Execution is something which is present in all fighting games, and having good execution is a must for competitive play. If your execution is poor then it’s a liability. You may miss that reversal dragon punch, or screw up a combo that could have won you the match. Having good execution though gives you more options, more tactics and methods of offense and defense. And here is where the problem lies. In a way, players are restricted in what they can do by how good their execution is.
Obviously the solution is to improve your execution. This is done by practice, and you keep practicing until you no longer have any doubts in your mind whether or not you can execute what you’ve been practicing. This can take a long time though, something not everyone has the luxury of. And while its a good thing that players who put in the time and effort to improve their execution are duly rewarded, I can’t help feel that casual and new players are being discouraged by taking fighting games more seriously because of the demands on execution.
I originally thought that too many complex game mechanics were the source of discouraging more people getting into fighting games, but lots of game mechanics can go ignored as long as people can just pick and play and have fun. Thats why I believe 3D and Smash style fighting games are so much more popular than traditional 2D fighting games. People will say purely its because of the “superior” graphics. I’m not going to deny that as a major factor, but the graphics and art style is something which originally attracts someone to a game, rather than being the deciding factor which makes players want to continue to play it.
While there is still demanding execution in 3D and Smash style fighters, on the whole it doesn’t seem so important. New and casual gamers can more or less just button mash most 3D fighters, and the game play to at least themselves and amongst their peers will be fun and will look good. Now when new and casual gamers try to do this on 2D fighters, everything seems so much more sluggish and awkward, even to themselves. Nothing seems to flow and the game will move slow. Also classical special moves which we are used to here seem like totally alien methods of control, and while we may think some fighters have very lack execution in this respect, it something which can be very challenging to someone new to fighting games, let alone even trying to perform a basic combo.
So what happens when you remove the execution demands from fighting games? You generally get more button mash friendly games, which often lose depth and balance. And for a game to be taken seriously, at least in a competitive sense, it needs to have sufficient depth and balance. Few games have achieved a balance of less demanding execution with deep and balanced game play. I’m not going to say which have and haven’t cause i do not want to cause arguments, but more of these types of fighters will need to be made to not only appeal to casual gamers but also the hardcore gamers as well.