One of the biggest aspects of fighting games is choosing a character. He, she or it will be your means as a tool in learning how to assess different situations ranging from play style, match-up knowledge and much much more. Essentially, you’re controlling that character through a rigorous set of motions not limited to button presses and motions, but also executing attacks and combos as well as movement. For now, we’ll just go over as to why people choose the character(s) they choose and certain intricacies regarding character selection.
Many people, newcomers and veterans alike, choose characters for a plethora of reasons: aesthetics, tools, personality, etc. What makes these characters unique is that they have different play styles and variety. Take for example, in the above select screen from Persona 4 Arena Ultimax, the newly added character, Margaret has a unique play style of using her three Personas that she can switch with ease in combat. If you look at her Dustloop wiki page, you’ll notice under “Overview”, that while she has great ranged attacks for mix-up, zoning and pressure, she lacks a good “reversal” and most of her attacks have long recovery. What this generally means is that no one character excels at everything, they only excel in a certain area and will lack in another. This balance is what makes fighting games fun as well. See below video for a more beginner overview of P4AU‘s Margaret by Steve “Lordknight” Barthelemy.
“The general way I pick my character is based on a lot of options,” Anthony “Psyblade” Lu, a UCLA alumni in chemistry and a very known Guilty Gear Millia player, said. “Characters that have extra things, so they can do more things than everyone else. I like picking those characters. Usually those kind of characters have extremely low life to compensate for having more things.”
Certain players also pick based on how they connect with the characters. Eric “Numakie” Gutierrez, a longtime Melty Blood Hisui player, chooses his characters based on the character’s “absurdity”.
“You’ve got the Melty Blood maid who headbutts people and May [from Guilty Gear] that uses a big frigging anchor [as a weapon],” Gutierrez said.
While others like Jayde “BlueJay” Montano, a computer science major at CSULB and Salt Miners co-captain of the CSULB eSports Association, chooses based on personality, aesthetics and play style.
“I picked [E. Honda] because of Mike Ross,” Montano said. “I liked how he played the character.”
Despite these characteristics, there are a few issues with character selection. According to Jarred “KingBoxChamp” Gillin, a regular attendee of CSULB eSports Association, three factors contribute to issues: counter picking, choosing the top tier and character loyalty.
“Counter picking is when a player feels their opponent is playing with a character that puts them at a disadvantage, so they change character to swing the tide of battle in their favor or at least better their odds,” Gillin said.
This can be seen as a bad thing because you are actually investing more time learning another character than spending and developing your main character as Jett says in his In Third Person blog post on overcoming bad matchups. This also applies to choosing the top tier character for the benefit of having more tools or is easier to learn and adapt to. According to Jozhear from Top Tier Tactics, in his article about picking a main, his main in Street Fighter IV series has always been Vega, but when he switched to Yun, he took Yun’s strengths for granted and wasn’t as successful. This also applies to Gillin’s third point: character loyalty, which also applies to playing the character you like.
“When you get to the highest level of competition, you have to pick top tiers to keep up,” Montano said. “There’s no reason to pick top tier characters just because they’re known to be top tier. When you pick a character, you should pick a character you enjoy playing. Even if you try them out for awhile, you don’t enjoy playing them, switch characters.”
“That brings me to the crux of this article, and my argument about picking characters in a fighting game – pick who you like,” Jozhear says in his post.