When I was in University, I spent a lot of time playing video games. I spent even more time playing when I got a part-time job at a local gaming/internet cafe, which happened to be a stones throw away from campus. If the shop wasn’t busy, the staff were allowed to play games, so needless to say I got quite a bit of gaming in.
If this wasn’t bad enough, I soon discovered that there was a video arcade at the same mall. It was at this arcade that I first discovered Tekken.
The arcade had Tekken Tag Tournament (or TTT), a fighting game which (at the time) had a unique system which allowed you to tag characters into and out of battle. It was a fantastic game with great depth.
Needless to say I was completely rubbish when I started, barely even able to make it to the boss. Eventually I started to learn the AI patterns and I got pretty good at beating the machine. It was around this time that the managers of the arcade started clocking up the TTT machine with free games. End result? Word got around and soon there was a rather large group of guys coming to the arcade to play.
As always, there was one guy whose miles ahead of the pack. I would love to say this guy was me, but it wasn’t. The guy’s name was Bully (but don’t let that name fool you, he was actually quite a decent bloke). Bully taught me a few tricks, but mostly he taught me to take a (virtual) beating. Unlike a lot of players who didn’t even waste their time playing him, I kept on coming back for more. It may seem strange, but I was inspired by each loss to improve. I did get better and as a result managed to consistently beat most of the other players, but Bully was always beyond my reach.
One day Bully just disappeared. We weren’t exactly friends, but we shared a love of Tekken. I asked around the regular players and everyone knew who he was, but didn’t know anything about him. After a while we all realised he wasn’t coming back, so I started looking around for a new teacher to help me improve my game. Unfortunately there wasn’t anyone as good as Bully at the arcade. It was a little while later through sheer luck that I found Tekken Zaibatsu on the internet.
Tekken Zaibatsu was the main website for competitive western Tekken players. The wealth of information I found on this website was astounding. I began to devour it and apply it to my fighting style.
I started to win. A lot. It got to the point where the only players who were even a vague challenge to me were a couple of my own friends who practiced regularly with me. When the machine wasn’t clocked up with free games, I used to warn people that they’d be wasting their money if they challenged me. They thought I was being a dick. Reading it now, I suppose I was a bit of a dick, but it was justified. It got to the point where I would sometimes let people win or I would just let them take over after I beat them just so it wouldn’t be a complete waste of money for them.
I was at the arcade one morning at about 10 am, practicing TTT in between lectures. I was quite surprised when a group of three guys walked into the arcade since no-one else really came by until after lunch time. They stood for a while and watched me play. After a couple of minutes one of them tapped me on the shoulder and asked if he could challenge me to a game. I remember gesturing that the seat next to me was empty. He put in his tokens and selected his characters. Ogre and True Ogre. Not many people played them because they were so big and vulnerable to combos. I picked two of my combo heavy characters, Jin and Heihachi, thinking this was going to be an easy game.
I won the first round, but then something strange happened. I lost the next round, and the round after that, and the round after that.
I reached into my pocket and pulled out two tokens. I lost again.
I challenged, and lost again.
The thing was that I could look at the challenger’s style and see that he wasn’t that good. However, he had chosen two characters I had very little experience against, and was relying heavily on one move that had tricky timing. It was a basic three hit move. It was made up of two low hits which you have to block low, and a final hit that you either had to block high or low. If you guessed wrong, you’d eat quite a bit of damage.
Most people would have given up at this point, but I knew TTT’s system inside out. I had started to get the timing of the move down at the start of the second game, and if he kept on hitting me with it I could use it against him. He abused the same move again, and I lost, but little did he know that he’d put the final nail in his own coffin.
I challenged again and picked King and Armor King. They were two wrestling style characters that were a bit slower, but who could take more damage in case I slipped up. He started the move. I pushed the attack away. He immediately backed off, unsure what was happening. He tried it again, and again I knocked it aside. He tried one more time. Each time I had the opportunity to start a combo, but I wanted to make sure I had the timing down. After I was sure I had nullified his attack, I fought back.
After I took him apart, he sat there, completely stunned. His friends were also speechless. Clearly they’d never seen him lose before. I stopped playing and explained to him what I’d done. I told him that in TTT there is a generic parry system, available to all characters, that allows them to parry low attacks. After the parry, the attacking character would stumble, giving the defender a free combo opportunity. All I did was learn the attack animation which told me that the move was coming, and time the parry.
We got to chatting afterwards, and it turned out that his cousin was a regular at the arcade. It was his cousin who had told him about me. I knew his cousin and assumed that the guy who challenged me lived in the same neighbourhood. I was wrong. As it turns out, this guy had driven up from Durban, 90kms away, just to play me.
It seemed my reputation as a TTT player had spread to the closest neighbouring city.
My ego was pleased. Very pleased.