Champion Edition was a big hit because it finally let you play with the four boss characters. I would always choose M. Bison. I fought cheaply and fiercely, for if I lost, I’d die of boredom, a fate I will never again face.
One time when I was between 11-13 a large, jockish kind of guy in his 20s challenged me and I handily defeated him. He got angry after two or three tries; sometimes his frustration made him even closer to beating me and sometimes it caused him to make bad mistakes.
I ended up spending 30 or 40 minutes thrashing this guy. He spent five to ten bucks getting thrashed. Later, in my 20s, I got thrashed in Marvel vs. Capcom by a kid who had to stand on his tip-toes just to see his power meter at the bottom.
But this guy; he chose different characters. He started to shout. He cursed in between matches. A crowd gathered round. My timing was flawless; I had a definite style and could adjust it on the fly. I was king of the arcade. At the end, the guy shouted like Blanka and Zangief, grabbed my neck and put me in a choke hold and with an “AARRRRRRGHHHH YOOUUUUU” he gave me a noogie, rubbing his fist across my hair. While friendly, it was violent enough that it actually hurt.
He let me go and through his arms in the air at the crowd of ten, which was laughing by now. I smiled sheepishly. He left the store. My mother didn’t find out about it for years.
Fun Fever later closed and so did my opportunities to play with others, until Street Fighter II came out for the SNES. My childhood friends, whom I still hang out with (I challenged them and called them out via email recently to make sure they knew of the incoming SF IV deluge), were about my skill. I played against them and my brother for hundreds of hours.
When I got to high school, Street Fighter was a memory until one of my friends got a Playstation and Street Fighter Alpha 3. I had discovered it at the mall near where I worked. I’d use my 30-minute break to sprint a quarter-mile to the mall and play it during the day while still in my McDonald’s uniform. I enjoyed it most when I had someone to play against. Sometimes, I’d beat a guy and then hand over my play to him, explaining I had to get back to work. Surprisingly, I was rarely late.
That was in ’98 and ’99. In 1999 and the succeeding years, Street Fighter III came out, as well as the Dreamcast and Playstation 2. During these years I was off in Australia or at college and couldn’t afford a console. PC gaming was my only option.
I never got the opportunity to get dragged into Tekken. Other recent releases in the Soul Calibur, Virtua Fighter, and Dead or Alive franchises have failed to capture my fancy. I never learned how to play those. I think many haven’t. And now that consoles have a huge network with which to play online, the lineup of opponents is infinite.
The EVO tournament reminds us that some people never left that world, but most of us had no choice. But it’s back.
The ability to take on a slew of incoming challengers is now multiplied—dormant, fierce, Rocky Balboa-esque energies are being awakened and soon the day comes wherein every man who owns a current non-Wii console and can do a Hadouken will be commanded to stand accountable and show his worth. He must face his eternal rival, just as the characters will. See below.
My name is Michael Walbridge, and I have a fanboy problem.