Analysis: Why Button Mashing Doesn’t Work

Analysis: Why Button Mashing Doesn’t Work

Button mashing in a first-person shooter doesn’t work, because you’d just waste all
your ammo before you got anywhere. It doesn’t work in realtime strategy, because you wouldn’t even be able to select your starting units. “Commander, there are
tutorial videos awaiting your review.” And mashing in a driving game… …would probably look like you were really drunk. It’s obvious why it doesn’t work in those games because random button mashing is the
video game equivalent of violently flailing your limbs. That’s why it kind of makes sense
that people button mash in fighting games. Most people don’t know how to fight in real life. Violent limb flailing might be a good strategy
for beating your younger brother or sister but everyone knows that this is
far from martial arts mastery. It is understandable why people do this. When you have no choice but to fight it’s better to do something
than to just stand there getting hit like a dummy. Game developers understand this, which is why they’ve taken measures to make button mashing do cool things. Mash “Punch” to punch a lot. Mash “Kick” to kick a lot. Mash “L” to do all this. Stuff like this can make
limb flailing a bit more dangerous but it won’t make button mashing any more of a viable strategy against people who know what they’re doing. Man 1: “It’s a button mashing fighting game”
Man 2: “It is not–” So what are these people doing that mashers are not? Why does button mashing not work against them? To find out, we have to go
back to the beginning… of the round. In many forms of wrestling, the round starts up close. Sometimes really close. In pistol dueling, which was an actual Olympic exhibition in 1908, the fight started from about 20 meters away. But in video game fighting, you can have a
wrestler and a gun woman in the same fight allowing players to battle in all sorts of ranges. Guess who has the advantage at this range and at this range. The fight ideally starts
where neither person has a significant advantage. A situation where it’s neutral for both fighters. If you’re mashing when the round starts,
you might get hit like this. Mashing randomly fails to consider
which attacks have good reach. The side perspective
in these games help you gauge distance so you can clearly see
your positioning and attack ranges. Having a longer reach means there are ranges
where you can hit them while they can’t hit you. Why use a stubby jab at this range
when you have Engine Blade? Another problem with constantly attacking
is that when you start an attacking animation you cannot block until it finishes. The longer the attack animation,
the longer you’re vulnerable to getting hit. Whiffing an attack and
getting hit before you can block again is called a “Whiff Punish.” “Oh my goodness!” Fighting games loosely borrow
this logic from real fighting. This “whiff,” then “punish,” is called a “cross counter.” Just like in any fighting sport, attacking carries risk. It’s especially dangerous in games
with long-range moves that start up quick lead to good damage And have long recovery animations when whiffing. The “Hard Slash” in the Samurai Showdown series is one of the most notorious examples of this. Whiffing it is… “Ill-advised” Another problem with constantly attacking is that you often cannot attack
and control your movement at the same time. And movement matters because your positioning determines if an attack will reach or not. While you can’t move your head like this in most games, you can move your feet. When you form a strategy based on
movement and striking ranges you have what people like to call “Footsies.” “The kick I’m doing is the
most effective move for both range, footsies–” But the movement doesn’t necessarily
have to be with your feet because video games have magical characters
that can wheel, fly, unfly, or even hover because you happen to be a punching bag. One definition from the
Street Fighter-based footsies handbook describes footsies as “the mid-range ground-based aspect of fighting game strategy.” And HiFight has made an entire game
around this concept called “Footsies” This game is so mid-range and ground-based that there’s no jumping, no projectiles, and no knockdowns. But what kind of strategy can you have
with something so simple? Well the first lesson of Chapter 1 in the footsies handbook shows one of the most basic strategies. Walk into your opponent’s striking range
and immediately walk right out to bait them into whiffing an attack, then whiff punish. Here it is at normal speed. The strategies referenced so often
because you see it across so many games. “Down-forward 1’s and down-forward 2’s in sizes. It’s all AK’s doing right now but OH YOU CAN’T WHIFF!” There are countless strategies,
but their effectiveness will differ from game to game. This might be why it’s hard for people to agree on what footsies are and why it’s kind of turned into a buzzword. And this raises the question: If footsies are about movement and striking ranges, can’t everything be considered footsies? Sure, but there are times
when your amazing reach doesn’t matter as much like when you’re up close and personal. No matter what anyone says,
there is no law that requires you to play footsies. Sometimes you just want to brawl, but you can’t just walk up to a skilled fighter without getting hit. That’s why most games
