Attitude and Perspective


Note: No one comes out playing better after reading this. Like the title says, this is about perspective. Someone might enjoy it.

Fighting Games are often compared to high-speed chess.
It’s not even close to high-speed chess. The comparison itself is terrible even if it sounds charming.

Fighting Games are like Slapsies. I.e. high speed guessing game. Quick decision making.
Several things happen in that game:
1- You predict the slap (guess)
2- You try to move your hand before it gets slapped (execution)
3- You’re correct, or you’re not. If you are, you gain the advantage and you’re the one slapping next. Otherwise, you go back to being at a disadvantage and having to guess (result)

I’m not going to get into Slapsies and dwell in little details like being able to bait your opponent and whatnot. I believe the analogy stands on solid ground for the rest of the article.

Different fighting games vary in how they approach this “model”.
They can vary in:
a) How often you have to guess
b) How much time there is between each guess
c) How powerful each result is in the end (the weight of each guess)

Before I exemplify with games, I’ll divide the two major types of guessing in Fighting Games, and put one of them aside. Also, one extra type of “thing” happens in fighting games, and I’ll list that as well.
One is Pure Guessing (like Rock Paper Scissors)
The other is Fundamentals (guess based, but on a whole different level: movement (footsies), poking, zoning (projectiles or not))
The last one is Setups. Setups are automatic, like Option Selects, Vortexes, Safe Jumps, Okizeme stuff, etc. Depends on the game, but overall, setups are the only thing Fighting Games have in common with Chess. I’ll deal with this part separately.

To give you an example: Tekken has all three, but Virtua Fighter barely has Fundamentals. It’s mostly Pure Guessing (High Speed Slapsies, constant RPS) with a few Setups thrown in to catch tech rolls (among other setups, but usually comes down to Okizeme).

After you read the article, you’ll probably be able to see how the games you play fit into each category, how characters actually work, how you should approach them and the game itself, etc. I’ll be doing most of my talk based on Street Fighter 4 from here on out.

In Street Fighter 4 you have all three of those listed above.
What dictates when each show up is the characters themselves.

A character with low walk speed can’t play footsies (I’ll reinforce that footsies isn’t poking). So even if they can poke (Makoto) and/or zone the opponent with fireballs (Sagat), the truth is that they lose a part of their Fundamentals. Hence, if we assume that Pure Guessing + Fundamentals + Setups globally fulfill 100% of a character’s tool set, then the Footsies portion that certain characters lack will have to be spread out among the other categories (Pure Guessing, Setups and other parts of Fundamentals).

The example above was very specific, but you can already see how it pans out for other characters.

Seth, for example, is not really a Pure Guessing character. You’ll have to do the guessing when you’re blocking him. He, on the other hand, is a Setups character. He can also zone you out. His fundamentals allow him to hit-confirm you easily and stay safe. He can get in without taking many risks. That means that when you play Seth, he’s playing the Chess game. You’re the one playing Slapsies, and the result is usually in his favor.

Why? Because the second step in Slapsies is Execution.
So even if you guess correctly (you know you should back dash in that precise frame window), you might not have the execution to succeed. Hence, he’ll slap your hand, and you’re back on the disadvantage, ready to be slapped again.

There’s a lot to be said about Throws in Street Fighter. Not just the ranges themselves or the damage, but the opportunities they present afterwards. For some Setup/Pure Guessing characters, throws provide the biggest advantage. For those characters who have no Okizeme (a meaty fireball is not Oki dear Guile players), throwing serves very little purpose other than force some distance between you and your opponent, whether they tech or not (Dhalsim, Guile, Sagat, etc), or just cut them out of their blocking.

Pure Guessing is when Abel decides to Tornado Throw you assuming you’ll stand still or try to throw (TT is throw-immune).
Pure Guessing is when Abel decides to use close HP assuming you’ll try to jump out.
Pure Guessing is when Abel decides to f+mk or dash again, assuming you’ll try to back dash.

When Daigo throws a Hadouken that’s clearly jump-able and punishable, that’s Pure Guessing.
When Daigo throws a Hadouken that’s just out of “jump in punish range” (or nonpunishable by most means), that’s Zoning, that’s Fundamentals.

So, how should you approach any Fighting Game?
First, you must understand and accept that you will have to play guessing games, and you will make both right and wrong decisions. You will be correct, and you will not. You will feel good about guessing right very often, and you will feel bad about guessing wrong very often.

And just to make it perfectly clear on what “random” is: Random is when you do something that you had no intention of doing (thoughtlessly; execution error) and it somehow hits against all odds. Not because it was unpredictable (you could do something you didn’t want to do, and it could actually be predictable), but because the other player didn’t guess correctly and/or had an execution mistake as well.

