Big Pic­ture Mode

In­dus­try is­sues given the widescreen treat­ment


Nathan Brown views US pol­i­tics through the lens of Street Fighter

My dead­line for this col­umn means that, by the time you read this, the ap­par­ently cen­turies-long process through which the United States selects its can­di­dates for the pres­i­dency will be sev­eral weeks closer to fin­ish­ing. A would-be PO­TUS spends al­most as long run­ning for the Oval Of­fice as they will sit­ting in it, and, watched from afar, it’s a tor­tu­ous process. You’re in­vested in the re­sult be­cause it will doubt­less im­pact your life in some way, but not so in­vested you don’t spend the best part of 18 months rolling your eyes in front of the news, won­der­ing when it will all be over.

As I write this the Iowa pri­mary is just com­ing to a close. Af­ter months of shout­ing, point­ing and slan­der­ing each other’s char­ac­ters, vot­ing records and moth­ers, the wrestlers have fi­nally stepped into the ring. The pres­i­den­tial race is still a long, long way from be­ing over, but at least it’s started. It’s go­ing to be bor­ing. It’s go­ing to be in­fu­ri­at­ing. It’s go­ing to feel like it’ll last for ever. Yet it’s ab­so­lutely ir­re­sistible.

I’m struck by the way the USA has man­aged to turn some­thing re­ally quite te­dious – the process of de­cid­ing which stuffed shirt gets to com­plain about Congress, sign off on drone strikes, and do noth­ing about gun crime – into a year-long game. It’s a sea­son, a tour­na­ment, with pre­lim­i­nar­ies and knock­out rounds and a grand fi­nal with ‘su­per’ in the ti­tle. Can­di­dates com­pete in a race to the White­house. The lan­guage used by play­ers, pun­dits and passers-by alike isn’t that of the political es­tab­lish­ment, but of the sport­ing class.

Pep­per­ing the post-match cov­er­age of the Iowa pri­mary were count­less ref­er­ences to Ted Cruz’s ‘ground game’ – a political id­iom bor­rowed from grid­iron, and more re­cently MMA, but which I will al­ways as­so­ciate with fight­ing games. I heard a col­league praise the way Street Fighter V is “all about the ground game”, rather than em­u­lat­ing the tricky com­plex­ity of its pre­de­ces­sor. The ground game is about the fun­da­men­tals: run­ning with the ball, en­gag­ing with the elec­torate at street level, or just be­ing re­ally good with Chun-Li’s stand­ing fierce punch. There’s pride, and praise, to be had in be­ing bril­liant at the ba­sics.

An­other es­sen­tial skill for an as­pir­ing leader of the free world is self-ag­gran­dis­ing blus­ter, some­thing we’re start­ing to see more of in fight­ing games now that the com­pet­i­tive scene is grow­ing in pop­u­lar­ity. As pro­duc­tion val­ues ramp up, a gen­er­a­tion of top-level play­ers raised on WWF Raw half-jok­ingly big them­selves up in in­ter­views and flex for the in­tro-video cam­eras. The fists and feet start to fly and com­men­ta­tors as­sess the can­di­dates’ – sorry, the play­ers’ – form, their mo­men­tum, their men­tal con­di­tion; the things that af­fect suc­cess be­yond pure abil­ity. Pol­i­tics and videogames: two dis­tant, dis­parate things that fancy them­selves as sports. It’s easy enough to see why. Both crave le­git­i­macy on a wider scale, the political ath­lete seek­ing power, the e-Sports per­son af­ter wealth and ac­claim, each know­ing that ex­cel­lence is worth­less if no­body’s pay­ing at­ten­tion.

As you’ve prob­a­bly worked out by now, I think about fight­ing games a lot. I like find­ing com­par­isons be­tween fight­ing games and real-life things even more. Ob­vi­ously one can over-think th­ese things, draw com­par­isons where none ex­ist and later end up re­gret­ting it. So to save my­self from writ­ing my­self into a dead-end of wank-hat­tery, I thought I’d bring this month’s mus­ings to a close by ask­ing: if pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates were Street Fighter char­ac­ters, which ones would they be? It’s the sort of hard-hit­ting, in­sight­ful re­portage on which this es­teemed pub­li­ca­tion made its name.

Bernie San­ders is Dhal­sim. He’s been around for­ever and al­ways had his fans, but his un­con­ven­tional tac­tics meant he went vir­tu­ally ig­nored by the main­stream for years, un­til he had grown too pow­er­ful to ig­nore. With his strong ground game, Ted Cruz is the Ryu of the piece, the safe, slightly ob­vi­ous pick for those afraid of change. Hil­lary Clin­ton is… I dunno, Chun-Li? I never said this process was per­fect.

It is, how­ever, for Don­ald Trump. With his lu­di­crous shock of blond hair and need­lessly flam­boy­ant style, he’s quite ob­vi­ously Ken Masters. Both present them­selves as un­pre­dictable, dan­ger­ous, stylish al­ter­na­tives to the sta­tus quo. In truth, both will be fig­ured out rather quickly, when peo­ple re­alise that they’re just like the other guy, ex­cept now a load of stuff’s on fire.

I’m struck by the way the USA has man­aged to turn some­thing re­ally quite te­dious into a year-long game

Nathan Brown is Edge’s deputy editor. Af­ter 20 years play­ing Ken, he’s in SFV’s train­ing mode, try­ing to learn Dhal­sim

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