Street Fighter tournament transforms gamers into virtual ninjas

Scenes from the Virtual Ninja Street Fighter tournament

A Virtual Ninja research project that culminated in a Street Fighter tournament at UVic has been putting a different spin on video game culture.

Humanities Dean Chris Goto-Jones, who started the research in 2010, has found that far from causing more violence, fighting games are a form of martial art that can make us better people.

The Faculty of Humanities held its inaugural Virtual Ninja Street Fighter tournament on Jan. 26 in the new Digital Scholarship Commons, located in UVic's Mearns Centre for Learning - McPherson Library. Sixteen UVic students and staff competed on two Sony PS4 consoles, which were later donated to the library, for the crown of UVic's top ninja.

Goto-Jones, a philosophy professor who specializes in Japanese and East Asian philosophy, says his research shows that gamers can engage with fighting games as a form of “ethical self-cultivation.”

“The hypothesis is that playing fighting games is actually a form of martial art and so discipline through fighting games can lead to self-transformation and personal betterment,” he says.

The Virtual Ninja project, which Goto-Jones started at Leiden University in the Netherlands, draws on Bushido, a warrior code of behaviour influenced by Zen Buddhism.

"In certain threads of Bushido, it’s argued any skilled act practised to the point of forgetting about the activity and becoming expert is a kind of spiritual pathway," says Goto-Jones. "We become an expert at it but also better as a person—there’s a moral quality to it."

Read the full story in The Ring.