To use Slapsies as the bridge here: random is when the person who’s slapping is going to miss by a few cm because they did it too fast (execution error), but the person dodging the slap also had an execution problem and dodged to the wrong side, thus getting hit by the slapper.

Ergo: Random occurrences are Freak Accidents. They’re not ridiculously rare. They’re just impossible to predict unless you’re watching two rookies playing and you predict that they’re both going to make a mistake. If you can predict that, you shouldn’t be playing Street Fighter, you should be playing Poker.

This ties into “How you should approach a Fighting Game” in a simple manner: stop thinking about “random”. Your opponent is not random. He’s just making decisions you’re not able to predict.

Newsflash: making decisions in fighting games, for the most part, is a kid’s game. The more you think, the better you can plan out your stuff and make intelligent schemes. But you also turn more predictable. The less you think, the more impulsive you are, and usually the harder it is for you to be predictable. I’m talking about being wild here. Not about being angry and jumping 5 times in a row. If you’re jumping 5 times in a row, you’re positively thinking: “I’m going to jump and punish him now for all those times he hit me”. That’s predictable.

Even a 10 year old can make good decisions in a Fighting Game and come out on top. All he needs is execution, and there are 6 year olds who play piano better than you. Fighting Games have got zero to do with how old you are.

Alex Valle is not winning tournaments, and Kusanagi is not losing like crazy.

What matters is your decision making. And since most Fighting Games can be summarized to Nitaku (2 choice situations), it’s mostly binary. You either go left, or right. You either pick 1 or 0.

You either throw your opponent, or you do a normal and frametrap them.

And that’s where reversals show up. They break the nitaku. Every game has them. Tekken has low/high crushes, VF has them as well. They’re there to break the flow of the game.

But all in all, they’re part of the Guessing Game too. They’re wild cards, but they shouldn’t be interpreted as so. You should never see your choices as binary. You shouldn’t see them as choices. You should simply read your opponent and execute your option, no matter what. Then deal with the result, and go back to guessing.

If your opponent surprises you, accept it as normal, and prepare yourself for the next guess. If you are surprised, you are arrogant. Why would you be surprised? You will not guess everything. You’re either surprised because you underestimated your opponent and you didn’t know they could/knew how to do that, or you’re surprised because you thought you knew what they were going to do in the first place. Either way, you’re full of yourself. Everyone is.

Stop it.
Accept whenever you’re wrong and whenever your opponent is right. Do not be surprised. Learn to lose because you guessed wrong several times during the match, instead of losing because you were in awe after focusing on a particular wrong guess during the entire match.

So we learned that Fighting Games are successions of situations where players have to take guesses and swap places in terms of who has the advantage and who hasn’t.

But how should characters be approached? I’ll now give you a few examples, and I believe you can work your way afterwards.

Guile vs Cody

Guile has chip damage in the form of his Sonic Boom. Being that way, if Cody blocked for an entire round, Guile would need either a gigantic amount of Sonic Booms to win by chip damage, or around 9 throws (1000/120=8,3 throws).
9 throws imply 9 correct guesses.

On the other hand, Cody, being the high stun, high damage character that he is, would require 2-4 correct guesses to win a match. But two is the probable minimum due to his high stun.
Now, this doesn’t mean that Cody is a Pure Guessing character. He’s actually setup and fundamentals based. He can be played as a Pure Guessing character as well, but it’s completely unnecessary.

Thing is, like Seth, since Cody has such a powerful weight behind his options compared to Guile, Guile has to make more choices to both survive and deal damage. So Guile players strive on other players’ mistakes. They make their own game based on the opponents’ wrong choices. They’re not “punishers” (as players like to call certain characters). They just force the opponent to take certain chances to get in. A Guile player guides the opponent the same way a Chess player would. So Guile is completely Fundamentals and Setup based. He schemes. He throws a projectile so you jump, so he can then Anti-Air you. He traps you.

Cody can do the same, but for the most part, he’ll want to be in Guile’s face, forcing Guile to guess if he’s gonna get thrown or eat a frametrap. If Guile is thrown, he’s back on the “slappee” side, having to figure out when the palm is gonna hit him once more, and from which side.

The game is crooked (no game is balanced) because certain characters have:
a) Setups with pretty much no bad repercussions if the other player guesses correctly, thus allowing them to just run away, whereas the player using the setup takes no damage for guessing wrong (Ibuki/Akuma/Seth)
b) Scales tipped in favor of their choices, since each choice they get correct leads to brilliant results, plus they get more chances to force the opponent into guessing more often (Cammy, for example)
c) Characters with the complete opposite of the above.

