I hate Street Fighter.
I can’t imagine a world without it.
The first game releases in 1987. I am four.
It coincides with my consciousness of the world.
Born near the cusp of the early 80s, games grow with you.
It isn’t the beginning of games.
It is the beginning of the Modern Video Game.
The solidification of marketing, portability, and collection.
You remember the birth and you know it is immortal.
It will outlive you.
There will be no conceivable end.
War. Internet. Disease. Love. Games.
And 2016. And the dawn of virtual reality.
That 30 year-old fantasy finally given a functional existence.
A transformative existence.
New games will be born into a world where VR has always existed.
Like children never knowing life without the internet.
But the old games.
They escaped that new dawn with VR dreams.
And few made it this far.
Mario. Metal Gear. Darius. Final Fantasy.
They roamed the wasteland to get here.
Bloated and dense they arrive.
And Street Fighter with them.
Street Fighter I should have been the end.
Street Fighter III should have been the end.
Street Fighter IV should have been the end.
1991: Street Fighter II moves the world.
It manufactures combos.
It fills arcades again.
It boosts home console sales.
It is a singular phenomenon.
Street Fighter II saves Street Fighter.
It saves fighting games.
And I hate it.
It feels unintuitive. Difficult. Raw.
And I admire it.
Loud. Heavy. Calm.
Shooting sparks like a breaking trance.
Street Fighter II iterated. Honed itself.
Street Fighter explored its identity with Alpha and EX.
The success of SFII gave the series that kind of strange space.
1997: Street Fighter III emerges at the end.
It is a fluid machine.
It is rejected.
It is an extension of SFII’s bright calm no one wants with characters they don’t understand.
The game is too far ahead.
It iterates like II.
It’s not enough.
Street Fighter expands into new space.
Its final shot at 3D: SF EX3 becomes the last Street Fighter for nearly a decade.
SFIV emerges in 2008.
It reaches past III and reanimates II.
It builds a diorama in EX’s mirror image.
Its force of will brings about a new golden age of fighters.
SFIV grows like II.
I still don’t understand it.
I don’t understand its principles. It frustrates me.
SFIV explains nothing about itself.
Its world is hideous. I can’t be in it.
My cold hate compels me.
I walk away into the new ground around it.
SFIV is a symbolic success.
And SFIV could have been the end.
Capcom doesn’t have the capital to develop a new entry.
They broker an exclusivity deal with Sony.
Street Fighter V is made.
I don’t touch Street Fighter for two years.
I rummage deep into the new margins.
I stick with anime fighters.
I feel stagnant. Underdeveloped.
I watch FAB play Potemkin in Guilty Gear Xrd and my mind aches at the stunned math.
It’s not for me and I stop.
I stop fighting altogether.
I become a collector of fighting games.
I am bored. I don’t understand what it is I don’t understand.
I read all the literature on how to get better.
None of it clicks loud enough.
I miss the final SFV beta. I wait the few weeks.
Patrick Miller creates a podcast about fighting games.
And I listen. And I listen.
And my experiences sort themselves.
I begin to understand what an idiot I’ve been.
Spacing. Patience. Game plans. Reading the opponent.
My entire life I’ve just been pressing buttons.
I haven’t learned anything. My mind condenses at last.
Street Fighter V releases.
It is an extension of III.
It is a blend of II and the new wave.
Like Garou: pure. Holistic.
Heavy. Light. A brash kind of quiet.
It has a wholeness even in its broken state.
It is a cracked Roman column lit up by mute arcade machines.
It is the first Street Fighter I love.
I understand it.
It shows me what I don’t know. I can see its arc.
It is obvious, complex.
It has an ancient physicality.
Everything is legible and concise.
The new characters personify its history:
Laura and joy.
Rashid and experimentation.
F.A.N.G. and strangeness.
Necalli and non-existence.
Street Fighter V exhibits a survivor’s joy.
Street Fighter should not have made it to 2016.
But it did.
And I can’t imagine a world without it.