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I Don't Know Mortal Kombat

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"I've been playing guitar for fourteen years, so it's actually less than I've been playing video games. I had a go on the Guitar Hero III earlier, and I don't really want to tell you the result I got." note 
Herman Li, (on playing "Through the Fire and Flames" on Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock), DragonForce

When someone does something in a video game they, of course, become an expert at it in real life. If you know Mortal Kombat, then you can mop the floor with even the most seasoned fighters after practicing on your Murder Simulators (or so the Moral Guardians say) and if you watch MacGyver you can get right to work on Homemade Inventions.

However, when you already have the talent in question and try to play the game, you may find that you don't really know how. A lethal fighter gets tripped up on the controls, or a pro guitarist can't handle the simplified button-pushing. Maybe Reality Is Unrealistic, or perhaps it's because you're the skill equivalent of a Straw Vulcan and cannot accept a version that's been simplified for the Rule of Fun. Either way, you have no choice but to admit, "I don't know Mortal Kombat." If you won't admit it, you might just be one of those "Stop Having Fun" Guys, instead.

Compare Your Costume Needs Work.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Patlabor, police mech pilot Noa proved a total failure at a Humongous Mecha video game because she was so used to the real thing.
  • Fatal Fury: The Motion Picture:
    • A scene with Hero Terry Bogard trying and failing to play a Fighting Game at an arcade, to the amusement of a little girl watching who tells him that her baby brother is better than him. Possibly a subversion: the sound/voice effects heard in the game are Andy's.
    • There's also one side-story in an artbook which has him losing to a kid while they're playing Art of Fighting.
    • This official picture depicts a similar scene; but curiously, Terry seems to be complaining at the Art of Fighting demonstration screen, rather than to some actual gameplay event. Funnily enough, right next to him is John Crawley (an AOF character) getting his ass whupped at... Fatal Fury 2.
  • An episode of Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu shows Sōsuke playing a shooting game in an arcade. He does pretty well at first but runs out of virtual ammo and, unable to wrap his brain around the concept of "firing" offscreen to "reload," gets flustered and shoots several holes in the screen with his real gun instead.
  • A story in both the manga and the anime of Ranma ½ has Ranma, currently in female form, trying to persuade a lazy and rather spoiled kid named Yotaro to start playing outside. When s/he asks how much fun sitting around playing video games all day could be, he turns over the controls for a vertical scrolling shooter game. Ranma brags that his/her superior reflexes means it will pose no challenge... and is promptly wiped out. Genma proves to be better, even in panda form. Over a dozen volumes later in the manga, Ranma is seen schooling Miss Hinako in a Street Fighter clone. Must have trained in the meantime.
  • In the Tenchi Universe TV-anime, the Nakama eventually recruit two legendary Magic Knight warriors to help them. A while afterward, Sasami is shown thoroughly trouncing the BOTH of them in a Fighting Game. The ending actually expounds that one of them started calling her "Sensei", entering her tutelage to learn Mortal Kombat. To be fair, as the other points out: "Well Azaka, we didn't have toys like this in our day."
  • Expert gunslinger, bounty hunter and former assassin Black Cat is really not good at first-person shooters. Not even arcade ones with flash guns.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi: lead wizard Negi tries and fails at playing a magic-based trading card/arcade game based around the same dodge-and-incant tactics he uses in battle. Oddly, the one who beat him was the demonic-beast/warrior class fighter Kotaro, who just happens to be better than Negi at games (Negi won the fight they had later that day, avoiding the pit-falls he encountered in the game). Negi did, however, do extremely well at the game before Kotaro showed up, so much so that the girls couldn't believe it was his first time playing.
  • YuYu Hakusho: Even though he's inherited Genkai's Spirit Wave and technically surpassed her as a martial artist by defeating Toguro when she failed to do so, Yusuke still loses to her almost all the time at a fighting game.
  • During one of the festival chapters of To Love Ru, highly skilled assassin Golden Darkness got very upset when she couldn't succeed at certain contests involving coordination and aim ... while Rito won with ease.
  • Ritsu of K-On! is apparently very bad at the Bland-Name Product version of Drum Mania. Though it's acknowledged in canon that she's not very good at keeping time, she's not a bad drummer by any means.
  • Zigzagged in one chapter of Case Closed. Ran, who is a very adept karate practitioner, tries her hand and fails an arcade fighting game (that uses arm and leg braces such that your movements are command inputs). Then, drawing on her experience, she beats the AI opponent using real life moves. But then, an avid gamer challenges her and defeats her before she could even react. He flatly tells her that "being a good fighter does not correlate to being good at games." Of course, said gamer happens to be the Asshole Victim-du-jour...
  • In Dream Eater Merry, Merry, who is incredibly strong and a brilliant fighter, loses to Yumeji all the time in a fighting game.
  • In One-Punch Man, Hellish Blizzard challenges Saitama to a challenge, where her group and Saitama's group play a fighting game. Saitama gathers "Demon Cyborg" Genos, "Silverfang" Bang, and King to help him out. It turns out that while Saitama has the game and plays at an upper intermediate level, Genos and Bang turn out to be completely useless as they have never played a video game before and are baffled at what's going on onscreen—Bang needed Saitama to remember who he's playing as, whereas Genos accidentally destroyed the controller without realizing it thinking that pushing the buttons harder makes the attacks stronger.
  • Played with in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders. Jotaro has to play a video game with Terrence D'arby, whose stand ability is stealing the souls of people he beats in a video game. Jotaro is permitted to choose the game from among any of the games D'arby owns, and he chooses a baseball game. It quickly becomes apparent that Jotaro has never played a video game before. Jotaro says he picked the baseball simulator because he knows the rules to baseball. So it's not that Jotaro is actually good at baseball (or at least, not without cheating. His stand would make any team he's put on unbeatable), just that he knows enough about baseball that he thinks he'd be slightly better at it than any other game he could've chosen.

