As a licensed bouncer and lifelong gamer, I can tell you that none of the fights you see onscreen in video games match the ones you may encounter in real life.
For example, street fighters rarely kick—not unless their intended target is already horizontal. At the British university campus where I work as a security guard, and where alcohol, 18-year-olds, and high passions can sometimes combine explosively, the last kicker I encountered was a drunk girl attacking a parked car’s wing mirror.
In reality, hitting “continue” to keep the fight going actually takes weeks of healing, not just a single button press.
But none of that means I don’t enjoy a good brawler game. In fact, slugging my way through 1998’s Altered Beast and 1989’s River City Ransom no doubt helped shape my career choice.
That’s also why it’s been great fun watching the genre enjoy a resurgence thanks to games like Fight’N Rage or the recently-released Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge. The wealth of details included in those games got me thinking about how all the alley-set levels and warehouse boss fights can sometimes mirror the broken bottle attacks, gang confrontations, and airborne furniture that I attend in my job.
Real-life violence is never engaging, and certainly not as gratifying as a game. But the best beat-’em-ups offer moments of gameplay that can be as impressive, stupid, and oddly realistic as the punches thrown offline. Here are a few of them.
Double Dragon (1987)
The story of your character fighting to avenge his girlfriend’s kidnapping is much neater than the violent love triangles I’ve encountered on the job.
Take the girl who fell out with her neighbor, and who phoned her boyfriend to come around and administer a beating. When the guy arrived, he was so drunk he made it up only half the footpath before he collapsed. My fellow guards administered first aid until the girlfriend ran down, slapped him into consciousness, and led him away.
At this point, the guy remembered what he was there for and duly ripped his shirt off, throwing it over his target’s car. Then he realized he’d got the wrong vehicle.
“Don’t think we’d come close to having moves like that,” observes Brett Jones, a fellow doorman and private soldier in the British Army Reserve. But there are similarities between his duties and the acrobatics of NES heroes Battletoads: Both are used to dressing in green and fighting their way through hostile territory.