I Don't Know Mortal Kombat

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"I've been playing the guitar for fourteen years, so it's actually less than I've been playing video games. I had a go on the Guitar Hero 3 earlier, and I don't really want to tell you the result I got."

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 say, "Stop having fun, guys," instead.

Compare Your Costume Needs Work.

Examples of I Don't Know Mortal Kombat include:

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.
  • The Fatal Fury movie had 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.
  • 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 videogames 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.
  • Mahou Sensei Negima! gives a straight and averted example: 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.
  • Yu Yu Hakusho: Even though he's inherited Genkai's Spirit Wave and technicallly 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.


  • In Top Ten, Girl One (playing herself) keeps dying while playing the Top Ten videogame. Naturally, this is foreshadowing of her real death.
  • Non-video game example: Keith Knight of K Chronicles 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 videogames 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.


  • 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.

Films -- Live Action

  • 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 the French action film 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.


  • Animorphs: Marco claims he can drive thanks to his videogame experience. He really can't, but he's better than the other Animorphs. He can drive a tank, though. (Although he's worried about flipping the tank over, since he can't just hit reset.)
    • It's apparently because the entire thing is labeled so that someone with a second grade education can drive the thing. And judging by the way it was shown on Lock and Load, it doesn't look too much more difficult than a video game to go from A toward the general vicinity of B.
  • Averted in the Worlds of Power book "Bionic Commando". The title character stops for some pizza during his adventure, and then dominates in the Bionic Commando arcade game. A kid is impressed, and the commando tells him he had a lot of practice [in real life]. This is rather ridiculous if you remember the arcade game was a side scrolling platform jumper, so it wasn't even like the Back to the Future III shooting situation, such as that was. Though it was obviously for the purposes of product placement, and telling kids to stay in shape if planned on a career in special forces obviously wouldn't have gone over big with Nintendo (though the books weren't licensed with Nintendo itself in the first place).
  • 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.

Live Action TV

  • In Top Gear, Jeremy Clarkson failed to complete a race on track that 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.
  • 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 Peyton Manning had him unable to throw a football into a hole at a carnival game, even when Granny could do it with no problem.
  • In 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).

Video Games

  • 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.
  • F-Zero: In his F-Zero GX ending, Draq is playing the game itself and crashes before the finish line.
  • 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!

  • Similarly in Tatsunoko vs. Capcom, Morrigan's ending shows the succubus losing against a random child in the title game.

Web Comics

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.
    • He's not alone. Guitar Hero is very different from actually playing a guitar. See Real Life below.
  • 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.

Real Life

  • 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, the 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.
    • 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.
      • To be fair, Smoke On The Water isn't all "duh duh duhhhh duh duh du-duhhh"; it's also got a fast solo. Also, GH 1 was very strict with the execution of hammer-ons and pull-offs.
    • 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%.
    • To be entirely fair to all of these otherwise accomplished guitarists, Guitar Hero and Rock Band guitar playing is to actual guitar playing as typing is to longhand.
      • Some of the bigger differences to clarify:
        • The guitar is the equivalent of 5 frets and 1 string. This simplifies it, but also changes all of the finger-work to fit within these confines. Any pattern that alternates between multiple strings in real life will force the player to alternate between frets instead. Snow (Hey Oh) is an extreme example of how this will frustrate players of the game, let alone real guitarists.
        • You have to follow the chart to a tee. That is to say, the timing isn't more demanding than real guitar, but you have to keep in the tempo that the original song was keeping.
        • All harmonics, tremolo, bends, ect, are replaced by fret changes. This can really complicate a bend-heavy solo like Smoke on the Water. (Not to mention the fast tremolo in Raining Blood being changed to a really fast trill, making the song three times harder in the game). Also, the picking is handled by a plastic wedge (the "strum bar" which is harder to pick rapidly with precision, and can really screw up actual guitarists who think their skills will transition over.
        • New Pro Guitar controllers have a 6-string button layout and short strings for picking, and there was also a real (but now discontinued) Squier built for the game. The chords are usually correct, but of course the gameplay is still more confining and less detailed compared to picking up a guitar and playing.
    • The lead developer of the Konami published Rock Revolution had failed the Ramones song Blitzkreig 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 in Rock Band when he was first announcing its release for that game.
      • He was singing, for clarification. Something similar happened when Coheed and Cambria's Claudio Sanchez took on "Welcome Home"—he managed to complete it, just with a score of around 80%.[1] Besides, watching the video it's obvious that Coulton's drummer brought the group down.
      • He clearly didn't fail singing, he was singing consistently well. His bassist (Leo LaPorte) failed out three times, causing the band to fail after a certain amount of time.
    • The band Rush appeared on the The Colbert Report and played their song "Tom Sawyer" in Rock Band. They failed at 31%.
      • Although the version of "Tom Sawyer" on Rock Band is a cover. It may not seem like it should make a difference, but there's apparently a difference of 5 tiers (out of 9) between the vocal difficulty of the cover version and the original version, which is available as DLC as part of the Moving Pictures album pack.
    • 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. 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. One of them cried, "'Lousy'?! I wrote this song!"
      • Karaoke Revolution is pretty bad with this. The game insists that you keep a perfectly steady tone, which means any difficulty above easy is horribly annoying for anyone who wants to actually sound like a human being and not a mechanical tone-generator or an R&B singer strung out on Auto-Tune. Later games, especially Rock Band, have an engine designed to be a bit more forgiving with this aspect while still maintaining some challenge, but it still has some ways to go for certain singing styles.
    • Ringo Starr admits having trouble playing as his virtual self in The Beatles: Rock Band. Note that drumming in those rythym games is more accurate to actual drums than playing plastic guitars.
      • This is because in real life the drummer SETS the tempo usually. Having to follow a visual click track that doesn't even keep a perfect beat can easily trip up even a very accomplished drummer. Ones that are used to following click tracks (Nine Inch Nails is well known for this live) will find it somewhat easier.
      • That said, if you can play expert drums well on a drum game, the skills will translate directly over to real drums.
    • Paul has also admited to having trouble with the game.
    • 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.
        • Have to admit, it'll be interesting to see how much this changes in Rock Band 3, with the more realistic "Pro" mode: six strings, 19 frets on the mostly plastic one, 23 frets on the (real) Squier.
    • Perhaps the low point for vocals fans is hearing that 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 one of their racing games were, showcasing it with their sponsored championship level race car driver. 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.
    • A friend of this editor has observed that trained dancers tend to do worse at games like Dance Dance Revolution.
  • 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, Here's a match between Shang Tsung and Johnny Cage's actors playing the very characters they have portrayed in the second game.
  1. "Well, I sing it differently now"