Capcom’s newest ‘Street Fighter’ game takes a jab at reviving the golden age of arcades
Capcom’s latest edition in its “Street Fighter” franchise is taking a jab at recreating the golden age of arcades with its Battle Hub feature, and if the game’s upcoming release is just like its retro-feeling beta test — it won’t miss.
Equipped with the classic person-versus-person fighting you would expect, the Battle Hub is a walkable, mall-like arcade with gaming machines to virtually sit down at, a clothing store to purchase avatar outfits, and most notably, fellow “Street Fighter” aficionados to challenge, cheer on and chat with.
Upon entering the room, you’ll see other players talking with each other through the in-game chat room or sitting opposite one another at machines. You will also hear lobby room jazz and the occasional intercom interruption, “We currently have a player on a winning streak.”
“Street Fighter 6” is itself a flashback to an almost metaverse version of 1987, when the first one was released to arcades. (Technically, there have been many more than six games released over the past 35 years, as each of the six titles have had numerous sub-versions of themselves.)
And that’s incredibly special for the gaming industry because it pulls the best parts of gaming culture’s imperfect past, incorporates them within our imperfect present and has the potential to either pilot or run alongside others creating an even better future.
The industry’s mass production of consoles in the late ’90s to early 2000s — and embracing of the internet years later — brought gamers the convenience of playing from the comfort of their own homes, incredibly heightened graphics, and the complicated game physics we have today. It also presented a vacuum — now filled — where international communities of online modders could take official titles to the unofficial next level.
Largely lost, however, is the arcade era of strangers meeting in person and forming friendships as they’re enjoying an activity together.
This is not to deny the value the industry gained from modernity, which is unquestionably priceless. (And I’m not recreating Abe Simpson’s Old Man Yells At Cloud meme through Golden Age thinking as I relish the glory days.) Sadly this type of in-person community is rare these days.
While I do have deep nostalgia from walking through those electro-mechanical wonderlands filled with flashing lights, a cacophony of machine sound effects and sporadic shouts of joy as I mulled over which coin-operated system deserved my last quarter, I sadly cannot remember seeing one that was wheelchair accessible.
And then there’s the environment of unaccompanied minors that often became a playground for bullies, discouraging even more kids from going.
That’s where games like “Street Fighter 6” may be onto something.
As the modern era of gaming more actively prioritizes accessibility and visibility (for instance, this one’s default character is Black with a high-top fade), the world described in that classic song by the Who (in which people were baffled a differently-abled kid was also able to enjoy games that lacked modern accommodations) is thankfully becoming a thing of the past.
Its “spectate” and “celebrate” functions also bring back that arcade memory of cheering on a kid you just met, staring at their pinball machine as intently as them and even offering up your own pocket change to help them beat a high score.
Perhaps 2023, when the official release is expected, could be one step closer to a new age of gaming, with even more expansive and immersive digital community.
Of course, chat rooms and gamer tags aren’t the same as in-person arcades. But my rebuttal would be: Why not have both?
The shared experience of movietheaters has not been rendered obsolete by the convenience of movie streaming websites because they fulfill two different needs.
The ubiquity of “Animal Crossing” during the height of the pandemic showed us that community is possible online and that there’s more to gaming than competition and beating bosses by yourself. In fact, if there’s anything the booming streaming industry has shown us, it’s that sometimes you don’t have to even play a game yourself to enjoy it.
There are a plethora of YouTube videos asking why games don’t feel fun anymore, and I think something like what “Street Fighter 6” is trying to do may address this.
I do have two things I’ll be watching as the game nears its release.
I assume that the more successful the game is among buyers, the more likely DLC content is added, which is always a plus. But of what’s already present, issues with player connectivity and player communication could ultimately thwart a lot of what Capcom is trying to accomplish.
Lag in co-op games is annoying, but lag in fast-paced fighting games makes them unplayable. And I understand the reluctance to deal with the frustration of anything other than two controllers connected to the same console.
During the beta test, I received its “match performance may suffer considerably” warning due to my internet connection. Fortunately, there were no noticeable problems, and this may be a nonissue.
And secondly, I’ll be curious to see what moderation tools are developed for its chat function, as waiting rooms in games can be breeding grounds for bad actors.
I am, however, optimistic that “Street Fighter 6” will be a tool of comfort in isolation or community, since “there’s always someone new to meet, and plenty to do.”
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