Character Selection: What Drives It?

How and why we choose the virtual fighters in battle.

Competitive gaming has something very much in common throughout all types. Character selection and diversity. Even when a character has a similar moveset, it could be that their playstyle is different because perhaps the moves have different properties. The biggest examples of this are Street Fighter‘s most iconic characters: Ken and Ryu, as well as Super Smash Bros.’ Fox and Falco. With character variety going anywhere from 8 to 50+ characters (game dependent)…what makes a player choose the character they do?

Now the first thing I’m sure you’re thinking of is Sanford Kelly’s infamous line, “Pick a top tier”. However, there’s bound to be more than that to a character selection. For example…I personally like to have a character that posses tools for different purposes. In most cases, I prefer a character that moves fast, and can zone to a degree. Sometimes I prefer a flat out zoning character, and other times, I prefer someone that can get in your face. That being said, I tend to gravitate towards female characters, as they usually fit my criteria. However, I still love characters like Ken, because he’s awesome. In some cases…I go with whatever feels right.

We’ve all heard the varying reasonings, and have either scrutinized, seen the scrutiny, or been scrutinized for our choice. Some feel that someone only picks a character because they’re top tier. Others choose a character for the sole purpose that they’re low tier. Some choose a character because they have some sort of tactic or gimmick that the average person considers “cheap”. Some pick based solely upon damage output. Others have just put in so much work in a character, they feel it’s a waste to drop it. Still yet, some feel that their character is just tapped out, and they need to move on. Then of course, the almighty counterpick to cover your main character’s weaknesses. Whatever the reason, I wanted to hear it from people themselves without a crowd to hear how they REALLY feel.

I decided to ask several players of casual and varying levels of competitive background, to hear their answers. Some I’ll name, others I’ll just quote.


The cosmetics:
[pullquote_right]Everyone has a different process, and a different idea of what suitable means when it comes to character(s).[/pullquote_right]A common answer that I’ve gotten was the look of the character. “If they don’t look cool to me, I can’t rock with it.” To a degree, I think that may actually affect a lot of people. While it may be a minor area for some, most are drawn to how “cool” a character looks. It’s actually been a reason as to why some people shy away from a certain game. “I just wasn’t feeling the character designs,” is a common response I’ve gotten. Some people don’t want ugly characters, some actually do. Others prefer small body, while some prefer big body. Some may even be turned on to, or off of a character by their voice.

Bifu|Insaynne: “For real, non human characters are the 1st I look at. And then if they have cool looking move animations and a godlike voice actor.”


The feel:


This is a more simple situation. Like I mentioned before…sometimes a character has to “feel” right. However, that can mean many different things for different people. It can be the general feel of the character, or perhaps how they move. to some, “feel” is something that can be minuscule, or perhaps paramount to a character. This can also factor in to “fun” for people as well.

The Blacktastic: “A lot of things actually. It’s mostly just trial and error”

“If they feel right”- Various Players


The mechanics:
This is a pretty important aspect for some people. While we might be able to put this in to the “feel” category, I believe it’s something different. HOW they move comes in to play, yes, but so does speed, limbs, damage, and so many other things involved in the game mechanics. what works for one game, may not suit your needs for another. How does the character work with the game’s mechanics? One may prefer Chun-Li of the Alpha series to Chun-Li of SF4. The same could be said of SFxT, Chun-Li. It comes down to a matter of preference in mechanics. How does she differ/play in these games?

” Aesthetics and how they play/feel to control.”- Online Warrior “The Rot”

“Blanka can’t take advantage of the chain combo system like most other characters can…and he doesn’t compliment the other characters I play too well either.”- Bifu|Insaynne in regards to Blanka in AE vs. Blanka in SFxT


“Anyone can pick a top tier and do decent. But if the character feels right

for the player, only that is when the characters potential will be surpassed or fully realized.”

Character personality:
Not specifically how they look or sound, but the actual character themselves. Some people may have a stigma about villains, while others embrace them. Whatever the reasoning, the character has a life to it, and that means a lot to some players.

DRS Dragon: “[I go by] play style and looks and overall in game personality”

CM Kenny: “Hmmm…A lot [affects my decision] actually. Backstory, appeal, and options. Lots and lots of options”


Personal needs:
This could really be a combination of anything. Not one particular area, but a culmination. This is also why certain people have such a drastic playstyle from game to game, while others remain the same in every instance.

Mr. SNK: “In all fairness, the character needs to suit my needs. So for instance in LoL, I play Caitlyn who’s notorious for her range, Lux who has great range and control, and Leona who has solid lock down. So in street Fighter, um… Fatso [Honda] has good range decent mobility and big damage.”




In the end, a lot of people mentioned something that I feel is important, as well. The “fun” factor. If they’re not having fun, they don’t want to play the character. This has been said by many players. How do YOU pick a character when you play?

Here’s a couple more quotes to close out:

Daxiles: “Anyone can pick a top tier and do decent. But if the character feels right for the player, only that is when the characters potential will be surpassed or fully realized.”

Mr. SNK: “But at the end of the day it’s all about what character I have the most fun playing with. Because if I played to win I’d drop everything and play characters that have the best chances of winning.”

Eggm: “Fun really. I play the characters I find fun.”


So then — what motivates YOUR character selection?