let you do much more than walk. You can run, roll, dive kick, demon flip, homing teleport, dash, rush attack, or even do a homing dash attack. These things can help you quickly bypass the fighting at further ranges and get right up to your opponent’s face. Playing this way is known as “Rushdown,” or the more derogatory “Unga-bunga.” “The hell is ‘Unga-bunga’?” “Unga-bunga!” When people are hurling their entire bodies at you,
it can be pretty dangerous. So, how the hell do you stop this insanity? Well if you’re good enough,
you can try to hit them before they can get to you. For example, hitting someone out of the air
is called an “anti-air,” but this requires precise timing. Just like swinging in a baseball game,
you can’t expect to be successful by mashing. “Strike!” Mistime it and get struck out. Or in fighting, mistime it and get knocked out. This is one reason the “Dragon Punch,” AKA Sheng Long is such a good anti-air. It covers this whole area. But sometimes their rush down
will be too fast for your reactions which means you might be face-to-face. Now finally, both of you are close enough to “hug.” But up close, the fight becomes very different for reasons other than being able to grab each other. there’s little room to move forward and the reach of your attack is less important because… any attack will reach. What matters more here is
who will grab or strike the other person first which is determined by attack speed,
or more technically, the startup animation. Naturally the move with the faster startup speed
will beat out the slower ones assuming the buttons are pressed at the same time. A reason why Fox’s shine is considered one of the best moves in Melee is because it starts up in one frame, AKA instantly. “Blue-eyed special, man!” And that jab that I called “stubby” earlier will beat out
the Engine Blade up close because it’s much faster. When you hit someone during their attack startup animation like this it’s called a “counter hit”, and depending on the move or game The attacker might get rewarded
with extra damage, more combo opportunities, or in Punch-Out!!, an instant knockout. So how do you know which attacks
are faster than others and by how much? You could eyeball it but it gets really hard to tell when we’re talking
about moves with differences of a few frames. A frame is 1/60th of a second which is the unit of
time used to measure speed in fighting games. But thanks to cool people, there are frame data
guides that show you the speed of each attack. Since the one jab is the fastest move Noctis has,
you decide to jab up close. But your opponent blocks it. This is where the attacker is
stuck in an attacking animation and the blocker is stuck in a blocking state
known as “block stun.” The question is: Who will be the first to recover and do a follow-up attack? The answer is Blue Noctis. He gets to attack one frame sooner because
his jab made him +1 when it was blocked. I know this because I looked it up. If both Nocti followed up with a jab here,
Blue Noctis would beat out Red Noctis by one frame. If a move is 0 on block,
they both recover at the same time, hitting each other. If a move is -1 on block, the blocker gets unstuck
first by one frame and wins the exchange. This is called “Frame Advantage.” Each of the thousands of moves out
there has an on-block and on-hit value that determine what your best follow-up options are. “Easy peasy lemon squeezy!” The speed of the jab and
his +1 on block frame advantage is why multi-Evo champ JDCR made an entire video discussing the importance of Tekken’s One Jab. The frame advantage can also help
explain why you get hit in certain situations. This is me blocking Law’s “Dragon Hammer” move. The Law players watching will know that
I shouldn’t be mashing buttons here, but I did… and I died This move is +3 on block and his follow-up attack
has a start-up speed of 11 frames. That means I needed a move with a startup speed faster than 8 frames to beat out Law’s attack. According to the frame data of my character,
that move doesn’t exist. This means no matter what attack I mashed, I
would have gotten hit by Law’s follow-up move. In other words… “It’s a trap!” More specifically, a “Frame Trap.” Frame traps are one of the top reasons why
button mashing doesn’t work. “After Asuka’s while standing 4, on hit You cannot sidestep. You cannot press a single button, otherwise
down 2 will counter-hit launch you. It’s something that Fergus likes to call, “The Scrub Killer.” While being plus is great, being minus can be really bad. If your attack on block has enough minus frames your opponent will have enough time
to punish you before you can recover. But sometimes, even if you have enough time to punish you might not reach. The pushback in Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo is huge. One blocked sweep can send you back to footsies range and one extra fireball
can take you to the end of the screen. ST Ryu says LUL to your nerdy frame data
while zoning you out with fireballs. At this range your punches and kicks won’t reach and if you don’t have a projectile to fight back with,
