How Would You Quantify Fighting Game Skill?

How would you divide players into beginner, intermediate, and advanced skill levels? That is, for example, where is the line drawn between an intermediate player and an advanced player?

It can be odd with fighting games, since there’s just so much that goes into how “good” a player is at it. Execution, reads, reactions, spacing, and that’s not counting things like match-up knowledge.

Right now, I don’t think fighting games really do a very good job at all of sorting out players based upon their skill. It leads to the common saying that rank doesn’t matter, but frankly that’s an issue. In a genre that’s generally laser-focused on its competitive aspect, I think ranks should be a decent indicator of skill. Simple win/loss counts are pretty worthless for that sort of thing, so are total numbers of games played. One idea I’ve had is that fighting games could try adopting a system akin to the promotion tests used in a lot of martial arts, being able to demonstrate knowledge and the ability to practice that knowledge in order to climb up the ladder. This could go for general game systems as well as character-specific stuff.

Let’s just use Street Fighter 5 as an example. Your rank promotion could go as follows:

After 25 wins or so you get a notification saying that you’re eligible from a rank promotion. Choosing to do so leads to the following: You see a situation play out, Ryu has 1 bar of v-gauge and gets chipped out by a blockstring leading to a super. What could he have done to avoid the chip KO once the blockstring has started? Then the game turns control over to the player to perform the answer, which is to do a v-reversal during the blockstring, with a limited number of tries. If the player fails, then the game could give them a quick run through of chip damage and how v-reversals are used, and are then allowed to go through the scenario again. If they succeed, then they understand the concept. Either way, they get their rank promotion. As ranks increase, more advanced techniques would be tested, and if necessary, explained. I suppose a system like this would be a real bitch to implement since balance changes could throw the situations out of whack, but it’s just an idea.

I don’t like ranking systems at all. They tend to reward toxic behavior, and I don’t think they are effective for helping people get better. When I see a post on reddit or somewhere else from someone who spent 6+ months trying to get out bronze league, all I can think is “that’s because you mostly played against bronze players.” Just throwing the inexperienced players into the game and making them fight each other means they will win more matches, but they will also take longer to improve. And this is true for all ranks.

As far as your idea about taking a test goes, I don’t think it’s really helpful. In martial arts you aren’t actually testing your skill with every session. In SFV, you play the game, you win and lose, and once your wins start to consistently outweigh your losses, then you can level up. If the system works correctly, the knowledge is expected be necessary in order to reach that rank in the first place. What you’re describing is basically what I’d want to see in a robust tutorial.

I see it like I do anything else.
If you think you’re good, you’re bad.
If you know you’re bad, you’re okay.
If you’re good, but know you can be better, you’re good.