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Editorial

Mortal Kombat Has Slowly Become Inaccessible For Me As an Abled Gamer

When I was a teenager my family would go to this pizza chain called Peter Piper Pizza. I loved going there cuz they had an arcade. I remember when I saw this new fighting game. It was like Street Fighter II, or King of Fighters but instead if it looking like a cartoon it looked like a movie with real people. This was groundbreaking, this was cool, this was….holy crap did that blue ninja guy just rip off the other guy's head? THIS IS INSANE!!!!!!! The controls were different too. Back, back punch. Back, forward kick. These special movies are way easier to learn than Street Fighter II. I was all in, I loved this new fighting game they called Mortal Kombat.

I remember I had Mortal Kombat II on my Gameboy. I played it when we went to my grandparents every weekend. It was one of my favorite games of all time. I even bought the midway collection on my PSP Go just so I could have Mortal Kombat I-III. Now here we are in 2019 with 40+ fighting games on the Switch (though most of those are Neo Geo arcade classics) this is the first time we've seen Mortal Kombat on the system. I was stoked to play this new version of the game. I had played Mortal Kombat XL at my local arcade bar The Cidercade on a Japanese arcade machine that runs on Steam. I just fought the CPU or another person.

With the reveal of Mortal Kombat 11 I was happy to see it come to the Switch. Though this is not the Mortal Kombat of my adolescence. This is something different, this is something that at times triggers my anxiety and makes me very angry. That is what I want to talk about in this review/article. Mortal Kombat use to be a fun escape. Even if I lost I never really got mad. I lost that was it, just retry and move on.

Though with Mortal Kombat 11 there are reasons to win besides moving up the tower.  Now we have daily challenges like I've seen in the Mortal Kombat mobile game. If you complete these daily challenges you earn Kombat Koins that you use in what is called the Krypt. A Shaolin monk temple set up where you open chests for a chance to earn different outfits, soul stones, other kustomizable items, and concept art from the game just to name a few things. YouTuber Boogie2988 made a point about the how a company like Nintendo has stayed away from this microtransactions platform. (Yes there is a fighters pass for Smash Bros Ultimate, though it's only $25 compared to Mortal Kombat's $40 fighters pass.)

I waited to see how this port panned out seeing we didn't get any news on it till PAX East. The game had its downfalls, though it was nothing like we saw with Anthem or Fallout 76. Switch owners had to wait til the 1.0.4 patch to sync to their Mortal Kombat Mobile account. Did the NetherRealm team not do any quality control with Shiver Entertainment?

Even though there are moments of frustration with these non consumer friendly tactics, I love talking my Switch with me and play Mortal Kombat with other people in public. Win or lose I'm having a fun time. Though when I am playing online with other people and seeing how many times they've won and what my percentage is of winning the match I'm not having fun. I'm anxious and if I lose, I get upset, yelling obscenities to a person that can't hear me. I become very frustrated. I don't even get this upset losing at my weekly local Smash Bros tournament. There is something about the way things are set up that cause me to be overwhelmed and frustrated.

I'm not the only one that Mortal Kombat 11 has caused emotional stress either. An developer that was on the cinematic team told Joshua Riviera at Kotaku:  

“I’d have these extremely graphic dreams, very violent,” they told Kotaku in a call. “I kind of just stopped wanting to go to sleep, so I’d just keep myself awake for days at a time, to avoid sleeping.”
Eventually, the developer says they saw a therapist who diagnosed them with PTSD. They attribute this to their work on MK11—not just the content of the game and having to process and discuss its violent cinematics frame by frame, but also being surrounded by the reference materials artists used for research.”

Now with video game addiction being a mental disorder. There are talks about how these live service games are part of the problem. I have to agree the grind in these games are more than most RPGs I play. Though with public outcry NetherRealm has been coming out with 10+ GB patches for the game to make this grind not as taxing as it was at launch. Though PC players are one ones who are getting the updates first seeing it's the easiest platform to update. There are no approval process to go through like there are with the consoles.

I wonder if this digital age has made developers lazy in creating full gaming experiences. With gaming before consoles had a dedicated internet connection games had to be perfect. for the most part they were. Mortal Kombat 1-3 were complete games to me as an adolescent young man. Though I've read that some arcade MK2 and MK3 were sent out "unfinished", and ROM chips were sent out to machine owners to upgrade the games over time. Though were the arcades just as buggy as this new game? Is this standard practice of the NetherRealm team? What I do know is that Mortal Kombat has slowly become inaccessible for me as an abled gamer.

I entered my first Mortal Kombat 11 tournament at Dreamhack Dallas, and what I found out is that the button layouts are not universal. I thought I would do good seeing I could press in the left joystick for block. Though the PS4 version of the game you don't have that option. So I spent hours relearning the controls after I've had muscle memory started to sit in playing the game on the Switch. Though I had some help from Houston Esports pro Handy Savage showing me some new tricks with tournament layouts, seeing I've been playing with casual player layouts.

There is also no option to hold the back button to block like you can in Injustice 2 either. Though I understand there are different game mechanics between the two games, but it would be nice. My hope is that NetherRealm with make a patch where I can hold either joystick down for block or hold back. Though the sad truth is that accessibility for abled gamers are not a high priority for NetherRealm. I'll just have to relearn how to play this game that is a rollercoaster of emotions.

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