Digital Martial art

Street Fighter II

Although the first competitive fighting game Street Fighter II, which clearly held up the banner at the beginning of the “action game” camp, was born in 1992, by digging up the prehistory of electronic games, it can be found that “at the beginning of electronic games, designers have included martial arts as an important constituent element. ”

the Colosseum in ancient Rome
the arena in China

Of course, from a broader perspective of the game, it seems self-evident. From the Colosseum in ancient Rome to the arena in China, how much of human playfulness is a simulation of blood killing and physical fighting skills, and the development of electronic technology makes the fighting audience become participable and immersive fighting players.
However, from the perspective of “play” or the rules of the game, the emergence of the fighting game has gone through a period of evolution.

Usually, the prehistory of contemporary video games can be traced back to the arcade game Heavyweight Champ launched by Sega in Japan in 1976.
The originator of this fighting game is different from the later standard definition of the fighting game, with boxing as the main form of fighting.

Sega’s black and white boxing game Heavyweight Champ was released in 1976

The arcade game Warrior, launched in 1979, is the first to use equipment elements such as swords and halberds, and it is also the first game with a bird’s-eye view, which is a far cry from the later popular fighting games.

arcade game Warrior 1979

Karate Champ, released by Data East and Teho Japangant in 1984, used an one-on-one combat for the first time, which almost became the mainstream of the later fighting game. in addition, the game also pioneered the use of the best of three games and extra points.

Karate Champ 1984

Konami’s Yie Ar Kung-Fu in 1985 greatly enriches the choice of players. Players can choose up to 16 different movements and use different strategies to deal with opponents with different attacks.

Yie Ar Kung-Fu in 1985

Jeet Kune do, released in 1985, opened the way to transplant such games from large arcades to home game consoles.

In 1987, Capcom’s “Street Fighter” was inspired by “karate” and “kung fu” and invented the so-called “must-kill”, which is a hidden action command that can only be issued through the game manipulation experience.

In 1987, Capcom’s Street Fighter

It is the six-key controller scheme adopted in this game that has become the unique game interface of all combat games since then.

six-key controller scheme

Finally, Street Fighter II, launched by Capcom in 1992, defines combat games, such as the use of must-kill skills.
The game character not only has the function of attack, but also has the function of defense, using the way of Hp bar.

Therefore, from the perspective of “gameplay”, combat games are defined as “players manipulate their own characters on the screen to engage in close combat with their opponents”. These characters tend to be designed with balanced power and compete for several rounds on a certain stage.
Players must be proficient in operational skills such as defense, counterattack, or continuous operation (Rollings &. Adams,2006) this definition undoubtedly shuts out many similar types of games.

In fact, the positioning and classification of games carried out in the industry for marketing will include the same action games, as well as other games with fighting and fighting elements as separate types from fighting games: such as Beat’em up, boxing games, wrestling games, martial arts / judo simulation, shooting games.

Although this type of classification is based on the method of play, it also brings another distinct identifiable feature, that is, the action posture of the game characters.
The action posture of the character is often easier to distinguish between boxing game and wrestling game than the way of playing. the action posture adopted by the main characters is highly non-westernized and is not the martial arts skill of contemporary competitive sports.

Behind this lies the classified of the fighting game. On the one hand, from the perspective of modernity, the fighting in the fighting game must be pre-modern.
Although the glare supernatural attacks used in combat games under the standard definition are actually imitations and exaggerations of a variety of real-world hot weapons, the use of hot weapons has almost become a ban on fighting games.
Even the use of cold weapons can only be a relatively niche subcategory in combat games.

On the other hand, Goto-Jones has discussed the perspective of gamic Orientalism.
Boxing games are classified as competitive sports, while martial arts that appear in fighting games are mostly “martial arts that act strangely from a Western perspective” (Goto-Jones,2016).

In this sense, the title of the fighting game is actually a classified politics based on body posture.
It seems clearer if you look at it under the international political and economic framework-the main manufacturers of combat games are almost all Japanese manufacturers, while the main consumer market of combat games is North America for a long time.