    Comic Books 
  • In Top 10, Girl One (playing herself) keeps dying while playing the Top Ten videogame. Naturally, this is foreshadowing of her real death.
  • K Chronicles: Keith Knight did a strip about the humiliation of being a cartoonist and losing at Pictionary to his friend, a nurse. He then gets revenge by beating her in Operation. There is also mention of a private detective who jumped in front of a steam roller after losing at Clue.
  • Empowered: Ninjette sucks at video games about ninjas, despite being a ninja herself. (To be fair, she was doing pretty well up until the camera turned on her.)
  • During the Return of Superman saga, Superboy mentions at one point that he finally beat the Return of Superman game... as Steel, because when he tries to play as Superboy he's always dead by level three.note 

    Fan Works 
  • In Aeon Entelechy Evangelion when Toja (race-lifted Toji) beats Shinji, the latter tries to use his hand-to-hand combat training to defend himself, only to realize that said skills are strictly attuned to him being in the EVA, and gets another punch to the face.
  • Played with in the Girls und Panzer fanfic, Virtual Reality Ensues, in which the girls of Anglerfish Team try to play a video game. Miho and Hana struggle due to being used to real tanks, Mako takes to it quickly as a result of being an Instant Expert and watching Miho and Hana's mistakes, Saori does decently as a result of not having much contradictory experience to overcome, and Yukari does well as a result of having played before.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Glass Onion reveals that famed gentleman sleuth Benoit Blanc is terrible at murder mystery games. He makes for an awful Among Us imposter, and has a deep dislike towards Clue.
  • In Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, the title stock-car racer attempts a driving video game, and loses badly. In this case, though, it's used to show how traumatized he's become; he's so overcome by fear of racing that he can't even play a racing video game, much less compete in an actual race.
  • In Wasabi, Jean Reno's secret agent character gets his butt handed to him by a Japanese highschool student playing a series of arcade games, causing a bunch of high-schoolers to laugh at how silly he's doing. Yakuza thugs then attack the arcade, and Reno proceeds to blast them all to bits in a manic gunfight as the shocked high-school students looks on. With little coin "bling!" sound effects added to each hit, just for giggles.
  • Lampshaded in G.I. Joe: Retaliation, when Roadblock states that he can't understand how Duke can be so good in battle yet so bad at the FPS they're playing.