This leads me to Tier lists.
Let’s just get this out of the way: Tier lists are idiotic. Not because tiers don’t exist, but because they’re about as correct as when people stated the Earth was flat. Tier lists are theoretical at best. You can’t put a probability on “how often X character wins vs Y character in a 10 match set”. You can’t, because we’re not machines. You want to, you really do, but you can’t.

What you can do, and what you should do is simply interpret every match-up in two possible fashions:
a) Balanced
b) Not balanced

It’s that simple.
There’s no such thing as a 6-4, and there’s no such thing as “two players of the same caliber”, because, again, we’re not machines. It’s not T-2000 vs T-2000. “If both players go “Hasta La Vista Baby”, but one uses Honda and the other uses Ryu, then the match-up is…” No. That’s not how it works.

Forget the numbers. Delete them from your head. Delete the probabilities if you would, please. These aren’t cards, and this isn’t Poker.

When is a match Balanced?
When it’s not Unbalanced. There. One step clear. Let’s move on.

When is a match Unbalanced?
Ah, here we go.
A match is unbalanced when a given character has a very significant disadvantage when it comes to acquiring a chance to deal damage. That’s how you summarize it because that’s precisely what it comes down to.

Why is every match vs Akuma unbalanced in ST? Because he won’t give you chances to dish out damage.
Same thing happens to Dhalsim when facing Akuma in SF4. After a certain point is reached during the match, Dhalsim will not get many opportunities to hit Akuma. Since that point in particular is not hard to reach for Akuma, it’s completely in his favor.

What about Chun-Li vs Zangief, why is that unbalanced? Because Zangief has very few opportunities to dish out damage.
So, you see, it has nothing to do with “getting in” or “getting out”. It has to do directly with the chances you have of hitting your opponent, since all that matters is reducing his life gauge, even if you have to time it out in the end.

Why is Ken vs Ryu balanced and not a “6-4”? Because numbers don’t take into account the fact that both characters have about the same chances to dish out damage, and the players themselves using the characters are different as well.

If you want to put numbers on something, do it on players.
You’d say Tokido vs Ryan Hart is probably 95% is favor of Tokido assuming they use their main characters. You’ll still be making up stupid probabilities, but at least it’s in the name of fun. You’re not religiously believing that (hopefully).

Above all, whenever you play a fighting game, accept the following:

[list][*]What your character is capable of, and what the opponent's character is capable of as well (do not think about tiers, just the inherent strength, their guess/result weight ratio, their options like walking speed, normals, specials, throws, the setups).

[*]You're going to make bad choices. You're going to make good choices. Try to choose correctly more often than not. If you don't know your opponent, take 1 round to test them out if possible in particular situations. Bait reversals, bait throws, bait jumps, bait a reaction from them. But try to win nonetheless. If they're scared shitless or being plain dumb with their choices, then take that round. Then use the other rounds to put into play what you learned (or you think you learned) from them. Remember, they're not random. Do not get hung up on your bad decisions, and do not be surprised. Accept everything.

[*]Execution dictates if you can make your guess a reality or not. It matters a lot, and different characters have different execution. If you blame your character for losing, then maybe you shouldn't be using that character in the first place. If you blame the other character for winning against you, then maybe you should either use their character, or play a different game where your favorite character is in the upper echelon.

[*]There is no ideal way to win. As long as you don't cheat or punch your opponent in the face while playing, if you end the timer or the round with more health than he does, then you win. I can't instill you the idea that "there are no beautiful wins". You might love to show off and do long combos, and you might prefer a win like that instead of a win by doing jabs the whole time. But that's a matter of preference.

[*]Based on the above point: your opponent might have a different approach from yours. He might not care about combos or being "pretty". He might play very ugly. He might take a huge amount of risks. Clear your head, be cold, and worry about your own guesses and forcing him to guess. Don't fill your head with thoughts about ideals, who's playing right and who's playing wrong; the one who deserves the win is, for the most part, the one who won. Even if he started playing two days ago and you played for two years.

[*]Perfects and comeback victories are beautiful when the amount of consecutive correct guesses is high. If a Seth player guesses twice correctly and achieves a perfect, that's common. If a Ryu guesses right 8 times in a row and gets a win, that's beautiful, even if he had to trade his last hit for a bit of life, not even getting the perfect. That, my friends, is the difference between a win based on decision making, and one based on high damage combo execution. You decide what you consider to be "skilled". I go with both, but when it comes to "beauty", I'm inclined towards the first.[/list]


this was mind picketing read and it was enjoyable. Thanks for sharing


the only things this article is full of is knowledge, wisdom, and win


Great read.
I also find Double K.O. beautiful.
Just something about two fighters giving it their all till the very end makes me smile every time.