Strictly speaking, the so-called gamic Orientalism is actually a typical self-Orientalism. On the one hand, all kinds of non-western and pre-modern martial arts and fighting posture can not be tolerated in the physical discipline of contemporary western sports. Naturally, there is a distinction between fighting games and sports competitive simulation games.
Only the strange body posture and movements in the eyes of Western players are qualified to be the subject matter of fighting games.

On the other hand, behind the appearance exposure of martial arts in many fighting games, there is not only the projection of international politics, but also the growth and decline of subculture and soft power.
When fighting games were popular, at the end of the Cold War, Russia’s Sambo was naturally indispensable, while similar but more discoverable elements of Chinese wrestling never appeared in any fighting game.
Japan’s karate, Aikido, South Korea’s taekwondo and Thailand’s Thai boxing are regulars in fighting games, but almost all the protagonists use karate fighting skills.

The protagonist of the Art of Fighting series and one of the protagonists of the The King of Fighters series, Ryo Sakazaki, his family uses karate.

Ryo Sakazaki (リョウ・サカザキ)

Although the protagonists of the “Street Fighter” series are blond Westerners in the stereotype, he also use karate.
Gracie jujitsu, which is popular in unrestricted combat, is almost nowhere to be seen in the fighting game.

The content of Chinese martial arts is extensive, but drunken punches appear frequently in combat games, which of course has something to do with the popularity of Jackie Chan movies in Japan in the 1980s.
Another detail that impresses Chinese players is that no matter which company produces games, the characters who perform traditional Chinese martial arts are either elders or girls. Of course, from the perspective of gender politics, fighting games are completely politically incorrect disaster areas-for quite a long time, fighting games have no female characters for gamers to manipulate.
Since the emergence of the first operable female character in “Street Fighter”
Her style is scantily dressed.

Role posture and Technical affordability.

The action posture of the characters in the fighting game is obviously limited by technology and cost, but the influence of technological development on the action of the characters in the game is not a simple linear relationship, and at the same time, because of the popularity of specific technology in a specific period, there is the affordability of technology, and the affordability of technology is the result of the interaction between hardware materiality and formal materiality, which may be limited or provided by hardware to the use of technology.
It may also come from technical standards and rules.

Nothing has the greatest impact on the availability of combat game technology than the game platform system. Take “CP system, the game platform released by Capcom, which gave birth to a number of classic combat games, in 1988” as an example, the market positioning of this system is: low-cost general game platform.
Most of the previous arcade motherboards were customized, that is, movements, baskets and auxiliary devices were specially designed for specific games with limited interchangeability.
After the game is played by the player, the game console basket may also be idle for a long time, and the CP system can change the game without changing the game body by changing the ROM board. However, this platform uses Motorola 6800 CPU, and the core memory is only 64KB.
The game-specific extended memory is only 12 to 20 MB, which limits a series of indicators of the game, such as the resolution is only 384x224, and the maximum number of colors on the same screen is 40365 colors. The main competitor of the CP system is the NoG system launched in 1990, which is more or less the same as the CP system.

The game background of two-dimensional combat games usually uses hand drawing. In order to avoid drawing too many and too complex backgrounds, the actions of two-dimensional combat games always take place in limited space, otherwise, with the expansion of space, it is necessary to increase the workload of drawing maps and backgrounds. Once background drawing is added for visual effects, the limited functions of CPU and memory are occupied.
The fluency of the game character’s action will be affected, and the game designer also needs to consider how the game program recognizes how the player manipulates the joystick at high speed to move the character, react and show the posture of the game character that matches its body posture on the screen under the existing CPU speed and memory conditions.

Therefore, in the early days of combat games, the game maps were mostly “linear”. In this kind of games, the actions of the characters were mainly the movement in the left and right directions, the dodging in the up and down directions, and the “leap in the left and right and up and down directions at the same time.” in order to follow the physical rules of the two-dimensional plane and the visual common sense of the game players, in this kind of games, the characters usually move on the two-dimensional plane or even an axis.
In other words, the characters cannot move sideways or approach (away from) the screen, forming the so-called “jump over axis”, which also leads to a fixed perspective of this kind of games.
However, it can move parallel to the left and right side of the screen scroll. in order to make up for the simplicity of the action direction of the game characters, the action design of combat games is often through the so-called two-stage jumps, big jumps and other large movements that cannot occur in daily life. with a variety of supernatural tricks to achieve.

