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We’ve had the Steam Deck here for a while now. It’s a great machine. We have played a handful of modern games with it, but, in all honesty, I mostly play old games on it. Mostly Street Fighter.
I did play Street Fighter using a gamepad for a while when I first discovered Mame and other emulators. But not for very long, and not seriously.
I built my first arcade stick in about 1998. I have had an arcade stick or arcade cabinet ever since. At times, a couple of them. If I wanted to play arcade fighting games at any time in those years, I played on an arcade stick.
Any time I played a fighting game on a gamepad I didn’t really have a feel for it. I would swap back and forth between the stick and the D-Pad, never really finding my groove with either. I wouldn’t know how to map the buttons, so I would end up putting my heavies on the face buttons and just never using my medium punch or kick. It was so foreign to the way I was used to playing. I could get a fireball or hurricane kick to come out once or twice per match. Dragon punches? Forget about it. I just could not get my thumb to perform the movements.
The convenience of the Steam Deck has changed how I play fighting games. I think I will always prefer an arcade stick (bats not balls), but I think I get it now. I am incrementally catching up to all those kids who played a ton of Super Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting on the SNES. I can crank out fireballs all day on a DPad now. I can even get the dreaded dragon punch to come out 9 times out of 10.
I am not now, nor will I ever be, a master at fighting games, but I still have fun playing them. I crank up the computer difficulty pretty high to make the early fights more difficult (though that does mean that the cpu does some pretty wild stuff that a human could never do) and I am getting more and more good wins with gamepad style controls. I still get stomped a little past halfway through the arcade campaign, but that is sort of intentional. These games were made to eat quarters after all.
I knew that we would use the Steam Deck to play current games, and I knew that I would put emulators on there and use it to play older games, but I didn’t really think that it would change the way I play one of my favorite genres. I have a noticeable callus on my left thumb from doing quarter circle swipes.
Maybe I can use it to understand the charge system in Art of Fighting. I doubt it.

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