  • Played completely straight in Corpies, Titan is terrible at video games, including superhero fighting games. It doesn't help that the Titan playable character in the game that Hexcellent manages to get him playing is way weaker than he really is for balancing reasons.
  • Played with in Crusade, the third volume of the Empires trilogy: King Azoun IV of Cormyr is a terrible chess player who can never beat his wife, Queen Filfaeril. He nevertheless manages to defeat Yamun Khahan, the Tuigan emperor, in an actual war, despite being outnumbered by more than three-to-one, commanding a much less experienced army, and despite the fact that the Khahan himself is a recognized military genius. When he returns home, is able to win about one game out of four against his wife.
    • Note that Yamun Khahan wasn't quite free to choose the times and places, but tried to make the best out of the previous defeat. Filfaeril, on the other hand, not only is a daughter of one of the most competent wizards in her world, in the free time she "unofficially" runs a personal intelligence network.
  • Ciaphas Cain notes that his friend the Lord General is rather poor at Regicide despite being a master tactition and...well...the Lord General. He speculates that this is due to a combination of Ciaphas playing mind games with his opponents and the fact that a real war involves much more complications to consider.
  • In the Modesty Blaise series, Modesty is a skilled fighter with a wide variety of weapons, including swords. A Taste for Death has a scene establishing that she's never been able to get the hang of fencing because she learned real sword-fighting first and it's so ingrained that she can't handle the arbitrary rules and restrictions that were added to make fencing a sport. In particular, she can't adapt her thinking to the fact that in fencing a phase is over as soon as the first hit is struck, because she knows in her bones that a real fight would keep going and who made the first hit wouldn't matter nearly as much as who made the last.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Top Gear, Jeremy Clarkson failed to complete a race on a track he knew in real life on Gran Turismo. He put this down to the fact that the track in the game wasn't quite a perfect representation, and it was missing a couple of corners. Plus the price of failure would have been time in hospital, as opposed to simply pressing restart. Not to mention the fact that Leguna Seca's infamous chicane turn (a very steep downhill S-turn with sharp corners) has killed people who didn't treat it seriously. Two other points: Clarkson's time in the game is perfectly doable IRL (they acknowledged this in the episode) and the chicane's entrance is just over the crest of a hill; it's not easy to enter it fast.
  • Parks and Recreation's Ron Swanson, a lifelong hunter, is intrigued by a Big Buck Hunter arcade game at the local roller rink, and is beyond furious that he is initially quite bad at it. (Ultimately subverted in that he's frustrated enough that he goes back and plays it until he gets good and earns the high score.)
    • In another episode, where the staff makes presents for Leslie, he discovers that, somehow, he finds building gingerbread houses infinitely more difficult than building regular houses. So Ron lets Andy build the gingerbread house and instead builds a scale model of the city council chambers (which, as a master craftsman, he can do on a whim), and announces his intention to help Leslie run for councilwoman.
  • In Gene Simmons Family Jewels, KISS tries to play "Detroit Rock City" on Rock Band 2, but fails after only a few seconds.
  • A Saturday Night Live skit featuring Tom Brady had him unable to throw a football into a hole at a carnival game, even when Granny could do it with no problem.
  • In Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, John Connor has been trained since infancy in combat tactics, firearms and military strategy. He can't play a FPS to save his life (he can beat the game's obnoxious owner bloody, though).
  • The Peripheral (2022): Played with in the case of Burton, a retired Super Soldier who scrapes together a meager income by playing virtual reality combat simulators. Whenever he gets stuck or needs help, he turns to his sister, who is way better than him but has no real-world combat training whatsoever.

    Video Games 
  • F-Zero: In his F-Zero GX ending, Draq is playing the game itself and crashes before the finish line.
  • Tytti Norrbuck from Super Robot Wars is known as the herald of the Elemental Lord of Water... yet in a Beach Episode, she prefers to stay on land... because she can't swim. Not only that, but considering where she's from (Finland) as well as the fact that the title of her theme song ("From the Land of Water and Ice") refers to it, you'd think she would've gotten around to learn how to at some point in her life.
  • Similarly in Tatsunoko vs. Capcom, Morrigan's ending shows the succubus losing against a random child in the title game. And boy, does she look angry.
  • In Ken's ending in X-Men vs. Street Fighter, it is shown that Ken was actually playing the game with his son... and getting his ass handed to him. It's interesting to notice why:
    Ken: Son, you've improved! How'd you get so good?
    Mel: Daddy, I watched you and copied your moves!
  • In Mass Effect 3, challenging Samantha Traynor to a game of chess will always result in Shepard losing, despite Shepard's legendary prowess in leading real battles. When Shepard complains that the game doesn't reflect real-life tactics very well, Traynor retorts that real soldiers don't move on an 8-by-8 square grid.
  • In Grand Theft Auto V, Michael De Santa will sometimes be playing Righteous Slaughter with his son Jimmy when you switch to him. Despite being a One-Man Army in the story, he's apparently very bad at playing shooters himself, judging by the fact that he throws the controller and storms away after a few seconds.
  • Fire Emblem: Awakening has an example similar to Mass Effect's, with Robin, a gifted tactician, failing at a game of chess in their support with Virion, because they try too hard to apply their philosophy for real battles unto the game, while their opponent has no such qualms. note 
  • Trauma Center: Second Opinion invokes this trope in its congratulatory message for clearing all of the optional X operations, warning you that you shouldn't dive straight into real-life surgery just because you cleared the game out, and that if you actually are a certified and trained surgeon, that you shouldn't tell your patients how much you struggled at a medical simulation game.
  • The protagonist of Persona 5 shows himself to be impossibly good with firearms when dungeon crawling, firing off ridiculously flashy, laser accurate shots with a single hand. In the Tower Confidant, which revolves around him learning new gun skills from a kid who is an expert at a light gun arcade game, he's absolutely hopeless at the video game.
  • As shown in the page image from the Cinderella Girls Theater spinoff, Miyo Harada from THE iDOLM@STER: Cinderella Girls struggles to comprehend arcade racing games despite having an extensive background with automobiles and motorsports.