Body posture is also related to the way the game is played, such as the action is divided into “upper, middle and lower” three stages of attack and stand, defense system, which makes the action choice of combat play essentially a fist-guessing game like stone, scissors and paper between the character played by the player and the computer-controlled character, in which the two sides guess each other’s actions and make corresponding actions that compete with each other.
In addition, because most of these game characters are symmetrical, the two sides of the fight are at both ends of the interface, unlike Beat’em up, where players “wipe out” countless supporting roles from all directions.

During this period, it is obvious that in order to increase the playability of the game, the action of the game character must be a non-realistic action style (Argent, 2013).
Game characters will appear a large number of actions that come from daily life, but greatly exaggerate the extent and effect.
At this time, the fighting game will naturally seek inspiration from the existing visual works, so the martial arts action design represented by Hong Kong kung fu films has deeply affected the action posture of the characters in the fighting game.
Even the characters in some combat games, from posture to appearance, are directly derived from kung fu movie stars.

With the development of technology, the availability of technology is also changing. since then, hybrid rendering, that is, 2.5-dimensional games, has emerged to achieve three-dimensional space, but the game characters are still two-dimensional.
The introduction of this technology enables the game character to move close to or away from the screen, or in a three-dimensional space with a map as a prototype or other shape, the character moves back and forth, with the impact of the attack. the game character can leave the position where he was originally standing.
More typical is the 1993 arcade game Virtua Fighter.
This is the first game in which 3D polygons mapping are used in the space, in which the viewpoint can be scaled and rotated according to the action of the character.
At this time, the action style of the game characters also changed accordingly, and began to pursue the fighting action of realistic style.
Another important reason is the emergence of motion capture animation, where game designers can directly capture the movements of real people.
Japanese game producer Yuki Suzuki canceled all kinds of supernatural abilities and flying props when designing Virtua Fighter, and applied Japanese martial artist Tetsuya Hattori’s octagonal boxing to the game character.

virtua fighter

In 1994, Play Station’s “Battle Arena Toshinden” was considered to bring the fighting game type to “True 3D”.
In a three-dimensional game, the game map is a three-dimensional space, and the game character and the stage are composed of polygonal maps on the three-dimensional model.
The angle of view is not fixed, the ability to rotate and move in all directions as the characters move in all directions, which greatly weakens the most common jumping movements in two-dimensional games, and a variety of props for flying are also reduced.

Battle Arena Toshinden 1994

On the one hand, the availability of technology limits the posture of the character, but on the other hand, it also provides new play possibilities.
In the two-dimensional era, game characters can only move on a specific axis that limits the space, which is originally caused by technical restrictions, but this leads to the so-called “killing the opponent in the corner.” players can try to make it difficult for the opponent to fight back when the opponent’s character is forced to retreat to the edge of the fighting stage.
In Street Fighter II, there is a triangular jump based on the corner of the wall.

The operational materiality of the player’s posture.

The player’s body is actually involved in the whole game.
This kind of participation of gamers is different from the traditional audience, but it is obviously a change in the body posture of the characters in embodied practices, games, which actually comes from the hand movements of gamers.
As the operation hardware interface of the game, the game controller connects the player’s body posture with the game character’s body posture.
The hardware equipment of fighting games has experienced different types of arcades, small game consoles, home computers, and even mobile phones in the game hall, while the game controller has also experienced changes in joystick, handle and keyboard. it is the material changes in different hardware devices and related interfaces that bring about changes in the player’s body posture.
This reflects the James Allen-Robertson definition of Performative materiality, “to understand what something is, to understand what it can do, and how it works in specific mechanisms, systems, and cultural spaces” (Allen-Robertson,2017:455).
Materiality affects our cognition, understanding and behavior.
It is precisely because of the differences in the external shape and function settings of the joystick, handle and keyboard that when the players are playing the same game and making the same character make the same gesture, the players’ manipulation is quite different from the body posture.
Even because of the use of such devices invented specifically for games, humans can invent body postures that have never been used before.

