Street Fighter 3: Parry Rocks

Do you know the „Daigo moment“? If you don’t, you should:
Daigo moment on

Daigo was the player using Ken. In a decisive match in the major tournament, where the average player is likely to perform worse than usual, Daigo managed to turn the table in a seemingly hopeless situation with the help of a risky but rewarding little move called „parry“.

Yes, Street Fighter 3 has among the best character animations ever seen in a commercial video game, even by today’s standard. Yes, the core game mechanics is based on the tried and profen scissor-stone-paper system used by virtually every title in the genre. And yes, everything is perfectly balanced so there is next to nothing that can be abused to break the game. Everything is in the hands of the player.

But above all, the one single feature to credit for making Street Fighter 3 such an outstanding game which still manages to attract new players today, more than half a decade after its initial release, is the above mentioned „parry“.
Technically, you’d have to do the opposite of a block, in the exact moment an attack would hit you. If you do it right, the attack is nullified, as is your passive state.

It is not easy to do, as the timeframe for a successful parry is small; it also takes guts, as you have to decide against your easy and save defense, and it requires foresight, as a parry does not strike back by itself, it merely opens up an opportunity you have to follow up quickly. Last but not least, you need judgement, as it’s still only one of the balanced options, not the best in every situation.
It takes so much to parry, but the reward is worth it. It’s more than the technical advantages you gain in the match.

First, there is the classic formular of fun known from storytelling: the uncertainty about a desired outcome builds up the tension, then the positive resolution transfers that tension into a favorable feeling called euphoria. In case of games, this effect is even stronger than in movies or books, because you make it happen yourself and this raises your self-esteem.

In the particular case of parries, it’s not unlike gambling. You decide what you put on the line; the more you can lose, the greater the tension and even greater the euphoria. Facing a projectile you can easily track over the whole screen while you have full health is nothing compared to a series of lightning fast melee attacks when you’re about to lose a tournament. At least, let’s hope there is no money involved.

Second, since maximizing the benefit of parries needs you to anticipate the opponents moves, doing so shows your confidence and tactical supremacy. This not only raises your self-esteem additionally, it also damages the opponent both virtually and mentally. Ah, the beauty of mind games. On this level of play, it is as much a competition in game control as a challenge of mind.

Another important fact, albeit common to many fighting games and some other genres, is that the game does not change its „offering“ during the whole process. It doe not enhance your avatar over time or allow you to do so, neither do the environments and parameters change. Still your experience does not stay the same as you continuously improve yourself. Different levels of skill get different kind of fun out of the same, any time – it does not depend on any save game files.

On the lowest level, the simple act of triggering pretty animations can be nice even to non-gamers – think of kids having fun making noises without any purpose – but this wears off really quickly, especially in games, maybe partly because we’re such pragmatic grown-ups.

Soon enough we want to use the possible actions to reach goals, in this case to win the fight, and we are happy to win at all – in the beginning. But as our grasp on the subtleties in the game develop, we want to win in very specific ways. So after learning the control and other detailed rules – the „rigid“ stuff – we learn how to use them and act in different „dynamic“ situations.

From there, the game becomes a plattform for a specific kind of interaction, preferably with other human players, and the build-it goals become merely a framework for you to play and practise alone. In fact, „beating“ the single player mode in a fighting game is generally considered boring and dull.

Here are actually two biggest problems of fighting games: the training and the human competition. Nowadays, human competition is supported by online-play, but players are still largely left along on the steep way of getting the most out of the game.
It might be hard getting into the fight, but it can be rewarding.

How about a moment named after you?

Yu-Chung Chen

Yu-Chung Chen is a designer working primarily on video games. He studied at Köln International School of Design and has contributed to a number of published games. Currently he works as a freelance UI designer at Keen Games.

3 responses to “Street Fighter 3: Parry Rocks”

  1. Krystian Majewski

    I had a quick thought about the 3 levels of experience you described. I remeber Christoph Klimmt saying something similar at the “Clash of Realities” conference. His concept was that all 3 levels exist at the same time. I didn’t really occur to me that there is a foucs on one of them depending on the skills of the player, but the effect you described seem familiar. I’ve notices something similar when playing the TCG “Magic: The Gathering” for some time. First, you find the cards nice and flashy, later you are thrilled by the in-game tactics but in the end you just focus on tournaments and overall, abstract playing statgy. Not that you don’t notice the nice cards anymore but the whole point of the game shifts a bit.

  2. Yu-Chung Chen

    Yeah, my description is based on the model outlined by Dr. Klimmt. Maybe we can see this structure in other games, too.

    Anyway, right now Thomas and me are going to need the second and third levels for Gravity: Intermediate goals and a framework.

    This is going to be expensive for wap3 ;)

  3. GRAV

    i think 2 games that are great examples of this are
    Bomberman and Super Mario Kart(Battle Mode)

    in Bomberman, you discover the extremely simple action of blowing up blocks and collecting items. next you learn the simple ways each item can be used. and then the layers deepen when you find out you can plant a bomb, then pick it up right before it explodes, then have it explode immediately after you throw it, etc.

    MarioKart battlemode is extremely multi-layered in strategy and psychological warfare. the different ways you can use shells and banannas is very dynamic, and the fact that you and your opponent can always see each other as well leads to a host of mind-games you can play on each other.


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