“Alright, it has to be said: fighting games are categorically bad.”
With that scorching hot video game take, Mika, a Twitter user with less than 200 followers, sent fans on social media into a frenzy. Even now, she's a bit mystified by the impassioned conversation she unwittingly kicked off. "I was just thinking about the game design from a competitive standpoint," Mika tells Inverse.
Hot takes are a dime a dozen. In the age of social media, you can’t scroll a mouse wheel without finding an opinion that’s sure to rub someone the wrong way. That’s especially true in video game circles where passionate players are no strangers to critiquing and defending games online. But a deeper dive into Mika’s post and the discourse that sprang out of it highlights our weird tendency to dogpile onto strangers when they deign to criticize something many hold dear.
The 30-tweet thread is an odyssey that’s equal parts furious and hilarious. Mika tears apart an entire genre, taking no prisoners along the way. (It’s a familiar delight to see people’s brains short-circuit over somebody’s opinion that dares to be different from their own -- ed.). She skewers everything from clunky movement to insurmountable skill imbalance, and delivers some ice cold one-liners about some of the genre’s most beloved games.
“Any genre where the highest quality games are Dragonball and Soulcalibur doesn't deserve the embarrassment of existing,” she writes.
Within days, thousands of people flocked to Mika’s Twitter account to fill her replies and DMs with furious comments. Some laughed it off as a rant from someone who’s bad at fighting games, while others resorted to despicable, transphobic attacks. Inverse spoke to Mika, who chose not to provide her full name due to doxxing she’d received in the fallout, about why she thought it got people especially heated.
“I think it comes from an attachment between people and the things they enjoy and play as a sort of identity,” Mika says. “In a way, I sort of feel validated. If the tweet thread did anything, it exposed some negative elements in the community.”
Speaking to Mika over the phone, she’s nowhere near as aggressive as her tweets suggest. She’s warm and level-headed throughout the conversation, offering a thoughtful, if spiky, critique that’s full of knowledge and nuance. What’s interesting, though unsurprising, is hearing that she grew up loving fighting games.
“I grew up playing fighting games a lot with friends and family. My first video game was actually Mortal Kombat on the PlayStation 2,” Mika says. “As I grew older, fighting games took a backseat. I tried to get back into Super Smash Bros. in 2015, and I just realized how different fighting games were to my perceptions of them when I was younger.”
Mika’s opinions come from a place of love, not hate. She thinks there’s plenty of value in games that have a high skill level, she just wishes fighting games did a better job at welcoming newcomers with more thoughtful tutorials or purposeful single-player content.
The high barrier to entry for fighting games is a running theme throughout Mika’s critique. When she criticizes how fighting games handle movement, for example, it’s framed within the context of how unintuitive it can feel for newcomers. The same goes for the genre’s reliance on complex inputs, which leaves little middle ground between casual and high-level play.
“For newer players trying to get into these games, it’s very daunting,” Mika says. They’re not going to be familiar with extensive combos. It gets into an environment where if a player wants to play at more than a casual level, a lot of the best aspects of fighting games go out the window. You just have to pick a character and throw your life away grinding into it.”
It’s a pretty reasonable viewpoint. But rationality tends to fly out the window when it comes to big online spaces. Twitter isn’t well suited to one-on-one conversations; it’s designed for maximum visibility. Personal opinion can morph into public discourse in one click, opening the floodgates for an angry mob of replies. Mika still isn’t even sure how verified Twitter accounts with tens of thousands of followers ended up finding her virtually unknown profile.
She admits that some of her own language choices clouded some of her nuance and exacerbated the response.
“If you play Smash you're honestly just a pedophile,” reads one of her particularly eye-popping tweets.
While Mika intended it to be a critique of the Super Smash Bros. community and its recent sexual abuse revelations, she says it’s not something she would have written if she knew the post would elicit this much attention. She just thought she was venting into the abyss, but there’s no real void on social media.
Mika found a strangely heartwarming silver lining amid the flood of angry Twitter DMs. She received numerous messages from fans who invited her into their own communities to play some games in a friendlier environment.
“There were a lot of really cool people that weren’t trying to start a firestorm, but to provide an inclusive space inside the fighting game community that’s safe, as opposed to more reactionary,” she says. “Finding those communities and uplifting them is the best thing we can do as fans of these games.”
That good-faith outreach stands in stark contrast to the thousands of insulting replies still piling up under the thread. By taking the time to understand where Mika was coming from and offer a welcoming hand, these fans show that human connection is still possible on social media. Meaningfully engaging with fellow players as opposed to blindly jumping on the rage bandwagon can enrich our online experiences and shape communities for the better.
To put it in Super Smash Bros. terms: 1v1 me, no items, Fox only, Final Destination.