Last week, I made reference to MKX as the "FGC's singularity". I said it in passing, but over the last few days, I've had time to really consider both the depth & relevance of my statement. A very bright light is about to shine on our community & we need to brace ourselves for it...
For the record, I want to make it abundantly clear that I thoroughly enjoy this game. Outside of actually living under a rock, I fail to see how anyone could ignore the tremendous impact the game's release has had on the landscape over the last few days. It's almost impossible to ignore, but why would you want to? New releases for us, be they big or small, always have an undeniable impact. Saying this game made a impact, however, would feel like an insult. A great deal of work went into this title, that's evident, but the level of attention it's garnered carries some baggage with it. That baggage, however you may or may not feel about it, is what I'd like to discuss today.
First & foremost, while I did enjoy the show, I was actually a little put off by the Fatal 8 Tournament. Yes, it granted us an exclusive preview of a great deal of content & showed us some impressive play from some of the best players in the business today, but it left me wondering why an invitational exhibition of such prestige would happen before the game's official release. Spectacle notwithstanding, what exactly was there to gained from this display? Yes, I'm aware that the tournament allowed us to see some of our favorite returning characters & a few of the new kombatants in action, but what did we (everyone not invited to the Fatal 8) plan to take away from the matches? It's not like we were going to see any breakdown of the game's mechanics or matchups, never mind technical info. We only got to see a handful of the myriad of variations this title offers its roster. In the end, the most important statement made by the tournament was about on par with a featurette of a movie: It gave a glimpse of what's to be expected, but only teased us with the experience as a whole. Again... just left me feeling mildly awkward about the whole production.
Moving on from the Fatal 8, it was announced that the ESL would be getting involved by holding weekly $1,000 tournaments for MKX. This, despite the boon I'm sure it has given the title's notoriety, puts the FGC on display to a certain degree. Anyone who has been involved with the FGC for an extended period of time already knows how this can backfire. Simply put, our reputation isn't exactly shining amongst the gaming population at large. Now, I'm well aware no crowd is exempt from their fair share of foolishness & controversy, but the mentality we've carried up to this point has not exactly been favorable towards the concept of fighters going e-sports. The sense that we'd lose some of our identity in the process has been floating around for years. By shunning & decrying that particular level of attention, it's allowed us to remain somewhat complacent in our ways. However, the times always do change & we have to change along with them. This won't be an easy transition. It's going to require a lot of patience on the part of those not usually affliated with the FGC and a notable increase of tact on our part. Please don't act as if you're unaware of what I'm referring to... it's insulting to everyone's intelligence.
The ESL's involvement raises another issue: the tournament standard. MKX is available on both the Xbox One & PS4 (which is awesome). However, the ESL is understandably only making use of the Xbox One version. All things considered, this should not come as a surprise to anyone who's been following the ESL because their primary games are usually Xbox titles. If you own one, that's not an issue, but what about all those people out there who were hoping to hedge their bets since Guilty Gear Xrd already is & Street Fighter 5 is going to be a PS4 exclusive? I'm positive they figured they had found their "one stop shop" in terms of console choice when it comes to fighters. Now, though, everyone wants a shot at that weekly $1K... which is exclusive to the Xbox One. Where does that leave the upcoming major tournament season? Will there be a consistent choice of console? What if most TOs initially choose to go with the PS4 version, but then Microsoft & the ESL get involved to support the title? That's a looming mountain of discarded hardware to consider in the long run.
As for the game itself, while I am genuinely in awe of its intent & scope, the Variation System is another steadily approaching headache that will undoubtedly need to be remedied. Case in point, Ermac's Spectral Variation. There's a cancel you can perform in this Variation that gives the player practically unlimited meter. It was recently discovered that Kitana's Mournful Variation has an infinite combo should she ever lock her opponent down in the corner. While the possibility that these Variations are either the antithesis of another character's Variation in the game or vice versa, the fact they exist -at all- poses a significant problem. To include so many variables (a current total of 52 with another 15 on the way) is inviting some possibly gamebreaking stuff to slip in under the radar. And since the Variation System almost exponentially increases the number of different playstyles, you've got a maelstrom of empirical data on your hands that will need to be sorted out & properly catalogued. Have fun with that...
Finally, one needs to address the elephant in the room: Kung Jin. It's been discovered (and confirmed by the creative staff of the game) that Kung Jin is gay. While the creative use of subtlety that introduces this fact is genius, the ugly truth is that it created a backlash that, for one, diminishes the game itself and, secondly but thankfully, has not derailed the game's popularity. It is a given certainty that there are those out there who will disagree, boycott, vilify (etc, etc) this game based on that fact alone and, if I can be frank, I pity those people. They're going to allow to their shortsighted bigotry & prejudice rob them of an incredible experience. The same can be said of those who take issue with how the female characters are designed now. (Before you even think it: Yes, I know how ridiculous that sounds, but they're out there.) For any who allow a simple choice on the behalf of NetherRealm Studios keep them from appreciating this game, know that a very small piece of me will weep for you... the rest of me is going to be enjoying the hell out of it!
In summation, MKX represents a crossroads for the FGC that has honestly never existed before. Slowly & surely, more eyes are going to be turned in our direction and the time is steadily approaching where we'll need to rise to the occasion. Through the most roundabout series of circumstances possible, a responsibility has been placed upon us to put our best foot forward while stepping in this new direction. All I ask is that we look before we leap.
Until next time... keep fighting the good fight, my friends.