With the Australian Open coming to an end in January, the beginning of the 2010 Tennis season started. If you didn’t catch it or don’t care about tennis, for the purposes of this argument, I must describe to you how I draw the correlation between Video Games like Soul Caliber and Street Fighter and Tekken and Killer Instinct and etc. and Tennis.
When the match starts, both players are on equal playing ground, the first of many similarities between Tennis and fighting video games. Choosing Mitsurugi or Voldo or Ryu or Yoshimitsu is just like picking a tennis player. They all have individual strengths and weaknesses, they all train year round, and they all use the court and all of the tools involved as weapons to defeat their opponents. Very similar to any video game is the sense of equality on the court. Everyone has the same amount of health, and the ability to learn everything there is to know about the game. Equality is important to judge any specific players skill level. In the past, numerous wild card tennis players, players who are ranked much lower than number 1 but who luck out and get the draw to compete in a world wide tournament, have put up impressive battles in the final matches against some of the greatest players of all time because of how equal the playing field is in Tennis. Some of them win, much like picking a character you are unfamiliar with and winning.
Another universal similarity is that the entire match involves only two people, unless you’re watching a doubles match, but either way Tennis matches are intimate duels with people on a global scale. This represents not only the player, but the people behind whichever player they relate to and like to watch. If I like Roger Federer (1) more than Andy Murray (4), I’ll be sitting sideline in my apartment with the flag of Switzerland draped over my legs watching Federer move with finesse and grace around the court like a dancer. What fighting video game characters make the fighting look easy? Rafael? Astaroth? Ryu? Dan?
Scoring is similar in that players win points for each successful move and eventually add up their winnings until they’ve one best out of 3 or 5. The first game of a tennis match normally has the players performing at their peek. In the case of Federer vs. Murray, the final match of the 2010 Australian Open, Murray struggled to keep up with Federer in his first two games, but by the third game he was putting everything he had in it. Some players, like Marcos Baghdatis (36) or Jo-Wilfreid Tsonga (10) or Murray might need the energy the audience projects to get them playing at the top of their game. Some players. Others like Federer or Rafael Nadal (3) are consistently good at the game. No matter how your room of gamers or the stadium of fans explodes with emotion at the match; the playing is still the same for the best of the contestants in both fields. Daigo, a world-renown Street Fighter champion, plays his game much like Federer plays his. If it were only that easy.
Each player is unique in both games. Some like the French tennis player Gael Monfils (12) play the game so uniquely and with so much energy that it’s hard to read and understand the moves he’s throwing at his opponent. Ever wonder how Dhalsim just teleported from one side of the map to the other, while floating, to end up shooting fireballs at you when you first fought him? You’d wonder the same thing if you knew as much about Tennis when Monfils flies across the court and snaps his knees back and forth like invincible rubber bands set on giving his fans some physical poetry to watch as well as confuse his opponent. But, these uniqueness’s also have their drawbacks.
Dhalsim is slow, he has range, and uses voodoo, but a competent player of Ryu or Ken or anyone for that matter can see his faults and compromise on them. Dhalsim can do the same for a consistent Hadouken Ryu, but either way the sport of tennis and of fighting video games utilizes the same plus/minus affair. Any duel does for that matter. In the case of Monfils, his "invincible," knees only appear that way causing his major drawback to winning a world championship to be because of knee surgeries and fatigue. While I can compare Tennis to Soul Caliber and Street Fighter, I could also say the same about Fencing or Boxing but those are much more traditional and easier to draw the connection between the two. In Tennis, no one is punching or trying to poke the other person. It’s all about skill and sportsmanship with a racquet and a neon ball.
Essentially the world of competitive Tennis and competitive fighting video games are similar. Where one player sits on the couch and taps directions and buttons, the other spends the whole year training on a court to revel in the victory they may have over some of the best players in the world. One may be in much better physical shape, but other than that, the psychological elements of the two easily permeate with the adrenaline junky inside of me. The luxury of sitting on the couch and playing alone is only a luxury when it’s not held in comparison to standing in the middle of a brilliant tennis court in front of the Prince of England to accept one of the many trophies you rightfully deserve. But, at least the basics are the same. Down ->Forward + Punch? Say hello to the slice.