you have to dodge and close in. Mashing here will be as effective as mashing here. These are situations where the striking ranges of punches and kicks are less emphasized but there are also moments when movement is less emphasized, like when you can’t move. If your footsies, unga-mentals, or fireball game are godlike, you might score a knockdown on your opponent. The downed player is at a disadvantage
because they cannot move or attack while the standing player can do whatever they want. This is where the honorable player will step back
and let their opponent get up and take a breather, right? Of course not. This is where you make their life Hell. While your opponent is down,
you have a chance to move in closer or run away whichever is best for your character. Depending on your positioning, you might also get a chance to attack your opponent as soon as they get up. The art of attacking your opponent
while they’re getting up is called “Okizeme”, “Oki” from the Japanese word “to wake up,”
and “zeme” from the word for “attack.” Like a lot of beat ’em up games, You usually can’t hit them while they’re
on the ground because they’re invulnerable, But you can do the next best thing: time an attack
so it hits them the very first moment they’re vulnerable. This kind of attack is called “Meaty,”
but meaty is a spectrum. “OH! That was so meaty!” The later in your attack animation you hit your opponent, the meaty-er it is and the sooner your animation will recover,
giving you extra plus frames. Button mashers tend to eat
meaty attacks like a barbecue buffet because they’re always pressing buttons
while waking up instead of blocking. So the solution is to just block, right? Often times, yes, but depending on the type of attack and direction,
you have to choose the correct way to block. High or low and left or right. When the attacker makes this
ambiguous for you, it’s called a “Mixup.” “I’mma block this wackass mixup.” [He-didn’t-block-the-mixup scream] But what if you don’t want to block
AND you don’t want to get hit? There is another option. In addition to being a good anti-air, Sheng Long is also one of many different types of invincible reversals. If timed correctly, these moves
will be invulnerable at the moment you get up allowing you to go through
the meaty attack and hit them instead. Man 1: “Oho the reversal, yep”
Man 2: “Wake-up DP hits–” So, how do you defeat Sheng Long and stand a chance? You just move away or block. Ryu was exaggerating about
Sheng Long the whole time. And of course, to beat block, you grab. Man 1: “Right corner pressure, Powell going in.
What’s next? Another one?” Man 1: “A–Three?”
Man 2: “Long down throw” Man 1: “No don’t tell me four! Don’t tell me four!”
Man 2: “Another one! Tokido!” Man 1:”DON’T TELL ME FOUR!”
Man 2: “NOOO! TO–” As you can see, okizeme is about
commitments and decision-making because the timing of the exchange
revolves around someone getting up. Some games like Tekken lets you
hit people on the ground and from the ground, but you still have to get up eventually. And sometimes, $60,000 can be riding
on the one decision you commit to. “$60,000! WITH ONE MIXUP!” So are these sick reads or lucky guesses? “Doing some shit
off of somebody’s wake up is a guess.” This can get pretty political,
especially waking up super while American. Man 1: “Not enough to kill” Man 1: “ON WAKEUP AGAIN!”
Man 2: “OH HE’S DONE! HE’S DONE!” Man 1: “3 FOR 3!”
Man 2: “HE’S GOT HIM! HE’S GOT HIM! Such is the nature of okizeme. “Coolkid takes Tokido to Losers’ bracket
with three wakeup critical arts!” Some or all of these concepts
apply to every fighting game but each game will have
a different take on how they work. And the diversity of characters allow there
to be unique play styles within the game But the other aspect of what makes these characters interesting is how you play them. One of the most memorable Street Fighter matches
was at DreamHack Winter 2013. An unknown amateur Ryu who went by the tag “Gandhi,” had such a bizarre play style he tilted his more orthodox opponent
and ended up beating him. “FSP is completely–FSP is completely,
I-I want to say mind effed.” “*laughing at Gandhi’s constant whiffing jabs*” And this match kind of ended up
being the Ecce Mono of Street Fighter. A well-intentioned beginner
uncompromised by formal training. But while Gandhi was playing at a beginner level,
he was far from randomly button mashing. These jabs, even though he was whiffing
against a crouching opponent indicate that he understands
quick attacks are preferable at close ranges. Him jumping back and throwing fireballs shows
he wants to throw projectiles safely from a distance And here, he even does an anti-air. His rushdown jump attacks are so unpredictable,
even he doesn’t seem to know when he’ll do them. And when he knocks down his opponent,
he adds pressure using some basic Okizeme,. Even closing out a round with a meaty jab. “Why’s that working?” And of course, he uses Invincible Dragon Punch Reversals on his wakeup to stop pressure. A lot. “Oh my goodness!” Gandhi might not have known how to
FADC combo into ultra like his opponent but he had a semblance of the basics. And it was enough for him to enter a tournament, win a match, and have a great time doing it. Isn’t that what everyone’s trying to do, after all? This was Gerald from Core-A Gaming.
Thanks for watching. If you get a chance, please check out the new merch store. There’s some awesome new stuff in there.

