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Fighting games are a genre of possibilities. The fact that each player has the ability to choose from myriad of fighters, all with their own personalities, traits, tricks and weaknesses says a lot about the genre as a whole. In a game like Street Fighter 4, in which the player has over 35 fighters to make their own it can also seem like the match-up combinations are endless and surprising every time.

So, why, then do I only play against the same five characters online?

I wish this chart was not an exaggeration of how the majority of Ken players in SF play onlineā€¦ But, I would be lying to myself. Really, I even know that I am asking myself a rhetorical question. I know exactly why the majority of players online use Ryu, Ken, Akuma and the other characters that are easily classified as "shotos" (named for their tendency to only spam the trademark moves of Ryu, the dragon punch and fireball).

These characters are the most accessible and give the best chance of winning for those without any urge to learn the game past the basics.

Really, this is nothing to look down upon players for. These characters are famous for being very middle-of-the-road. Ryu and his ilk have no weaknesses, and plenty of upside, though, not so much as they always have the clear advantage. For instance, Ryu can easily zone another player out with a spamming of fireballs. The moment said opponent tries to jump in on Ryu, he is smacked with a dragon punch.

I am not angry about shotos. In fact, I realize now that they serve a valuable service when playing SF4 online: practice.

At every level of competitive play in Street Fighter you will find players who use Ryu and his clones. At this point, I consider them nothing more than warm-up rounds, or opportunities to sharpen skills like neutral jumping and mind-games against opponents that follow a very strict method of playing.

For instance, my main character, Hakan, has the ability to slide under fireballs with the use of his EX oil slide (EX moves being powered up version of special moves). With this skill, Hakan can get in with an almost for-sure knock down once a shoto goes about throwing fireballs. Perfect chance to practice timing and predicting my opponent.

Shotos serve a valuable purpose to all that play online. They give the chance to turn losing streaks around, build momentum, and feel good about your play. I am one that believes that playing Street Fighter is all about momentum. You need a clear head to play, and nothing can screw with that more than a losing streak. in that respect, I feel like Street Fighter shares a lot with golf: you aren't so much playing against someone else as you are against yourself.

So, next time you get dragon punched to oblivion, don't get angry and send a raging message of hatred. Salute your resident shotos! Why?

Because they will never get any better!