  • In MegaTokyo Largo defeated Junpei, an actual ninja in Mortal Kombat in order to get visa to Japan. Junpei immediately started calling him l33t Master and following him around expecting tutelage. It's still Junpei who saves Largo from any actual danger, however.
  • Vash from Misfile: "Give me a break. Smiting people with my real sword is WAY more intuitive than these stupid controls." Ash is similarly afflicted as far as driving games go. Amusingly enough, they both lose to the same person.
  • Jenny Breeden of The Devil's Panties has been trained in at least two kinds of dance. Guess what she can't play to save her life.
  • El Goonish Shive filler has Elliot and Ellen losing a Fighting Game to Grace. Justified, since Grace is superhumanly fast, far beyond the good reaction Ellen got from Supernatural Martial Arts. Adapting for any locomotions on the fly as a descendant of freeform shapeshifters probably helps too.
  • Inverted, then subverted by this strip from Terminal Lance: Abe, a Marine, is good at first-person shooters, but not because of his military training.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Randy from South Park is a talented guitarist who can't play Guitar Hero to save his life, even when it's the same song he apparently knows by heart. Then again, using guitar strings is a lot different than using buttons.
  • Corey of Grojband tries his hand at the Guitar Hero-esq game Solo Shredder. Even though he's a wiz at real guitars, he finds himself unable to play the game's guitar-controller because the controller has buttons in lieu of strings.
  • Danny Phantom: While Danny is the best fighter in his trio of friends in real life (due to his ghost powers), Sam is the most skilled by far in the video game they like to play, one which involves combat.
  • An episode of Batman Beyond has Batman's female Secret-Keeper friend Max demolishing a martial arts master at an arcade. He turns into a Stalker with a Crush.
  • You'd think that kid genius/mad scientist Dexter from Dexter's Laboratory would have no problem with the scientific technology known as video games, but his big sister Dee Dee always beats him.
  • While Wyatt from 6teen is an experienced guitarist, he fails miserably when he tries to play a Rock Band-like game. It is discussed that since the finger movement is fundamentally different, guitarists usually have a hard time adapting.