Danny Hutson

52 thoughts on “Analysis: Why Button Mashing Doesn’t Work

  1. 1:25 – Neutral
    2:18 – Whiff Punish
    2:59 – Footsies
    4:45 – Melee
    6:08 – Attack Speed
    7:25 – Frame Advantage
    9:19 – Frame Traps
    10:26 – Zoning
    11:10 – Knockdowns
    14:00 – Application

  2. When I play fighting games. I have more out-boxer style of play. So while I am good at fighting opponents who attempt footsies and decent at punishing whiffs. I am hopeless against rushdown style of play.

  3. I wish I could play a fighting game that other people didn't have thirty years of experience over me in, something no one would have any confidence in playing (like a fighting game where even the best players in the world would look like noob button mashers), so I could learn at the same pace as everyone else. Maybe if it randomized attack duration, frame data, etc. on startup or something too.

  4. Almost 1M people got clickbaited into watching the best, to the point and yet comprehensive explanation of fighting game mechanics.

  5. If anyone is interested in the Def Jam Fight for NY CEO Competitive scene here's the link

  6. dude, you're the one who lured me to fighting games again. been practicing two months long in street fighter and tekken—just because of your videos.

    i watch these vids everytime just because i can. solid content.

  7. My man not only explained the problem to button mashing, but taught the solution. Well done, you just gained a new subscriber.

  8. Watched it a few times, and this is one of my favourite YouTube videos ever…

    I play a lot of Pokkén, as well as a lot of Pokémon VGC and TCG.
    Unfortunately, a lot of VGC and TCG players hold Pokkén in very low regard because "it's just button mashing"

    I wish I could express the core ideas of this video when I try to convince people otherwise!

  9. I get infuriated when the kids at my local area, break the arcade controls my smashing them "harder" because they think it would give"more damage" to the opponent

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