Like any subculture, the one that’s sprung up around competitive games like Street Fighter and Guilty Gear has slowly developed its own special language, which can be hard to understand if you haven’t been a part of the scene for years.
Some terms, like anti-airs and zoning, you can figure out on your own without too much trouble. Below, we’re diving deep for the most bizarre lingo used by hardcore fighting game fans. I’ll do my best to explain how and why they’re used, as well as where certain words originated. Let’s go!
Chicken Blocking – The act of jumping back and blocking in mid-air to simplify defense against an opponent’s approach.
In some fighting games, players can block in the air as well as on the ground. This mechanic gave rise to chicken blocking. The name may seem a little derogatory, but it’s actually a super useful technique due to the defensive coverage it gives. Characters in the air, for instance, don’t have to worry about low-high mixups, since those types of attacks don’t matter while both players are airborne.
Footsies – The tug-of-war in a fighting game match when players claim turf with normal attacks, try to bait their opponent into overextending, and hope to punish.
This term may sound cute, but it actually refers to the battle that takes place between players as they vie for position. When competitors like Daigo Umehara and Alex Valle take time to throw out crouching medium kicks in pretty much any game that features Ryu, it’s not random. What they’re doing is establishing space on the battlefield as they fish for hits to cancel into Ryu’s fireball.
Bread and Butter – A basic combo that players should learn for their character of choice.
Bread and butter combos can be used in a wide variety of situations and typically doesn’t involve high-level execution or timing, though there are exceptions. The main reason I’m including this term is to point out a trend that will become noticeable below: a good amount of these esoteric fighting game terms deal with food. I’m not really sure why. Maybe because players are always hungry for competition? Is that too on-the-nose? Whatever.
Meaty – An attack that hits the opponent on its last few active frames.
No one really understands how or why this term came to be, but it’s now an integral part of fighting game terminology.
To understand meaties, you first have to understand attacks at their most basic level. Most fighting game attacks can be separated into a number of individual stages. The first, the startup, is how many frames it takes for the attack to begin. The second, active, is when the attack can make contact with an opponent within the confines of the game’s mechanics. And the last, recovery, is how long it takes for a character to finish performing the attack and be able to do something else.
The most common way of making an attack meaty involves throwing the move out as the other player recovers from being knocked down. In this way, the attack’s first few active frames won’t connect with the opponent’s wakeup due to its inherent invulnerability. Players use meaty attacks to lessen the time they take to recover, allowing them to perform combos that normally wouldn’t be possible.
Pringles – Particularly weak defense.
This uniquely-shaped potato chip first rose to prominence in the fighting game community thanks to a hugely popular video of old-school competitor and commentator Michael “IFC Yipes” Mendoza narrating a Marvel vs. Capcom 2 match.
In the context of the above video, “pringles” refers to the opposing player’s defenses breaking down. Justin Wong, another legendary player from that era, confirmed the definition in a 2009 interview. The jury is still out on what exactly “scoops Häagen-Dazs” means.
Plinking – A finger technique that makes the one-frame links of games like Street Fighter IV easier to execute.
Plinking is a fairly new concept that sprung up during the Street Fighter IV era. Due to that series’ reliance on difficult one-frame links for some optimal combos (meaning players needed to hit an input on the correct 1/60 of a second to link two attacks), competitors learned to adapt. By using a specific hand technique, they were able to give themselves a wider window of success for those difficult links.
At its most basic level, plinking gives players the ability to input the same button on two consecutive frames, which is typically impossible both physically and in the confines of most fighting game systems, by using a simple finger technique. Despite adding another layer of execution to an already demanding genre, plinking opened up new combos avenues in Street Fighter IV.
R. Kelly – A perfect round.
Ending a match without taking any damage can be a great feeling, but being on the other side is one of the most humiliating experiences in a fighting game player’s life. Seeing your opponent close out a game with a full, yellow health bar is demoralizing, and that specific color is how R. Kelly’s infamous escapades from the 2000s became tied to fighting games.
It also doesn’t help that many games denote a player’s perfect victory with a ‘P’ symbol. Did you just lose a game without damaging the opponent? Well, you just got P’d on, friend.
Unga – A character, player, or strategy that appears unintelligent or without thought.
Like many of the most popular terms in the fighting game community, unga comes to us from New York City. It was first coined as a way to describe the relentless Leo Whitefang play of Evo 2015 finalist Joshua “Zidane” Rodriguez in Guilty Gear Xrd. With his larger-than-life attacks and high damage output, Leo play can seem almost mindless on the surface, and the exasperation Zidane’s fellow competitors felt during one particular online session in 2015 led to this description.
While it started as a highly specific term in the Guilty Gear community, unga’s gorilla- or caveman-esque connotations have spread to other games as well. Street Fighter V’s Necalli, with his ability to transform and go absolutely HAM on opponents, can be considered unga. Does it feel like that Bayonetta stole a win during an online Super Smash Bros. for Wii U match without any smart plays? That’s unga. And you better believe Injustice 2 villain Gorilla Grodd is unga, though that might have to do more with him being a literal gorilla than anything else.
Taco – A type of attack in the King of Fighters series where the character extends one leg and curls the other under their body, forming a distinct crescent shape.
Mmm, more food. This term is used by King of Fighters players to describe a specific jumping attack typically used by series mainstay Iori, during which his legs vaguely form the crescent shape of a taco. Versions of this attack are also used by characters like Geese, Billy Kane, and King, to name a few.
Like many traditional fighting game terms, there’s a semi-analogue in Super Smash Bros. known as the “sex kick,” which is equally as silly but makes far less sense.
Sex kick – An aerial attack where the character attacks with one leg while tucking the other under their body.
Like the aforementioned King of Fighters attacks, sex kicks are attacks common to many characters in the Super Smash Bros. series. According to SSBWiki, the term first originated with former player and tournament organizer Matt “MattDeezie” Dahlgren, who used it to describe the jumping kick move used by Mario, Luigi, Fox, Falco, and more. The “sex” descriptor apparently comes from the way characters thrust their attacking leg forward.
Kusoge – Literally “shit game” in Japanese, kusoge can be applied to fighting games that include a ton of “unfair” techniques (infinites, glitches, etc.) but are still widely enjoyed and played competitively.
This is a fairly nebulous term that depends entirely on the person using it. Some folks may see Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and Hokuto no Ken as kusoge due to the prevalence of their infinites and high damage across the board, while others reserve the term for sillier games like Dong Dong Never Die and Fight of Gods.
Kusoge, then, is in the eye of the beholder, and can be used for a wide variety of video games outside the fighting genre. People play fast and loose with the definition, but true kusoge typically have a “so bad it’s good” feeling all their own, and when you experience one personally, it’s hard to find another word to describe them.
Well, there you have it, some of the most creatively-named fighting game terminology defined. This is only a sampling of the ways competitors have taken to describing in-game concepts, so feel free to ask any of your pressing questions about terms you need explained—or even let us know your favorites—in the comments below.
Ian Walker loves fighting games and writing about them. You can find him on Twitter at @iantothemax.