Why Do People Play 'Broken' Characters:In Defense of Character Selection

Why Do People Play ‘Broken’ Characters, Anyway?

I had the good fortune of attending Evo 2011 this year, and it was one of the most exciting events I have ever attended, game-related or otherwise. Everyone was happy to be there, the crowd was excited, and there was air conditioning, which was a plus considering that nearly every day was over 100 degrees.

But I didn’t sit down at the keyboard to write about how wonderful Evo was, or how great it was of my friend to let me tag along and bum it in his hotel room. I had a bad experience involving a Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom side tournament where the organizers took it upon themselves to ban “Giants.” If you don’t know, Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom is a Wii exclusive versus title with 2v2 team composition. However, there are also two Giant robots either of whom, at the cost of having a partner and an assist, may be selected.

I was pretty excited about this side tournament. There were only10 entrants, but there were top players who had done well at Majors and Evo 2010. I was looking forward to testing my abilities against those players, and was really excited about playing. Too bad I play a Giant.

When I went to sign up for the tournament, I was told a number of things about using Giants: First, “Giants are okay to use. We hate them, but they aren’t banned.” It was down hill from there, though. I was later told that it depended on *which *giant I wanted to use, and then again, later, I was told that if “[Named Giant Player] shows up, you can use Giants, otherwise you can’t use Giants.” Finally, it was just a flat out, “No Giants.”

Giants weren’t banned at any of the Majors or at Evo 2010. Two PTX (Giant) players won a major, and there were some Giants sprinkled in other top 8 TvC tournament play, but they did not dominate top-level play. You can checkthe results of the TvC 2010 tournament season yourself, if you are interested.

I asked different people involved with running the tournament why they weren’t going to allow Giants. They said that their decision was based on two points—1) they felt that Giants altered game play from that of other versus games i.e. Marvel, and 2) people wouldn’t join the tournament if they allowed Giants. While not explicitly stated, at the root of the second reason is the view that Giants are over powered.

I have no other team. I use a Giant, so I did not play in the tournament. And after having made it all the way to Evo with the hope that I might play some top players in this game, being excluded from the tournament was a huge disappointment. But once I got over my own disappointment, I started thinking about some larger issues that lie under the surface of this issue: *Why do people play *
‘broken’ characters, anyways?

Competitive Advantage–
Every serious player of any game is looking for a competitive advantage. If Street fighter only had one character, there would be no issue with balance. Whoever played Ryu flawlessly in a tournament would win. I can’t decide if it would be more boring to watch this type of a game, or to play it, but it would be balanced. If you prefer a different play style, tough luck. Buy another game. You suck, noob.

But thankfully there is more than one character in Street Fighter and other fighting games. There are large rosters of characters with different abilities, play styles, strengths, and weaknesses. From this field of characters, every player searches for someone that works for them, someone that they can use to gain competitive advantage. This might be something as simple as learning a counter pick to a commonly played character, or it might mean choosing a main character that is perceived to be dominant.

Player Preference –
Competitive advantage isn’t the only reason that players use upper tier characters. Sometimes it’s as simple as player preference. If a character has high health, super armor, and great damage, I’m going to be all over that character, whether it is dominant or not. Likewise, other players may choose characters based on their mix up ability, or their ability to continue combos for thirty seconds at a stretch. What ever the characteristic is, players prefer certain styles of fighting, and they will lean towards characters that fit into those molds. If they are dominant characters, it is simply a bonus, not the driving motivation. Because, quite frankly, it doesn’t matter how dominant a character is if you cannot use them, or you cannot stand to play them.

Player Limitation–
Player limitation also plays part in what characters people choose. I can’t do long combos. I can do six, seven, or (sometimes) eight input combos before things get sloppy and dropped. If a character is going to require me to do 10, 15, or 20 input combos to maximize their effectiveness, I will pass on that character in favor of a stronger, simpler character. I may give up speed and air maneuverability in exchange for manageable combos, but the end result will be a more effective weapon in my hands.

