Mortal Kombat wasn't my first competitive fighting game. That didn't happen until Tekken Tag Tournament (the original). However, the original Mortal Kombat was the first fighting game that helped me understand there were better players out there. I'd played a ton of Street Fighter 2, but rarely found anyone at the arcades who posed a real challenge. When I went to the local Nickel Palace to play Mortal Kombat for the first time, I was stomped.

Of course, Mortal Kombat was new to me and I couldn't play the game like SF2, but this was the first game that gave me a proper rival. Once I established myself as a solid MK player at the Nickel Palace, I went to the closest mall to my house and started playing at that arcade as well. It wasn't long before "Sub-Zero kid" made an appearance. This was the one person I could not beat. Every time I had a solid win streak going, he would show up and end it. It got so bad that I started to dread walking into the arcade because I knew I'd see him there.

We eventually became good friends and our rivalry continued into future MK releases and even other fighting games. When we wanted to branch out to find more competition, it was pretty difficult. This was an era before you could Google something to find at least some information. These days, things are a lot easier if you're looking to get into the competitive Mortal Kombat scene. With Mortal Kombat X on the horizon, now would be a great time to start looking at what it would take to get involved.

Your first step towards getting into competitive Mortal Kombat is to stop playing online. MK9 and Injustice both had relatively lackluster netcode, which meant that online was considerably different from offline play. If you don't agree, then you need to play more offline games or improve your skill. At the highest level, there's a significant difference between online and offline in games like MK9 and Injustice. Everyone hopes that Mortal Kombat X will feature netcode on par with Killer Instinct, Tekken Tag 2 and other solid online fighters, but even if that's the case, nothing compares to offline play.

If the netcode is decent, online can be a great practice tool. If it's not, then you will end up falling into bad habits that only work online (where it's difficult to react to many situations). When you try to play the same way offline against skilled players, you will lose badly. As long as you know the difference between online-only tactics and what will work regardless of latency issues, then you're OK to practice online. However, it's always best to make some time to get offline practice in with friends, especially if they're better than you at the game.

At the moment, your best bet to locate other local MK players via the Test Your Might forums. They have regional forums for players to find and connect with other locals. While the competitive MK community isn't quite as large as the Smash Bros. or Capcom competitive communities, there's a good chance you'll have at least a few solid players close to home. Then you can start practicing together and potentially even carpool to a major tournament.

It's important to try to find other players better than you. If you're constantly playing people who you beat repeatedly, you won't find yourself improving much. Losses are the best way to improve your skills, so long as you're analyzing your play to determine why it is you lost in the first place. Many players make the mistake of getting angry or discouraged when they lose. This won't help you get better and eventually defeat the person you lost to. In fact, it's a good idea to ask the opponent why you lost to him or her. In most cases (especially offline), the other player will be happy to give you helpful insight as to why you lost if he or she thinks you're seriously trying to improve your skills.

If you can't make it to regional or national tournaments (also found on the Test Your Might forums), then at the very least you should watch the tournaments broadcast live on Twitch.tv. When you're watching, don't simply assume you would beat whoever is doing well. A tournament environment is very different from the safe confines of your home. When people get out of their comfort zones, playing to the best of their abilities can be difficult.

One great example is volume. Most people are accustomed to playing fighting games with the volume clearly audible. While you may not think this makes a difference, if it's what you're used to, as soon as you remove the volume, it becomes difficult to play comfortably. Try muting your TV the next time you play a fighting game. You'll find that it makes for a very different experience if you're used to hearing everything. While some tournaments have headphones at every setup, this is not something you can count on. It's very common to travel long distances for a tournament, only to find that the volume is too low, or the room is too loud to hear anything.

The bottom line is simple. The more you play out of your comfort zone and the more you play against better players, the faster you'll improve and the better you'll perform at tournaments. Some people just like to play casually and that's fine, but if you strive for more, competitive fighting games can be extremely fun.