    Real Life 
  • Guitar Hero is very different from actually playing a guitar.
    • Herman Li, guitarist of DragonForce, couldn't play through his band's song, "Through the Fire and Flames", on Hard level in Guitar Hero 3 (see Reality Is Unrealistic), even though he's actually played the game plenty.
    • Before him, Troy van Leeuwen, lead guitarist of Queens of the Stone Age admitted to being unable to complete "No One Knows" in the original Guitar Hero. They have nothing to be ashamed of, but...
    • Tom Morello, guitarist for Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave and The Nightwatchman said in a radio interview getting beat by the daughter of producer for The Nightwatchman album in Guitar Hero 2 led him to get himself added as a boss in Guitar Hero 3. He even mentions it in his making-of video in the game itself.
      "I have the game at my house, and 11-year-old kids can beat me at my own songs, so that's a very humbling experience."
    • Scott Ian, the rhythm guitarist from Anthrax, was also unable to complete his band's song "Madhouse" in Guitar Hero 2 on Easy difficulty.
    • DragonForce's other guitarist, Sam Totman, has said that he can't even beat "Smoke on the Water".
    • A Brazilian magazine asked a guitarist, a musical producer and a Guitar Hero fan for a small tournament. The final had the fan with over 90% and the producer at 80%.
    • The lead developer of the Konami published Rock Revolution had failed the Ramones song "Blitzkrieg Bop" at the 2008 E3, after having just gotten through playing the song with a Ramones tribute band.
    • As this video shows, Jonathan Coulton (who wrote "Still Alive" for the Portal soundtrack) failed to get through it singing in Rock Band when he was first announcing its release for that game.
    • The band Rush appeared on the The Colbert Report and played their song "Tom Sawyer" in Rock Band. They failed at 31%.
    • There is a video of Megadeth's Dave Mustaine screwing up his band's song "Hangar 18" on Guitar Hero 2's Easy, even though he's been playing it at live shows for 18 years or so, on a French video game show. This trope and rhythm games are absolutely made for each other.
    • There is a clip on G4 from a gaming event where the Barenaked Ladies played "One Week" on Karaoke Revolution. Ed Robertson cried, "'Lousy'?! I wrote this song!"
    • Ringo Starr admits having trouble playing as his virtual self in The Beatles: Rock Band. Note that drumming in those rhythm games is more accurate to actual drums than playing plastic guitars.
    • Paul has also admitted to having trouble with the game. He admitted that he once had to tell his grandkids, "Listen, you may beat me at Rock Band, but I made the original records, so shut up."
    • Disturbed says during one of their Music as a Weapon festivals, (which, inspired by Ozzfest, happened to have gaming tents) they were convinced by a few fans to try out their own songs on Rock Band. They failed miserably.
    • Def Leppard's Phil Collen and Rick Savage failing on video game instruments.
    • Perhaps the low point for vocals fans is hearing that Jon Bon Jovi can't succeed in singing his own song.
  • One famous low point in Sega's history was when they bragged about how realistic their sequel to Super Monaco GP was (to their credit, for 16-bit standards, it was), showcasing it with their sponsored championship level race car driver - none other than Ayrton Senna. He crashed.
  • Kevin Federline (once a backup dancer for Britney Spears before he married her) was challenged to play an arcade game that required you to dance in a specific pattern to the music. He failed miserably. It's interesting to note that trained dancers tend to do worse at games like DanceDanceRevolution.
  • Joseph D. Kucan is not an army leader, but he plays one in Command & Conquer. He has admitted in an interview that he sucks at Real-Time Strategy games.
  • Speaking of Mortal Kombat:
  • Sylvester Stallone mentioned in a talk show that he played the Rocky PS2 game against his son, and lost pitifully. While he played as Rocky and his son as Spider Rico, one of those side characters whom Rocky defeated easily in the actual movie.
  • To some accounts, Napoléon Bonaparte was an extremely poor chess player.
  • Mike Tyson claimed that he never beat Glass Joe in Punch-Out!!. To say nothing of fighting himself.
  • Not quite a video game, but the Air Force has found that actual trained aircraft pilots are less-than-ideal pilots of drones, largely because their inability to feel the G-forces and other physical feedback they're used to leads them to over-maneuver. Pilots trained in simulators and, ironically, video games are more used to flying without such feedback.
  • From the staff behind the BEMANI series:
    • Yoshitaka Nishimura, aka DJ YOSHITAKA, the director of the Reflec Beat series, is an aversion. He has demonstrated proficiency at the very game series he directs, and has a player profile with an ID of 1.
    • Jun Wakita, aka wac, is a straight example: At JAEPO 2013, he tries the EX chart to one of his own songs, "Ongaku", which is known as one of the hardest charts in the entire series. A huge emphasis on "tries"; his fans got quite the laugh out of it.
  • When former astronaut Ed Lu played Kerbal Space Program, his very first rocket crashed in less than 30 seconds. He did eventually manage to make it to space, but never did get into orbit. Although lasting 30 seconds before crashing is still better than many KSP players can claim, it's certainly a far cry from what he's done in real life.
  • Sada Shugi, one of the members of kiki* (one of the real life musicians providing songs in Show by Rock!!), failed his own song at 8 star (hardest) difficulty within a few seconds.
  • Keith Elwin, 5-time pinball world champion, tried playing the Nintendo Entertainment System port of the pinball machine High Speed. He got a Game Over in less than 60 seconds. This includes the time the game took to add up his score.
  • Pierce Brosnan claims he once played GoldenEye (1997) and shot himself in the foot.note  When he played a round against Jimmy Fallon, it ended very badly for him.
  • Michael Vick, the infamous Atlanta Falcons quarterback who was famously a Game-Breaker in Madden 04 with his 95 speed rating and 97 arm strength rating, admitted that he actually wasn't any good at playing himself in the game. In 2017, he wrote "The only person on the entire planet who wasn't unstoppable while playing as Michael Vick — was me. Michael Vick."


Video Example(s):


Detective Bad at 'Among Us'

Despite being the world's greatest detective, Benoit Blanc is bad at the social deduction game Among Us, where one must suss out imposters.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (16 votes)

Example of:

Main / IDontKnowMortalKombat

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