VR allows the dancing side of boxing to come to life

VR allows the dancing side of boxing to come to life

I’m pretty sure I became fascinated with boxing thanks to Muhammad Ali. He moved like no one I had ever seen, leaping gracefully around the ring, in and out with feints like a fencer, sometimes snapping gloves together as if clapping. ‘Dancing’, that’s what Ali called it.

I studied a traditional martial art for most of my youth. My parents were kind enough to let me turn our little garage into some sort of gymnasium, where I had a huge heavy bag bolted to the wall (the bolt creaked when the bag was hit or hit too hard), a speed bag on the opposite wall, and a floor-to-ceiling ball in the middle of the room that was missing the floor connection, and therefore swung like a black pendulum.

Even outside of the garage and my martial arts classes, I would continue to practice. For years, I particularly like shadowboxing; this is where I see the beauty of boxing the most, the dance. I often practice sidesteps, pivots, ducks, blocks and parries, rolls and counters, most of the time I try to imitate what I have seen boxers do rather than something that I was taught. (Similar to the character Powder from Arcane, watching his sister throw quick combinations, then awkwardly trying to mimic her moves.)

Fight Night Champion

I’ve never been in a boxing gym before trying to train, but if I did it would probably be a situation like a scene in Billy Elliott (a film about dance as a way of self-expression, as critics and the director noted), where Billy is primarily interested in bouncing around the ring and is quickly knocked down by his opponent. Bruce Lee – who loved boxing and was a cha-cha champion in Hong Kong – spoke about martial arts as being essentially a matter of self-expression tooand I think that’s what I’m starting to feel when I’m shadowboxing.

Why I never got in the ring? Mainly because of the dreadful case of brain damage inherent in the sport. People have been killed in the ring. This is a fact that makes it difficult to even watch or write about boxing. Writer Davis Miller, whose thoughts on the sport seem similar to mine (and who found his own form of self-expression through martial arts and boxing), stopped writing articles that celebrated boxing entirely shortly after watching Sugar Ray Leonard get beaten near the end of his career and seeing how indifferent others seemed about it.

So my relationship with boxing is complicated, but the aforementioned danger issue is obviously not an issue when it comes to boxing in video games. I don’t know how many hours I spent playing Fight Night games, going through career modes over and over, all the time trying to explore my aesthetic ideal of defense. One thing that always bothered me and other players was the footwork approach; the figures almost always moved as if speed and grace were forbidden. While I loved the upper body flexibility you could show off, going around the ring was oddly awkward recalling the skill of Ali, Willie Pep (whose motto was basically hit and run) and by Pernell Whitaker.

As many know, the Fight Night series hasn’t produced a new game in years – a recent report hints that a new one is coming, but is still at a very early stage. (Another great boxing game on the horizon, eSports Boxing Club, still doesn’t have a release date.) I figured the next time I’d enjoy a boxing game it would be one of these two future works. There’s a saying in boxing, though – the punch you don’t see coming hits you the hardest. In my case, it happened when my uncle kindly loaned me some VR gear and I tried out the boxing game called The Thrill of the Fight. This is how it feels:

The thrill of combat.

I stand at the corner of the ring, staring at my red gloves. My (computer-controlled) opponent waits in his own corner, and the referee gives a few brief instructions as I walk around, stretching my arms a bit, moving my head from side to side, making sure that the VR headset is properly attached. The bell rings. I’m not stuck hanging around the ring as an analog-stick-controlled avatar; I can jump, shuffle my feet, go back and forth. I move as I want, as long as I stay within the limits I set for the game. Sometimes I imitate Vasiliy Lomachenko (who had dance lessons to help him with his boxing footwork) using his trick of sliding to the opponent’s side and hitting them from a different angle. At other times, I’ll use a right hand lead before darting to the side, like Roy Jones Jr. I’ll block incoming punches with my arms crossed like George Foreman, or just drop my hands and stay away from attacks like Prince Naseem. I like to crouch quickly under the blows of my opponent like Whitaker, before pivoting and getting out of reach with a few jabs. I will always change position, between orthodox (left foot forward) and left-handed (right foot forward). Sometimes when I’ve had a grueling game, I trip over my (real) chair and sit down for the minute break, like a boxer would on his stool, and I feel my heart racing and the sweat rising. form on my forehead. When I’m done playing for the night, I’ll have thrown at least five hundred punches, if the game stats are correct.

I come up against a computer opponent who is much bigger than me, and my usual cross arm blocks don’t work well – I keep getting hit with hard hooks. I start my dance, dropping my hands, bouncing, leaning left and right, and suddenly I don’t get hit anymore. The opponent looks confused, and I land my own precise bursts. It’s a great feeling, but after only a little while I get tired and have to lie still again, breathing hard. The opponent presses me again and knocks me down (depicted in-game with things suddenly turning black, before I automatically get back up). At the end of the match, the referee announces that it’s a draw, despite the fact that I was well ahead of the opponent. It’s frustrating, tossing and kicking and sweating for just under ten minutes and being thwarted by a moment. It’s true to life, but when it happens in real life, it can be heartbreaking rather than a minor irritation. Herol Graham (so accomplished defensively that Chris Eubank decided he would never fight him) was winning a World Championship match until he was one-shot and eliminated. He never got to become a world champion, but people still remember him for his nimble moves in the ring.

I never predicted that virtual reality would give me the chance to use my faux dance boxing in a game, the kind of style that can’t really be done in something like Fight Night. It made me reconsider my reluctance to get into VR games as a whole, due to the dazzling potential for self-expression that technology can offer gamers. I wondered if I would ever find a game with mechanics that could tap into the fighting style I love; the answer, ultimately, is that the game just needed to give me the freedom to try and express it myself.

Article source https://www.eurogamer.net/vr-allows-the-dancing-side-of-boxing-to-come-to-life


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