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How to get into fighting games without losing your mind

A gentle shove into the punch pool

For a long time, I’d look at fighting games and say, “That looks so cool — but it’s not for me.” I had done some casual button mashing, but I had never dug into the deeper mechanics. When I saw the gulf between what I was able to do and what others were doing, I told myself there was no way I’d ever be able to get there.

Then, a few years ago, I decided to give it a real shot.

Was it worth it?

Yes.

I can tell you, without exaggeration, that the joy fighting games have brought me is light years beyond anything else I’ve spent my gaming hours on. It is a distinct category of enjoyment unto itself, constructed from the greatest pleasures of gaming. The childlike joy of hitting buttons and seeing cool shit happen, the slow burn tension of outmaneuvering an opponent, the Dark Souls satisfaction of studying a boss’s patterns and exploiting their weaknesses. It’s meditative. It’s rhythmic. It’s sports. It’s therapeutic. It’s communal. It’s the closest you’re ever gonna come to feeling like Rocky or your favorite shonen protagonist. It’s made me happier, and it’s made my brain feel better.

It’s worth it.

But accessing that enjoyment takes a lot of work, and looking at it from the outside can be scary and overwhelming. This guide is for people who have been looking at that water and thinking about jumping in. Hopefully you can use this video as a gentle, supportive push into the pool.

Check out the video up top for my 10-step guide to getting started in fighting games. And while you’re at it, make sure you subscribe to Polygon on YouTube and TikTok!

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