I’m an old gamer who’s been around since the days when most video games could be played ONLY while standing and controllers had a stick and a button. In 1987, a game called Street Fighter arrived and set the bar for a fledgling genre known as the “beat ’em up” or fighting game. Street Fighter II, the first official sequel, became one of the most popular video games since Pac-Man, changed the industry forever, and taught me a valuable life lesson.
Few people talk about the original Street Fighter game because it wasn’t that great. It was fun, sure, but with only one character to choose, Ryu (Ken was only for the second player), stiff controls, and limited animations, it wasn’t a game-changer … yet. Then, in 1991, Street Fighter II arrived, and the world of video games would never be the same. SFII was a complete upgrade to the original game that featured a wider range of playable characters, more moves, better animations, and responsive controls.
From the time Street Fighter II landed and all the way through Street Fighter II Champion Edition, Turbo, hacked Turbo machines, and the Alpha series, I was a Street Fighter addict. For a lot of that time, I was a terrible player too, but it was still fun to get my arse handed to me time and time again.
Then, one night …
… while playing with myself … wait … I mean, playing Street Fighter alone, I decided to step out of my comfort zone. I was a hard Ryu, Ken, or Chung-Li user like many players. But that night, I made a point to use Zangief, Vega, M. Bison, and the rest.
The shift in playstyle was weird at first, and I sucked even more with the “new” characters. But I was getting better with my staple characters. Why? Understanding the new characters wasn’t easy, but it was insightful. While I wasn’t learning how to take advantage of their strengths, I had a better sense of their weaknesses. So, I started to exploit that. I started to win. I continued to practice until I could 720 pile drive fools into oblivion with ease.
For the next few years, through most of the lifespan of Street Fighter Alpha II and III, I was practically unstoppable against friends. Against competitive gamers I was still mediocre at best.
What did I learn?
To challenge myself. It’s easy to stay within a little bubble that feels safe and secure. But a bubble will only provide a limited amount of experience or enjoyment. The world is simply too vast and fascinating to live in a bubble.
I went on to apply the “out of my comfort zone” philosophy to other things in life, mainly writing. At the time I worked for a geek-flavored magazine. I went on to write copy for electronics products, technical manuals, short films, plays, comics, children’s books, and more.
Maybe I would’ve gone on to write a broad range of things without that little lesson from Street Fighter. It’s a complete unknown that’s serves as a fun thought experiment, but is otherwise irrelevant. Street Fighter was the spark that taught me to learn things from many angles. And my timeline has never been the same.