Big Pic­ture Mode

In­dus­try is­sues given the widescreen treat­ment

EDGE - - CONTENTS - NATHAN BROWN Nathan Brown is Edge’s ed­i­tor, and has ex­hausted his sup­ply of teabag metaphors. Send sug­ges­tions to the usual ad­dress

Nathan Brown puts the balls in the court of videogame taunters

There are a few things guar­an­teed to im­me­di­ately en­dear me to a videogame. Take the parry, for in­stance, the purest ex­pres­sion of videogame risk ver­sus re­ward: you ei­ther look like the world’s big­gest badass, or sim­ply get smacked in the face. I’m a fan, too, of dou­ble jumps, and of ex­trav­a­gant, Sho­ryuken-style up­per­cuts. But there are rub­bish games with par­ries, some mis­er­able ones with dragon punches, and some ab­so­lute stinkers with dou­ble jumps. My love for an­other lit­tle me­chanic, how­ever, has never served me wrong. I am talk­ing about the hum­ble taunt.

Take Bay­o­netta, which I’ve been en­joy­ing afresh in its sump­tu­ous new in­car­na­tion on PC and uses the taunt in dizzy­ing, gamechang­ing ways. It freezes the combo timer, en­rages en­e­mies, re­fills your magic bar and even, with the right ac­ces­sory, re­stores your health. In God Hand, it’s vi­tal for crowd con­trol, help­ing you man­age big groups by draw­ing ag­gro one at a time. And in Nier:

Au­tomata, the taunt has a risk/re­ward el­e­ment sim­i­lar to the parry, greatly buff­ing your dam­age out­put, but rais­ing your enemy’s at­tack power by the same amount.

The brighter sparks among you – sorry, I’m in taunt­ing mood now – will have spot­ted a theme. Yes, I love taunts. But I specif­i­cally love taunts in games that are about punch­ing and kick­ing things in the face and body. And while the above ex­am­ples are all from third­per­son ac­tion games, the purest, and best ex­pres­sion of a taunt – where there is no pre­pro­grammed me­chan­i­cal con­se­quence to per­form­ing one – is in the one-on-one fight­ing game.

Yes, there were me­chan­i­cal, char­ac­ter­spe­cific con­se­quences when you taunted in

Street Fighter III. Shut up. In Street Fighter IV there were not, and yet I have never taunted so much in a videogame. Much of that is due to the group I played with – ev­ery round would be­gin with a syn­chro­nised taunt. For us it was a cheery hello, a beau­ti­ful cel­e­bra­tion of a won­der­ful game. When I first saw it hap­pen on a tour­na­ment stage, I was over­joyed.

There’s an Amer­i­can player named Du ‘Nuck­ledu’ Dang. In the SFIV era, he played as Guile, who had a rare abil­ity: a crouch­ing taunt. He’d stoop low, whip out a pair of sun­glasses from his back pocket, and put them on. Dang would de­ploy this to beau­ti­ful ef­fect in tour­na­ments, us­ing it to psy­che him­self up, whip up the crowd and maybe – though they never showed it – nee­dle his op­po­nent a lit­tle. It was unique. It was fun. And it worked. He was fre­quently the last re­main­ing US player in a tour­na­ment held in the US; he was the lo­cal favourite un­der­dog, so you could for­give him the odd dirty trick.

These days, Dang is one of the best in the world. He won the Cap­com Cup last year, play­ing Street Fighter V – in which Guile wears shades by de­fault. In­stead, Dang has taken to teabag­ging, fran­ti­cally crouch­ing as if to whack his vir­tual nut­sack on his prone foe’s head. Per­haps it still gets him go­ing, but to this viewer it’s dis­taste­ful, un­pleas­ant, an ex­pres­sion of brash, brat­tish dis­re­spect.

And it’s spread­ing. I switched off a stream in dis­gust re­cently be­cause there was so much of it, with one par­tic­u­lar up-and­comer even drop­ping com­bos in or­der to fit even more of it in. It alerted me to a prob­lem I hadn’t seen com­ing in es­ports, and par­tic­u­larly in fight­ing games. The new gen­er­a­tion of world war­riors all learned their craft play­ing on­line, where peo­ple, by virtue of anonymity, tend to be colos­sal fuck­wits. Yet the fight­ing-game scene was born in the ar­cade, where you stood shoul­der to shoul­der with your enemy. As a kid I once took a hell of a dead arm for throw­ing an op­po­nent three times in a row. If I’d tried to teabag him – and I’d ex­plained what it was, be­cause back then there was no known way to pre­tend you were slap­ping Bi­son in the face with Dhal­sim’s elas­tic, leath­ery man-glands – I’d have been smacked straight out of the ar­cade.

This up­sets me, and not just in an ‘old man shouts at cloud’ kind of way. SFV got off to a mis­er­able start, but Cap­com’s made some good changes and it’s a much bet­ter spec­ta­tor sport. I like watch­ing Street Fighter, but I don’t like see­ing 20-some­thing men play­ing a game de­lib­er­ately badly just so they can dunk their avatar’s scro­tum in an op­po­nent’s metaphor­i­cal salty tears. Worst of all, I feel my­self fall­ing out of love with taunt­ing a bit, and that wor­ries me tremen­dously. If any­one ends up ru­in­ing God

Hand for me, they’re go­ing to have more than a pre­tend pair of balls to worry about.

Per­haps it gets him go­ing, but to the viewer it’s dis­taste­ful, un­pleas­ant, an ex­pres­sion of brash, brat­tish dis­re­spect

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