One of Mortal Kombat’s newest characters is gaining a reputation, at least among casual fans. According to the Internet, Jacqui Briggs is a problem.
More specifically, it’s the way people are playing her. There’s recently been a lot of salt directed at players who pick Jacqui Briggs and then proceed to spam the same move over and over again.
What you’re seeing is here is the “Hand Cannon” move, which is performed by pressing down, forward, triangle (at least on the PS4). It’s a pretty simple move to pull off.
Players who are on the receiving end of Briggs’ cannon aren’t particularly happy about how often it’s used. Taking a look online, it’s not hard to find a number of threads around the web complaining about Jacqui’s spam:
Some players have resorted to creating tutorials to help others deal. Others have taken to Twitter to beg Ed Boon, the co-creator of Mortal Kombat, to do something about it:
And there are also a few videos floating around of players who gloat after beating Brigg’s spam, as we saw yesterday.
Of course, just because some people complain about something doesn’t necessarily make that thing an actual problem. Turns out people have very strong, but very different philosophies about stuff like “spam.”
Some people would argue that repeatedly using the same technique over and over again is cheap; a thing that only newbies that don’t know how to play the game would do. Spamming in this case is seen as a crutch. Lots of fighting games have infamous spammer characters—Street Fighter’s Ken was ridiculed because players liked to solve every problem with a Shoryuken, and BlazBlue’s Nu -No.13 had a stigma because players could use her to spam endless swords that put a lot of pressure on the opponent.
Others would argue that “spamming” isn’t a problem at all: you are either good enough to deal with the problem at hand, or you’re not. After all, if spamming is such a low-level technique, shouldn’t that mean capable players can get past it with ease? Isn’t learning how to deal with common strategies the cornerstone of the fighting game experience? Why should someone switch it up to kill you if doing the same thing over and over again is all that it takes? Don’t we play games to win?
Heck, more experienced Mortal Kombat players might not call reliance on Jacqui’s Hand Cannon spam at all—to them, her arsenal is well-suited for “zoning,” which the Street Fighter Wiki describes as “tactics centered around keeping the opponent at a specific distance.” Naturally, a smart player will make use of a character’s strengths—in this case, that means using Hand Cannon whenever necessary or convenient.
The problem isn’t that some Jacqui players spam, not really. It’s that people have very specific ideas of how games should be played, and few completely agree on what that looks like. Calculating players have no problems with techniques that get the job done; to them, finding ways to get what they want is the entire point of the game. Others seem seem more fond of the idea of honor—just because the battlefield is deadly doesn’t mean combatants shouldn’t display some etiquette. Doing a supposedly cheap move over and over again could be seen as a form of disrespect.
Things get particularly messy when you consider games as a spectator sport. The most effective way to win is not always the most entertaining thing to watch—seeing Jacqui spam the Hand Cannon move isn’t particularly exciting to see. This isn’t a problem unique to Mortal Kombat, of course. Earlier this year, Smash Bros. fans booed Diddy Kong at a tournament: they didn’t like seeing this character use the same moves over and over again, regardless of how effective it was. Earlier this week, there was a lot of commotion over Floyd Mayweather’s win over Manny Pacquiao. To some fans, the match was considered garbage thanks to how defensively Mayweather played. As Drew Magary of Deadspin explains, “[Mayweather] clearly built his fighting style around with a calculated strategy of gaming the compubox system so that he gets credit for even the most cursory of punches.”
The “problem” with the Mayweather match is one that gaming sees pretty often: players are predisposed to want to game the system. I’d argue that it becomes easier to do when you’re playing online, dealing only with a digital representation of your opponent. If I were sitting on a couch with someone who is a friend, I’ll at least think twice about using an infamous technique or move that’s considered cheap. After all, I’d have to deal with my opponent’s reaction in person. Maybe they’d get mad, or I’d feel shame. But when I’m playing online and my opponent is a stranger halfway around the world? Fuck it. I don’t owe anyone anything. I’m guessing that professional Mortal Kombat players have a similar no-mercy attitude about matches, particularly when money or glory is on the line.
Given how long people have argued about the way games “should” be played, and what techniques are supposedly “cheap” to use, I suspect the tensions between playing to win and playing for honor are going to be around for a while yet. Game designers may continually strive to keep their games balanced—nerf one move, buff another—but creative players will always find unexpected routes to victory. Regardless of how we feel about Jacqui Briggs and her tricky hand cannon, I hope we can at least agree that she’s probably still not as annoying as all those damned Scorpion players running around.