People in the Millennial generation will never have an idea how much Street Fighter (SF) shaped our generation. A few things that mattered to Generation X people that have effectively no value to people now are records, road trips (few people could afford to fly back then), boxing, and actually talking to people without using some form of technology.
Street Fighter falls into this category because it significantly shaped the lives of so many youths who are now grown men. The game still maintains a good level of popularity, but its more recent adaptations and iterations won’t have an everlasting effect on a generation. Before SF2, fighting games either sucked, or really sucked. Nothing made before was anything like this. All of the staples of the modern fighting game derived from SF: the ability to block, super moves, charging and quarter circles on the joystick, a litany of characters to choose from, and a unique story line for each character. Learning and understanding the intricacies of SF versus what was previously available in fighting games really compares to significant life transitions. For example, going from being “king of the castle” as a fifth grader and having almost a master knowledge of the school, teachers, and students to being an unknown and overwhelmed sixth grade novice matches up pretty well. When that same transition happens again in the 9th grade and freshman year in college, it doesn’t seem so daunting anymore because we’ve had the opportunity to fine tune all of the novel nuances. This same comparison can be made to how a couple handles their first child versus their third, or a professional entering the job market just out of school versus 2-3 job changes later. Obviously this takes time, practice, and plenty of failure; just like it did to learn all the moves and become even remotely competitive when playing SF.
Adjusting to middle school is no walk in the park…
The most underrated aspect of SF was that each character in the game had their own distinct personality, reason for wanting to fight, and storyline. As much as everyone enjoyed beating the tar out of their friends or strangers in a two player slugfest, there was this inherent level of satisfaction that came from beating the game’s final boss, M. Bison, and finding out what would happen to the character who accomplished this feat. In this way SF is a nice allusion to real life. Everyone has their own story of success and failure, and no matter how long it takes for someone to “beat the game,” we all get there. Just as no two players were exactly alike in the game (well, at least Ken and Ryu dressed differently), no two people will follow the same path in life. With eight different characters to choose from, no one can have an equal skill level with each one. Even though I was quite adept at maneuvering the majority of the fighters Ryu was my preferred combatant, so I got many more chances with him to experience all of the highs and low associated with learning how to best conquer the game. In addition, any time I knew I would be grappling against a very skilled human opponent, I’d make sure I picked Ryu to give myself the best opportunity to win. Although these experiences happened to adolescents on a 19 inch arcade machine, they seem to mirror life quite nicely. Everyone is gifted with different strengths and varying degrees of such. Yes people can “beat the game,” essentially move from childhood to adulthood safely without playing to their strengths, their path would most certainly be easier and more successful if they did. In a similar vein, as I previously mentioned that my character of choice was Ryu, my gaming compadre was always partial to Guile, thus, he honed his SF skills drastically different than I did. It’s quite amazing that despite playing the exact same game for over twenty years, we actually had completely different experiences. Whereas Ryu’s abilities are an equal amalgam of offense and defense, Guile is a defensive stalwart, an unmatched counterpuncher. This is not very dissimilar to how my buddy and I have progressed through life. We’ve been close friends since childhood, and I’ve always been the one who was even-keeled, displaying a uniform combination of risk seeking and risk avoidance when it came to school, work, and/or relationships. I’ve been Ryu my entire life. My buddy, Guile it turns out, has always been more likely to take a wait and see approach, and only make a decision when he has all the information, and the chance of risk is almost negligible. At various points in life one has to be more aggressive (a Blanka or a Zangief) to make their needs are met, but it doesn’t change the fact that they’re best and most comfortable being a Ryu or a Guile.
It turns out that the saying “All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten” isn’t quite accurate. More accurately all I really needed to know about life I learned from Street Fighter. Yes it’s a silly video game, but it parallels life in a way we could all learn from. Practice, patience, rites of passage, success/failure, and finality can all be gleaned from a little coin operated machine that happened to turn only be 25 years old this year.