I still remember the first time I saw a SF2 arcade machine. It was at
Of these distinctions the difference between practical and factual (or technical) knowledge is most important here. We can distinguish them by referring to knowing "how" (practical) and knowing "that" (factual). For example, I know that a dragon punch is done by smoothly and rapidly pressing F,D,DF and a punch button. But as you probably recall, factual knowing, knowing that it's done this way, is a far cry from being able to successfully execute it. Knowing how to do a dragon punch means pulling it off in-game, ideally at will. Moreover, it isn't necessary to have the factual knowledge of a dragon punch to have the practical knowledge. Early on I used to achieve my rising dragon fists with a double fireball motion. It got the job done (I knew how in the sense that I could do it) even if I didn't have accurate factual knowledge of the move (I didn't know that there were only 3 direction inputs).
Over the years I spent time learning the tekkenical aspects of other virtual fighters, but my knowledge of SF stayed purely practical, decidedly old school. Concepts like buffering, frame counts, or priority don't exist in my Shadaloo lexicon. I saw the term "Meaty Attack" for the first time looking at the game info screen of SSF2THDR. Don't get me wrong, I understand the need for game play analysis and obtuse technical knowledge at high levels of play. That becomes a fact of life in any game or sport. But there's something pure about instinct driven play and learning from experience rather than from gamefaqs. I learned the hard way (with many a wasted quarter) not to jump over Dhalsim's fireballs unless you wanted a heel to the chin, and that was how I measured the caliber of my soul. I know. Three bad puns. Let it sink in. I'm not apologizing.
Nor am I alone in thinking there might be something lost when a game gets too technical. Just a couple years ago infamous chess master Bobby Fischer lamented the state of modern chess, saying that a novice today could beat past grand masters because so much of the modern game depends on memorized openings. This highly technical aspect of the game diminishes the creativity that characterized many past chess greats. Can the same be said of a game like Street Fighter? Is high level play an exercise in reflexes and internalized technical statistics rather than a creative battle of wits?
Think about any directly competitive endeavor in which you excel. Who is a more difficult opponent, another high level but ultimately less skilled player, or an intermediate one? In my experience the intermediate players are harder to beat because, well, they're unpredictable. An intermediate player may not know better than to try high risk, low payout moves, but if the high level player doesn't expect them (because who in their right mind, you might think, would do that?) they might succeed. Perhaps if those intermediate players continue to improve without falling into the technical ruts of their betters they can take the game, any game, in a new direction.
So now, the
*Alright, so I probably wasn't really the best arooound, but time has a way of altering memory in extreme ways.