The early fighting games were mainly large arcade games in the game hall, the main game controller was the joystick, which was derived from the joystick of the aircraft,

and the electronic game joystick was invented by Ralph F.Baer in 1967, which uses two potentiometers to measure the potential to realize the game control.

The Karate Champ in 1984 uses only two rockers to control the direction of the character’s motion.

Half a year later, “Yie Ar Kung-Fu” appeared for the first time by the combination of joysticks plus P and K keys, and then the arcade fighting game followed the way that the game controller was composed of joysticks and keys.

The joystick can be used to control the direction, while the buttons can be used to control the combination of character movements.

The scanning program of joystick and button written by the working group led by Yoshiki Okamoto who developed Street Fighter II can monitor the position and activity state of the character controlled by the player at any time. The new control mechanism quickly senses a specific type of action, and the game character will accurately make the corresponding action.
Even through the player’s meticulous action combination, the complex movements of the game characters can appear.

The most typical is that players hold the joystick backward for two seconds, then push forward, and press the button to give the character the so-called “charge up” command to accumulate strength and then burst at a high speed.
On the other hand, the six buttons can provide different degrees of exertion mode of the action of the character in the game.
The complex operation combination has brought a series of professional actions of players, such as “cancel skills”. This skill was once regarded as a program failure in the development process, but it has become an important clearance secret skill for many players.
By entering the must-kill instructions during the attack to force the end of the so-called “recruitment animation” of the previous action, the must-kill can be launched in advance.
The landing of a jump attack forces the so-called “hard state” in which instructions cannot be entered after the action occurs.
Under this kind of technical mechanism, players have created new routines, new rhythms and new postures.

By entering a specific instruction to interrupt the action that has already been executed and directly start the next instruction, if the first action of the character is not completely completed, the second action instruction can be entered, and the first action can be terminated ahead of schedule. Go straight to the second action.
This kind of gesture has changed the way fighting games are played to a considerable extent, and this unexpected product of programming has now become standard in fighting games.
The technique of determining the time of the pull rod by observing the pattern or color of the eye.
When the character is in a hard state after falling to the ground, enter the command to get up quickly.

“Piano player” is like playing the piano, pressing the index finger, middle finger, ring finger, index finger and ring finger successively, and entering the light fist for the first time and the heavy fist for the last time, pressing the key four or five times in the shortest time, so that the game characters can use superb tricks.

“Brush key” is that the player uses one or two fingers to touch the key from the HK key, quickly slide to the LK key, press the LK key without pause, and immediately pull back in reverse.
Some players even bought three-finger billiards gloves to complete this action, while Sega’s competitor SNK adopted the four-button approach, triggering a long-term debate among gamers about how to operate it.

With the popularity of home game consoles in the 1990s, the standard controller of home game consoles has become the main controller of another combat game.
The handle is made up of a cross key in eight directions and two or more action keys, unlike the rocker, the handle is mainly driven by the player’s wrist-moving in a straight line in the X or Y axis or in a circle between the X axis and the Y axis, and the cross key used to control the direction of the character is also pressed by the thumb.

The player invented to “rub” the way to realize the circle movement on the rocker on the cross key.
However, the handle itself needs to be held, and only the thumbs of both hands can be used for operation. When the game is transplanted to the home computer, the keyboard, the most commonly used input device of the computer, becomes the game controller.
The keystrokes on the keyboard are arranged more densely than the handles, which makes the action of “brushing keys” more smoothly.
At the same time, because the hitting of the keys is more precise than the shaking of the rocker and the “rubbing” of the cross keys, it is easier to achieve subtle actions on the game characters.
It is interesting that fighting games begin to decline when they enter the home game console and become the main game vehicles. When computers and mobile phones become the main operating media of the game, fighting games have become increasingly niche.
Emerging game control technologies have not entered the field of vision of combat games, such as somatosensory manipulation has been widely used in the Wii platform sports simulation games, but has not been adopted by the main combat games.

