Martial Arts in Video Games

Sony's PlayStation2 Changes the Game

They inspire legions of fans. They spin off television shows, action figures, even movies. They're the martial arts video games, and they took on a new dimension this week with Sony's introduction of the PlayStation2 console.

Screen shot from Dead or Alive 2, Hardcore edition
screen shot from Dead or Alive 2, Hardcore Edition, on the PlayStation2 console. Photo by Tecmo, Inc., used with permission.

From Karate Champ to Mortal Kombat, Virtua Fighter to Street Fighter, Tekken Tag Tournament to Dead or Alive 2, fighting games have come a long way. The early Karate Champ game pitted two-dimensional figures against each other in a karate tournament--a good reverse point earned one point, while a spinning back kick to the head scored ippon--a full point--and a knockout. But the game still looked like electronic paper dolls fighting each other.

With the advent of the arcade game Virtua Fighter in the early 1990's, fighting games took on another dimension. No more paper dolls--fighters now looked solid, with shadows and curves, and acted solid, with gravity and realistic sound effects.

Today's crop of game consoles take that realism into the home, with games like Dead or Alive 2 (left). Gone are the blocky, Bizarro-head figures of previous games. These fighters have hair, wear clothes that move in the wind, and demonstrate powerful moves that look like real martial arts.

"Bone breaks, arm locks, and even simple side thrust kicks look painful when they hit," says Randall Ng, video game artist for a major game manufacturer and shotokan karate black belt. "There's an excitement when you see a move that you recognize," says Ng, who has also studied aikido extensively.

 San Francisco's Sony Metreon shows the PS2 colors.

The launch of the Sony PlayStation 2 also generated much excitement. San Francisco's Sony Metreon building, seen here, took on the PlayStation 2 (PS2) colors, ready for the hordes of gamers. Eager buyers waited in line for days prior to the October 26th launch, hoping for a chance to be the first to play the well-hyped game machine.

Next: Fight in the UFC or K1: Bringing the Octagon Home


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