At this stage of my life, I’ve developed a very specific set of gaming habits. When I’m not playing for work, I’m usually wrapped up in one of my handheld devices, squeezing in free play time in bed or during break time at my day job. I’m a grown-ass man with a family and other obligations, which means there are sacrifices. I don’t have time to really dedicate myself to any one game, although I can still mess people up in Tetris 99. But while trying to play Dragon Ball FighterZ online made 29 year-old me feel much older than that, there was a period of my life in which I dove deep into fighting games. Thanks to a specific character, I was able to learn one of gaming’s most complex genres, and the power of community as a gateway to intimidating spaces.
Before I talk about Rose, I have to talk about Cammy. And before I talk about Cammy, I have to talk about Ken and Ryu. Yeah, I’m a Street Fighter guy. While my childhood certainly comprised goofing around with games like Mortal Kombat and Tekken, the fervor around Street Fighter IV inspired me to make a serious attempt to play fighting games towards the end of my high school years. I took a detour to Guilty Gear XX, due to growing up an anime dork, but Street Fighter is where I found the spark to actually learn what I was doing.
Taking a fighting game seriously is a lot like walking into a comic book store thinking you’re going to start reading Spider-Man. It ain’t as easy as it sounds. For example, my natural inclination when picking up a fighting game was to make a beeline towards the special moves, using those as much as possible to win. In some respects, that was helpful. By playing as Ryu and Ken, I was able to master the input motions for things like Fireball and Dragon Punch. But the real answer is to figure out the fundamentals, meaning figuring out what the individual buttons do and how they can be utilized to open up opportunities for the big moves. If you pick up Ryu or Ken and just toss out fireballs and uppercuts, you aren’t going to get very far.
When Street Fighter IV came out, I landed on Cammy at first. I liked her fast style, and relatively simple moveset. Her anti-air move, the famous Cannon Spike, had a bizarre hit box, which actually made for a pretty good margin of error for a novice. It was easy to focus on fundamental concepts, such as reading one’s opponent and reacting to their choices, when all I needed to do was one or two moves. But I ran into a ceiling with Cammy rather quickly and discovered that her true potential was in much more complicated and frame-perfect maneuvers. I outpaced my friends, but found playing online more and more frustrating once Super Street Fighter IV came and I moved out of the beginner’s bracket. Then I discovered Excellent Adventures.
With Street Fighter IV came a boom period in the Fighting Game Community. The FGC was cool again, practically overnight, and brands like Evo became much more mainstream. This was due, in part, to social media blowing up at around the same time. It led to a rise in FGC-adjacent content and learning materials. Not only were people playing tons of Street Fighter IV, but they were also pooling resources and using communities such as Shoryuken to share combos and tech, bringing the bottom of the playing field much closer (relatively speaking) to the top. This included Cross Counter, an initiative from pro players Gootecks and Mike Ross, which was a YouTube-based channel built around teaching new players.
Fighting Games and Web 2.0
I discovered Cross Counter around the time I was struggling with Cammy. Frustrated, I was searching for resources to get better. Excellent Adventures was a goofy show that headlined the Cross Counter brand, and it was all about Gootecks and Mike Ross battling random players online. Online play is a whole different beast, compared to in-person play, as all the seasoned pros play by rules that don’t apply on the online battlefield. This lent a comedic tone to the show, as the two pros often struggled to acclimate to factors like input lag and less calculated decisions from more casual players, leading to hilarious, embarrassing losses and pounds of salt. In watching the show, not only did I have fun, but I also noticed a new character I quickly latched onto in Rose.
Rose, as a character, is just as silly as any other part of Street Fighter lore. She’s a returning character from the Street Fighter Alpha series and has a connection to M. Bison and the Psycho Power. I wasn’t really drawn to Rose as a character in that sense, however. It was the way she plays that really spoke to me, and I found that not in trying her out myself, but in watching Gootecks play during Excellent Adventures.
In struggling against online players, Gootecks often had to dial himself back and rely on his fundamentals to win against players who would mindlessly mash out their buttons and moves. It’s easy to lose to button mashing and “flowchart” characters when you aren’t prepared, and Gootecks (and Mike Ross) would often fall victim. This stuff was funny and relatable, but seeing him deal with that was extremely helpful to someone like me. And Rose as a character was tailor made for the kind of fundamental play I sorely needed.
Going Beyond the Basics
With Rose, I learned about techniques such as managing space, the difference between “safe” and “unsafe” moves, and the importance of not pressing buttons unnecessarily. Her simple combos and defensively-oriented moves were easy to manage and also made for creative offensive play when the opportunities arose. Unlike Cammy, I didn’t have to keep execution in mind as much, and I was able to focus on perfecting my basics. As I watched Gootecks play more and learned to emulate what he was doing to win, I was able to find my own “voice” as a Rose player and get even further up the leaderboards. By the time I was more or less done playing online during Street Fighter IV’s lifetime, I managed to make it to B+ rank. That’s not amazing, but it felt like it at my level.
Over the years of Street Fighter IV and playing Rose, I was able to branch out to other games and do well, thanks to my officially solid fundamentals. I played all kinds of fighters happily, especially Capcom fare such as Marvel vs Capcom 3 and Darkstalkers. I’ll always have strong, fond memories of playing fighters for hours with my friends, who I managed to get excited about the genre almost purely through my passion. Time hasn’t been kind to that of course, but every time a new fighter comes out and I get to tool around with it for a few hours, my mind goes back to those formative years, and all the time I spent with Rose.