In addition to the “invention” of body movements, exercise materiality will also bring about differences in the feelings of the body.
What the game character shows is the body movement of the whole body, while the game player only uses part of the body organs in the course of the game.
The rocker uses the wrist or shoulder to generate force, while the handle and keyboard use fingers to generate force.
Arcade machines with joysticks are often operated by standing, while home game consoles and computers are operated in a sitting position, so the posture of finger pressure in sitting operation is farther away from combat in somatosensory distance than that in standing operation. The difference in somatosensory has become one of the explanations for the decline of fighting games after entering the 21st century.
Will the ascendant virtual reality technology bring about a revival of fighting games?
In theory, the full-body experience and immersion of virtual reality technology seem to offer new possibilities.

Technical Image and concrete practice.

Fraser once put forward the concept of technical image . He believed that before the text was invented, the most traditional human image was an attempt to abstract the real world into an image, which can be called the first stage of abstraction, which gave human beings the imagination to restore the image to the real world.
As the second stage of abstraction, characters are the result of re-abstraction from traditional images, and human beings have gained a sense of history of linear writing.
Since the 19th century, with the invention of cameras and other devices, people can begin to use machines to make generated images, which is another abstraction on the basis of abstract words and the third stage of abstraction.
Different from traditional images such as paintings and maps, people project the world onto the plane in an abstract way, technical images are often generated by specific machines and tools based on specific scientific principles according to existing programs.
What we are facing now is a world that is about to move towards the dominance of technological images.
(Vilem Slusser,2000; Vile Slusser,2002; Vilem Flusser,2011)

From the point of view of the programming of the combat game, the body posture of the various fighting techniques in the game is essentially represented by various boxes, and different maps and renderings determine the visual effects. when the box carries on the action or the action combination, the box contact will trigger the follow-up action and effect.
The game character makes an attack action, that is, the attack determination in the game program, when the attack occurs, there will be a decision box that is invisible to the player but can be judged by the program around the character’s fists or legs.
When this box coincides with the box that represents the other person’s body, the program will assume that “the character’s fist hit the other side.”

There is also the so-called damage decision, and if the range drawn by the decision box overlaps with the attack decision box, the game character is injured.
In many games, the fatter characters are judged to be more vulnerable, so they become the most popular “body sandbags”.

In addition, there is a collision decision, which refers to the area occupied by the game character itself in the scene to prevent the two characters from passing through each other’s body when they are marching face to face.
It is true that there have been unreasonable actions due to the design error of collision judgment in the game design.
For example, a gliding action against the floor, because the character has a higher collision decision box, will cause the opponent who jumps from the air to fall on the attack decision box on his head.
Because the decision box is not visible, what the player will see during the game is that one character is taxiing and the other character is suddenly injured.
In this sense, the fighting game is essentially the impact between boxes, and the action posture of the fighting game is actually the trigger of various technical images controlled by the program under different conditions.

Fraser once thought radically that “when we enter the world dominated by technical images, in a sense, people actually become the function of the machines by which technical images can be realized.”
His idea, which seems to be difficult for our common sense to understand, seems to have become a reality among gamers.
On the face of it, the action posture of the game character as a technical image is caused by the instructions issued by the game player.
But these instructions are also set by the game program, but all kinds of human actions are encoded into instructions in the game controller, and then input into the game, so that the action posture of the game characters can be realized.
In other words, it is the person who realizes the technical image of programmed in the machine through embodied practices, and the person really becomes the unction of the machine.
Interestingly, gamers see it as playfulness.
At this point, players’ practice in fighting games seems to be further than theorists’ point of view.
In Fraser’s discussion of cameras as an example, technical images are mainly the product of their producers using machines, while in games, players are entertaining.
In just a few years after Fraser’s death, the overall popularity of digital photography, the rapid development of computer graphics, virtual reality technology, artificial intelligence technology is about to emerge.
It seems to have repeatedly confirmed Fraser’s near-pessimistic assertion that human society seems to be entering a black box society dominated by algorithms.
The concept of gamification, which has been discussed in game research, enables the exploration of body posture in the game to further develop into a metaphor for human beings and their world in the near future.




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Chier Hu

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