Street Fighter VI Feature Story
Street Fighter teaches players a mastery over imperceptible time, because that is what is required to survive each round.
Capcom’s Street Fighter game challenges players to explore and contextualize time itself. Moreover, the martial arts machine that is Street Fighter asks of players an impossible task — to calculate the incalculable. That is, the game demands players translate milliseconds of frame data into actionable combos. And players do so, most often times unconsciously.
The elite players live in the heartbeats between animation frames. It is a space that the human eye cannot see. So in order to go there, the elite can perhaps turn to one of the great martial artists for guidance. Bruce Lee’s philosophy to free the mind, to act with full awareness of the present moment, seems appropriate for a martial arts game.
“The ‘moment’ has no yesterday or tomorrow. It is not the result of thought and therefore has no time.” -Bruce Lee, Striking Thoughts, 2002.
Moreover, Lee often invoked the ancient Chinese philosophy of Wu-wei as his guide to find the space between thought, where creative intuition can arise.(2) In the context of combat, Lee might have encouraged fighters to follow the Wu-wei practice of letting thoughts pass; this in order to let the combos fly free.
“Wu-wei is spontaneous superiority. Wu-wei is spontaneous action without prearrangement. Wu-wei is ensure the spirt of harmony with nature…Wu-wei is ‘taking no action;’ all effort made with a purpose are sure to fail.” — Bruce Lee, Striking Thoughts, 2002.
Command after command, eventually, players can and do become thoughtless, and move their avatars with natural intuition. Call it muscle memory, or a freestyle. We have seen it and some of us may have experienced it.
Thus, the very best Street Fighter players are Neo-like, reading the game as a logical machine while they assimilate Kung-Fu and other martial arts. And like Neo deciphering Matrix code, Street Fighter players decipher the game’s hidden logic. Consequently, players explore for what is, present moment to present moment, and perhaps what can be – a path to victory. And they do so because it is required of them to survive each round.
Street Fighter is a game about imperceptible frames of time, and it is a game very much about the fabric of a fighter’s mind.