You might say that if a player needs shorter combos, they are a bad player. Combos are a part of the game, yes, but they aren’t the entire game. You don’t expect a pitcher to get a lot of base hits. It’s great when they do, but it’s just bonus. In the same regard, you can deal with a slow base runner, as long as they consistently make base hits. Sure, he won’t steal many bases, but he is still a valuable player, and an important part of the team. To write off an entire group of players based on their inability to perform complex maneuvers on a joystick is foolish.

Breaking the Game–
When I play games, I look for something broken. It is not a conscious decision, but simply an internal reaction to the structure of the game. I am looking for a way to beat the game, to dominate it, to master it, and exert complete control over it by taking any advantage allowed within the rules. This is not cheating, just good play.

The best games will prove difficult to break, but if there is something strong there, you can bet that players are going to hunt it out. It is natural and to be expected. If something is truly broken, it will be discovered, and it will need to be addressed, but often times something that appears to be broken will have an answer within the game. Attempting to ‘break’ the game is a normal part of the exploration process, and it should not be held against the players who are simply playing the game as it exists.

The Rules Of the Game–
The game has its own rules built in. Unfortunately players are often not satisfied with these rules, and they bring their own unwritten rules to the table. A player’s own rules might say “You can’t pick that character because it is cheap,” or, “You shouldn’t play on that level because it is distracting.” The game’s rules say, “This character was put in the game to be played. It can be selected by any player. ” The same goes for the offending map. Players are then esteeming their own “rules” higher than those within the game. In doing this, players disrespect that game that actually exists, opting instead for a non-existent game. The new game might not break their personal, unwritten rules, but it certainly isn’t the game envisioned by the creators.

Love of the game–
I have heard the argument that players who use lower or middle tier characters have a deeper love of the game, while players who use the upper tier do not. I think this is sort of backwards. If you loved the game, you would play it as it is. You wouldn’t try and force your own rules onto it, and you wouldn’t reject other people based on their use of characters within the game. You would love the game, warts, Giant robots, Yuns, Dark Phoenixs and all, and you would celebrate other people’s love of the game along side of them.

I loved TvC. I loved being able to pick a Giant robot with a chain saw, chain guns, and rockets. I loved being able to play in a near-constant state of aggression thanks to super armor and high health, and I loved the matches where I went toe to toe with another Giant robot. It was an incredibly fun experience for me, and I had a deeper love for that game than any other fighting game I have played in years. I loved that game.

Final Thoughts–
“If Giants are in the tournament, I won’t play.” I heard another TvC player say as I was trying to sign up for the tournament that spawned these thoughts. This, “if you can’t beat it, ban it”, attitude is not the fighting spirit. And it goes directly against the very heart of these games. If another player’s strategy gives you trouble, you work around it, study it and develop strategies against it. If all hope is lost, and the game is truly broken, you adopt a similar strategy. But if something is really over powered, prove it. Prove it again and again until the developers are forced to patch it or address it in the next adaptation of the game. Don’t cry about it. Don’t refuse to fight it! You cannot simply pretend that it doesn’t exist and you should not be an elitist who uses character selection as a means of exclusion. The community as a whole has to man up and stop pushing players out based on their character choices. If this mentality is not dealt with, it will harm the growth potential of the scene. If there is no growth, it will stagnate and die.

I thought you loved these games.

Michael Elkins
aka: lilrut

IMO, proper fighting games should always be played on the default (arcade if it exists) ruleset.

The only time a character should be banned is if they turn out to be like ST Akuma (who was never meant to be fair in the first place) or CvS1 Nakoruru - something which (to my admittedly limited knowledge of TvC’s later metagame) the giants never were.

Can you make a TL;DR version?

I feel like this should go in the tumbleweed TVC section, but I do agree with it for the most part. I was seriously thinking about maining Lightan when he got announced. He has it bad enough as is and with people trying to X him and PTX out of the roster, I didn’t think it was worth the trouble.