I really like what you said about tier-lists, i look at them the same way. When the community tells me 7-3 i know that the matchup isn’t in my favor, not that im gauranteed to lose 3 of 10 every time. I thought that’s how everyone saw them lol.


Thinking about it the wrong way but definitely appreciate the effort.

Fighting games are absolutely analogous to Chess. The stage is a resource. You’re fighting for positioning and every step gained means increased options for you and reduced options for your opponent. There are only so many plays your opponent can make in a certain situation.

Of course there is a certain amount of guessing involved. Every competitive game ever involves some level of anticipation and reaction to opponent strategy. Contests of purely mechanical performance aren’t called games. “Guessing” has about as much to do with your overall skill level as just about any other competitive game. You can’t get “good” at guessing. But you can get VERY good at filtering your opponent’s options down to the point where everything is in your advantage.


the only way FGs could be analogous to chess is if both players moved at the same time


The article brings up good points, though I don’t agree with the slapsies metaphor, though I DO agree with certain parts of the slapsies metaphor.

I do however think that fighting games resemble chess. In chess the most complicated positions… Aka the hardest positions to play… Are actually the most balanced positions. In a balanced chess position either side can go multiple directions and use multiple strategies, which is where decision making and strategy are at their highest premium. In fighting games, it is exactly the same. In a matchup where the characters are considered completely even, the match is generally the most dynamic and has the most shifting strategies. In matches that are highly imbalanced, there is usually little dynamism going on… Just a rote strategy being used to crush a nearly hapless foe into submission. ST honda doing nothing but HHS against a bewildered zangief being a good example of imbalance and it’s lack of dynamism.

Ryu v ryu or ken v ryu being an example of the dynamic style of play that lends itself to many strategies.

Also, though it isn’t nearly as pronounced in chess as in fighting games, there is a good amount of guessing that goes on. Should I prepare for an open position now in the opening phase of the game? Or should I prepare for a closed position, now in the opening phase of the game? Or should I go the safer route of just reacting to what my opponent does and responding, even though I might not be able to enjoy as good a position if I react than if I were to correctly guess the outcome of the opening phase.

Watching a chess master such as Capablanca, he had probably the simplest style of any world champion ever, but is agreed to be one of the strongest world champs to have ever played. Once going ten years with only 1 game lost in competition. Capablanca was renowned for making innocuous moves in the early phase of games that seemed to have 1 small goal, but then 20-30 moves ahead, that 1 move is clearly seen as a move that was planned and guessed in advance to become formidable many moves into the future. This was Capablanca at his best… He played “boring” but beautiful. Taking space, squeezing his opponents, doing nothing particularly exciting, yet after 30 moves or so his opponent would be completely lost… In short, Capablanca made other grandmasters, world champions even, look like babies.

Streetfighter and fighting games in general are absolutely analogous to chess. They are generally 1v1, they put the smarts and game knowledge and experience of one player versus another’s, the calculation of variations Is almost perfectly analogous to execution… Something which so many people that argue against the chess analogy always use as an argument “there is no execution in chess” when there absolutely is. You try to visualize a resultant chess board 20 moves in the future and all the lines of attack that are available at that future point in time then cross reference that position with 10 or more possible others… Then get to one of these future positions and realize that you left a pawn hanging, get that pawn killed, and then the opponent cruises to a win via trades and using his pawn advantage to get a queen and kill you outright… Chess absolutely has execution and it is so damn hard that the great masters of chess execution are renowned for it. Mikhail tal, Alexander alekhine, Garry Kasparov etc etc etc

But there are also masters. Of strategy such as botvinnik and petrosian and Capablanca.

This is just like streetfighter.

Of course the example isn’t perfectly analogous from one to another… But that is to be expected of any metaphor… After all they are different games. No game is absolutely analogous for another, different, game.


I liked the article and thought that the slapsies analogy was apt.


This comment and the article are missing the point in that both fighting games and chess are about controlling space.


I insulted the glorified comparison to chess that has been made for years.

Sorry Dev.
There are a gazillion games about position.
You can make an analogy between Fighting Games and Hockey.
You can make an analogy between Fighting Games and Tennis.
You can make an analogy between Sun Tzu’s Art of War and almost every single thing that involves STRATEGY because the terms used in the book are adaptable to every fucking thing in this world.

And so is “space”.
It’s one concept about Chess. One. And it’s not even completely relatable.
A vagina is not analogous to a pink Mercedes.
So no, Chess isn’t a good comparison to Fighting Games.

