The Arena Discussion Archive: Returning to Dragon Ball FighterZ (11-21-19)

On this week’s episode of The Arena, Erik Kersting, Daniel Marques, and I played Dragon Ball FighterZ. We’re revisiting FighterZ within the context of our month-long theme of competitive fighting games. This week, Erik introduced the idea of a taxonomy of fighting games and we talked about what that might look like. 


Discussion Highlight 

A Taxonomy of Fighting Games with Erik Kersting

As he and Daniel sat down for a match, Erik introduced the idea of a taxonomy of video games (clip) and how Street Fighter II might work as the genesis of modern fighting games. After several weeks of breaking down different fighting games and discussing the experience of playing them, we used the idea of a taxonomy to review and extend this month’s discussion about fighting games as a genre. 

The core of our question: what connects all fighting games together? We know that Dragon Ball FighterZ is a fighting game because of certain attributes or game elements. As Erik listed off during the stream, fighting games have visible health bars, emphasize punishing moves, and use special framing for certain moves. FighterZ, like Street Fighter II, has all of these elements prompting Erik to ask how we can see Street Fighter II as influential or a necessary precursor for FighterZ. I explained that, in particular, FighterZ’s emphasis on careful combo timing to force the opponent into an inescapable corner reminds me of the similar experience of playing Street Fighter II and being similarly cornered by repetitive combos.  

Along with visual and practical elements, all fighting games share core mechanics and a set of clear rules for a match. For example, in Street Fighter II, two victories are required for a player to win the match, so the players’ HP and position reset after someone’s HP reaches zero. In FighterZ, a character’s HP reaching zero forces the next fighter on the team to appear and the fight will continue to reset like this until one team’s collective HP reaches zero.  


Discussion Questions 

  • How do we see Street Fighter II in Dragon Ball FighterZ? In what ways can we see Street Fighter II as the origin of fighting game conventions? 
  • As Erik said, the Dragon Ball franchise has “a huge emotional resonance and I refuse to believe it’s just because people shoot lasers out of their hands.” So, what is the franchise about? What about the series produces this resonance Erik talks about? 
  • Based on the EuroGamer interview Erik brought up: the FighterZ developers aimed to gear the game toward both casual players and competitive players. Where do we see those decisions coming out in FighterZ? 
  • How does skill expression vary across different fighting games? 


Further Reading 

Janelle Malagon

I am a PhD student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the English department’s Media, Cinema, and Digital Studies plan. My research in media is multifaceted, ranging from platform studies to game studies, but above all I am always interested in the relationship between media and the climate crisis.

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