Yeah I don’t get the logic of tournament runners sometimes. Ban Giants but it’s cool to let Phoenix run around? Yeah sure. I never had a problem with Phoenix being tourney legal but people bitched so much about her that it’s pretty amazing that Vanilla Phoenix wasn’t banned but Giants were.

Too bad TvC is so dead that it doesn’t really matter any way.

I agree that the giants shouldnt be banned. Banning the giants would be like banning Phoenix from vanilla marvel.
However, it does make for a more stagnant metagame. Imagine if ST Akuma or SF3 Gill were allowed in tourney play- its all we would see. Sort of like how top play Smash bros brawl is all metaknight. but I digress, PTX is beatable.

All imma say here is I love playing me some Eddie in GGAC, but whoever is on the receiving end usually looks like they’re ready to stab someone

This is the main reason I could never get ‘into’ the competitive Smash Bros scene.

Unlike most people here, I love Smash Bros. I just hate what the tournament scene turned it into.

SF3 Gill I’m sure is completely more broken than Giants any way. He’s even more broken than Vanilla Phoenix because he can 100 percent you with pretty easy combos without meter. At least Phoenix needs her minions to land 2 combos first. I don’t know enough about ST Akuma to say for sure if he’s worse than Giants but I’m pretty sure he is.

He might as well be a MUGEN character, relative to how everyone else in ST is

the reason tourney smash bros players make their own rules is because Sakurai doesnt want/didnt make a true competitive game. Melee was one of the greatest accident ever created. Brawl was Sakurai going “ok, were gonna make a great party game but if they try to make it a tourney game like the last one its just gonna suck ass”

I didnt mean to say Gill or ST Akuma are the same as PTX, because I sure as hell know they are way above them. I was just sorta making a comparison. TvC IS less balanced than MvC3 (for now) - the amount of diversity in top 8/32 in MvC3 was very good. However, banning Giants at EVO is just stupid, and goes against the spirit of the entire tourney series.

ST Akuma shouldn’t even be compared to Phoenix. ST Akuma was broken clearly because he was designed with tools that none of the regular characters had and totally dominated the rest of the cast. The only Capcom character that comes close is CvS1 Nak who - thanks to the way the ratio system in CvS1 - ended up so broke that, to quote Maj “80% of her matchups are automatic wins.”

Teal Deer…Giants should not have been banned by the TvC.

I agree with that…and I believe that is a part of the self-damning of the TvC community.

You do realize TvC had already stagnated and died, do you? And that the lameness of PTX contributed much to its death? The same goes for how SC4 died because of a certain ringout queen called Hilde. You can read for yourself what those SC4 fans think about the damage not banning Hilde had done to their game:

Blaming a community/game dying because of one character, one that isn’t even broken is stupid. There are multiple games that are still being played with active communities despite having overpowering top tiers. The 4 gods of Marvel and Yun/Chun in 3S are arguably worse than PTX in TvC and those communities thrived for years.

I think even more competitively minded fighting game players are bothered by top tier characters than appear to be. Outside of the typical crybaby’s, think of all the people who go out of their way to not pick top tiers or very popular characters, just to avoid hollow labels like “tier whore.” It’s pretty lame.

Blaming a game’s death on a character is absolutely ridiculous. The banning of the giants did more to hurt the game than help.

Lol. Those guys had scrubby ass chaos. Get at me and my max stats Chaos Chao, bluhddd

if this is true, then Sakurai is the greatest man alive. I wish Melee felt as fluid Brawl. Like that’s the only thing i really liked about Brawl, the overall animations felt and looked more organic.

@original poster

don’t feel bad. I remember when there where rumors, or even talk about Gouken being banned from tourneys becasue he was teh best ever. Some things should be banned, but there has to be a precise and logical defenition as to why.

It happens though, and will happen more often.