It’s a forced comparison for the sake of charisma.
Slapsies is a kid’s game but it doesn’t sound pretentious, though.

It does piss people off because the “high speed chess” analogy has been made for so many years that it somehow makes people who play FGs feel… better about what they play? I have no idea. Probably some psychological thing behind it.

Also, it’s not the point of the article. The point of the article is about attitude towards playing fighting games.

*Note: which is why I didn’t answer Dime: he got the gist of it in the end: no game is completely analagous to another. But Slapsies is definitely more analagous to a fighting game than a turn based strategy game.


We call it high speed chess because when some non-gamer asks us why we play, we’re not going to say that we’re playing slapsies.

It’s an easy comparison that saves time. “It’s like a game of high-speed chess.”

Bam. Instantly they get it. It’s not really anything more than that. It’s stuck because it’s easy to see, understand and appreciate, even if you don’t believe it’s accurate. Look how much you had to write just to attempt to argue against the idea.

As for a battle for position being the only comparable attribute of both games: What about branching/reduced options from not only positioning, but from losing “pieces” (health/meter/characters in a 3v3 game like CVS2)? The fact that it’s a 1v1 competition? A totally balanced and neutral “board” for both players (the game starts at the character select screen; changing your character is just changing your strategy), something that very few other competitive videogame genres offer (fuck Injustice what a joke)?

The board. The pieces. The competition for resource and position. It’s all there.


Missing the point. Every thing you do in a 2d fighter controls a set amount of space on a 2D plane in the same manner every piece in chess controls a set amount of space, again on a 2d plane. Facing a fireball and thinking about whether or you can get AAed if you jump is the same as facing a rook and considering if that knight/bishop/etc. will take your piece if you move it out of the rook’s way.

The problem with the slapsies analogy is that you almost totally disregard the space control aspect and basically say that doing well is all about reactions and guessing, when it’s not. Learning how to control space and essentially force your opponent to move in ways you want them to is just as important as reactions, guessing and yomi.


What you’re both doing is take whatever you want and mold it according to your tastes in order to fit SF into a Chess model.

You’re stuck.
I’m not even going to argue about that. Feeding an off-topic.
Actually, I am.

That was far from the gist of the article.
Dev, re-read. You clearly haven’t.

Not only did I mention setups, but I mention Guile had a chess-like mindset.

You are both saddening me to no end.
Reading the first few lines and not really understanding what I wrote is beyond silly.

I’m thankful a few enlightened dudes out there actually mentioned this piece and called it interesting.
There’s a very thick line between “disagreement” and “not reading properly”. You’re disregarding a large portion of what I wrote.

The same way slapsies fail to capture the spacing portion, chess doesn’t capture shit about the physical side (execution), nor the reflexes (high speed chess is not a thing, otherwise I’d make my analogy “tactical slapsies”).

TLDR: I mention Chess three times in my article as an analogy: the setup part. Setups because in chess you’re not moving your pieces and controlling space in real time. You plan. And as such, I used chess as an analogy for setting up your opponent in SF. I went through the trouble of replying to two people who clearly didn’t notice that, but felt the need to retort about the first few lines in the post, instead of just pointing them out to this fact. Benefit of the doubt. Down the toilet, by the way.


Just because people disagree with you doesn’t mean they didn’t read what you wrote. You need to stop taking disagreement personally and acting like you’re better or smarter than anyone else here. It’s not worth engaging in this discussion if you’re going to do that.

I think the slapsies analogy is poor. High speed chess is inaccurate as well but slapsies is worse. You have a lot of confusion about how much guessing there is in fighting games or the nature of the guessing games when they do happen. I could write more later when I’m off my phone I guess.

High speed chess that happens in real time is okay as an analogy. Not perfect but captures the essence of what’s happening and explains it to new players. Whereas comparing it to slapsies suggests a misconception of how the games even work.


Please don’t type half-assed answers.

Find a computer to post a proper explanation, or swallow the urge to quickly reply with three fat paragraphs and absolutely no arguments whatsoever.




I actually did read it. My disagreement comes from the fact that you’re de-empasizing space control. Maybe it’s because of how I learned how to play, but I’ll always put knowledge of controlling space first and foremost as you cannot make informed decisions without it, especially in a 2D fighter (and I believe I’ve made it clear enough in my replies that I do talk about 2D fighters). It’s not just Guile, it’s every character in the game, even a “guess character” like Seth. Yes you will have to guess, yes you will have to react, but knowing how to properly react comes down to knowing what space he controls.

If you still don’t get it, then I just guess we’ll have to agree to disagree.




SF doesn’t need to be compared to Chess or Slapsies for people to understand it. You can just talk about SF.