I love videogames and have played a hell of a lot of them over the years, but I wouldn't necessarily say I was actually good at them. I will never top a leaderboard and I will almost always lose the deathmatch, my desire to gain mastery constantly shouted down by that little voice in my head reminding me of how many other games are out there to be played. It's hard to become an expert at one game when you're doing your best to play all of them, after all. But there was one game I actually did master. For a brief period, about ten years ago, I was unstoppable at Soul Calibur. And man, it felt good.
My boyfriend at the time and I had pooled our money to buy a Dreamcast at launch, as well as two games, one for each of us. I chose Sonic Adventure based almost entirely on that bit with the killer whale. (Don't you roll your eyes at me, man - that shit was amazing back then.) He, meanwhile, chose Soul Calibur because he was a big fan of fighting games. I'd tried my hand at Virtua Fighter 2, so that he'd have someone to spar with, but I never could do much with it. I fared slightly better with X-Men vs Street Fighter, but that was due more to my love of the X-Men than actual appreciation of the game. I was disappointed that I wouldn't get much use out of half of our Dreamcast collection, but hey, fair is fair.
At the time, we were living about 500 miles apart and only saw each other once a month, so the Dreamcast took turns living with each of us. I figured that I'd spend all that time working my way through Sonic's big Adventure, but I actually got tired of it pretty quickly. With few launch titles for the taking - and no money to buy one even if something did appeal to me - in desperation, I finally tried Soul Calibur and immediately fell in love.
I'm not sure what it was about that game that I found so entrancing. It was beautiful, certainly, moving with a fluidity that Virtua Fighter lacked. Its characters were amazing to me, so colorful and mysterious. Remember, I was pretty unfamiliar with the genre, so the whole "group of fighters loosely connected by family secrets, revenge and other twists of fate" angle was new to me. Whatever it was keeping me glued to that controller, glued I was. I tried to learn Ivy first, because she was clearly the coolest female character in the game (this is back before she fell on hard times and had to dress herself in hand-me-downs from the cast of Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball), but her complex moves proved too difficult for my untrained fingers. I sampled the other characters with varying degrees of success until lightning struck and I found the character with which I apparently achieved Fighting Game Synergy ...