Hope you grabbed a drink, because this thread’s a talky.
Maximilian posted a “Real Talk” discussion about the importance of “Casuals” to a fighting game, and listening to a lot of the points he made really made me sit back and reevaluate where I am in the grand scope of both KI and fighting games in general.
KI 2013 has been the most engrossing experience I’ve had in the fighting game genre to date. I’ve played several different fighting games over the years, both 2d and 3d, in particular DOA2 and Soul Calibur 2 & 4, but I’ve come to realize that I knew certain strings (and what I only now understand as “normals”) without understanding nearly as much about the mechanics or advanced details of fighting games as I thought I did.
My first experience with Killer Instinct came about nearly by accident. The day after purchasing my Xbox One in the summer of 2014, I stumbled across the Killer Instinct ad while browsing the Store - I had a moment of surprise, because I remembered the old fighting game I had played in the arcade a long time ago; one I was inherently terrible at, but enjoyed because I thought the visuals and flashy combos were really awesome. I’ve always been drawn to skeleton or skull based art and KI was the first game I had seen which would let you PLAY as a skeleton. Even better, I felt like Spinal resembled the skeleton baddies in Golden Axe, which was one of my favorite beat-em-ups.
I downloaded the game, played through the first couple Dojo missions, then bought Spinal and his Retro costume individually. I messed around with him for a few days, losing most matches against both the computer and players online, before my best friend stopped by. While having a couple of drinks and playing some Xbox, I loaded up Killer Instinct and we played a few matches of Spinal vs Sabrewulf, who was free at the time. Neither of us really knew what we were doing, and our combos never got higher than 7 or 8 hits, often ending with an errant counter breaker attempt and mass confusion. We ended up having so much fun I spent the money to upgrade to the Ultra edition, and we spent something like four hours straight playing around the roster. A couple of weeks later my friend bought himself an Xbox One, primarily for KI in fact.
I continued to experiment with the game, but never really made a whole lot of progress until I watched the KI EVO tournament stream; I realized that although I was having a lot of fun, I was missing out on a lot of what made the game great. Watching the tournament players performing long combos and pulling off what seemed like amazing stunts inspired me to not just dabble with KI, but to really try to understand what I was seeing and doing.
I started visiting the forums on a regular basis, and looked up some “how-to” videos on Youtube, discovering Max’s stream and channel (easily in my top 3 favorites). I experimented more directly with various characters, eventually realizing that my personal play style wasn’t adapting well to playing Spinal. I found my “home” with Thunder, as I liked his visual style and theme, he (still) has the best stage in the game (no offense intended, but while the S3 stages are awesome, the pounding rain is epic!) and I felt like something just clicked for me after a while.
I studied Infil’s online guide. I returned to Dojo mode, and found that this time I wasn’t getting frustrated by what I had initially seen as “homework,” I was actively trying to learn what the mechanics were and how to make them work in my favor. I learned how to combo. I learned how to break (and boy do I need a lot of work there STILL). I learned how to use the Instinct and Shadow meters. I still didn’t do very well online, but I was doing noticeably better. I met several people here on the forums who I later friended and occasionally play matches with, who were also able to help me understand both Thunder and the game itself better.
When Season 2 was announced, I was excited, and rabidly followed any information I could find. I was happy to see the new Ranked League system, and as my skills increased I was able to push all the way up to Killer about 9 months ago, which felt like a real accomplishment for me. It felt great to actually be learning and seeing the real improvement reflected in my gameplay. My best friend and I get together at least once a week, and most of the time we make sure to play some KI together on the couch - Thunder vs Sabrewulf is our major prize fight matchup.
Since reaching Killer, I have honestly struggled when it comes to Ranked Leagues. I’m not great at breaking, and I think I’m definitely more of a brawler than a combo artist. I lose a lot of my Killer v Killer matches, some of them VERY badly! I know that it is very unlikely for me to perform really well in a tournament. I know that while I have a decently competitive Thunder, I have an extremely long way to go with any other character, and I don’t have anybody to use as a real backup or counter pick.
The key point is, THAT’S ALL OK.
Not everybody can be a champion. I enjoy playing Killer Instinct. The tools are available which can allow me to improve even further, between the training tools provided in game, Infil’s guide, and friends/community members to play with. If I put the time and effort into Killer Instinct I honestly believe I can grow to a point where I will be able to truly compete - but until I choose to go down that route it’s OK to simply enjoy the game for the fun of playing it. It’s OK to be excited about the anticipation of new Seasons, and to love the visual or gameplay aspects of a character I have no intention of playing at any kind of serious level. It’s OK to not be the best, but to play at a level that you’re happy with. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that because you haven’t reached Killer, or don’t do well in Killer, that you’re anything less, or you’re wasting your time with the game.
Because the way I see it, the journey itself is the important part. I have had so many hours of great experiences playing Killer Instinct, and it didn’t start when I clicked “Download.” It didn’t start when I bought Spinal, or performed my first Combo Breaker, or Ultra. It started when I began playing the game with my best friend, and we mashed buttons with no sense of what we were doing - because we were having FUN.
I think too often it’s far too easy to get bogged down in discussions of character strength or viability, wins/loss ratios, or other competitive elements, and miss out on the fact that having fun should be your primary goal when sitting down to play any game, let alone Killer Instinct. Very few people played amazingly when they first started playing KI, and not everybody aspires to be a contender; but having fun throughout the journey makes everything worthwhile.