Character’s Social Value

With a new game on the horizon for smash players one question that is on everyone’s mind is “What character am I going to play?”. While most people engage with this question more for the fun of mulling over a characters potential strength in a new meta, I think one aspect of playing a character is often overlooked or ignored more than it should be and that’s the social value of the character’s playstyle.

While most smashers are competitive in mindset, Smash is primarily a social game that people play for fun, and yes I’m talking about tournament players not just casuals.  Players go to tournaments to interact with new people, make friends, hang out and have fun.  Playing to win is just the way that those players like to have fun, but ACTUALLY winning is secondary to the social interaction for a vast majority of them. So if the social aspect is vitally important to these players it would behoove them to play a character that can facilitate having fun games with friends and increasing their interactions with others.

Now bear with me on this, but what I’m saying is that playing characters that most people hate playing against is COUNTER to a persons want of social interaction because people will actively dislike playing with them.

Now before you get mad here are some caveats: I’m not saying that players should be shamed if they play unfun characters. Defining what is fun is tough, and is different for different players as well.  However there are certain playstyles and characters who will receive more than usual disdain and playing one of these characters can hinder a persons social interactions. Ice Climbers in Melee is the classic example.  If Smash is a social game for you then showing up to the smashfest as an ICs main is probably going to be a little shitty because lots of people just won’t want to play with you.

I was a Dedede main in brawl and I can tell you that people just didn’t want to play against me.  Dedede destroys low tiers, requires that you play campy against him, and heavily punishes small mistakes.  Not fun!  Also the character was very underrepresented in tournament play so having practice against him wasn’t very useful.

So take a second when playing Ultimate to evaluate why you play the game when you pick your character, and I wish you luck in having tons of fun games!

Some ramblings about a future training project

I’ll be starting to help other players and probably myself by analyzing videos of game play, so I’d like to come up with some basic training regimens for all of the most common fighting games that I may help people at.  My first thought was that some games have pretty robust tutorials and some of them are really good at teaching fighting game mechanics, Skullgirls comes to mind as well as Guilty Gear.  Teaching smash-like games though, I think I’ll either have to borrow an outline of the training from others or make one from the ground up since I don’t think any smash games have good tutorials…but I’ll check Rivals of Aether and maybe Brawlhalla to be sure.

I also know that when I tend to create these sorts of regimens that I act like I’m programming a robot, you just list the steps and hit “enter” and BAM you get a top player.  But giving a player a list of skills to master is not training, goals need to be set in manageable ways, emotions need to be accounted for, progress needs to be palpable and regular.

I also feel like whatever games I will be training people in that I need to become more proficient and simply a better player in.  I know that expecting me to be as good as the player I’m training is just a pipe dream but I would feel better if I was at least confident in my play.  You wouldn’t expect a football coach to be as good as his players, but in the world of FGC and Smash I think most people expect trainers and coaches to be REALLY good at the game for someone to take their advice.  I’m going to work to dispel the notion that a player needs to be amazing to give good advice, but I understand that inclination to only want to hear from the best players.

The “why” of it all

In the book “The Fighter’s Mind: Inside the Mental Game”, author Sam Sheridan interviews various stars, movers, and shakers in the greater fighting community, mostly MMA fighters and trainers, to pick their brains about the intricacies of fighting. While I myself am not much of a fighting or MMA fan, I found the accounts to be fascinating because here is a group of people who put themselves through so much pain and anguish for the thing that they love. Training regimens for fighters are so much beyond what the average person would refer to as “one of the shittiest days of my life” and yet they do it day after day, year after year in order to achieve their goal. I can’t help but be in awe of their achievements, dumbstruck by the magnitude of it all. I may never in my life want something as much as these men want to be strong.

Sheridan leaves the last chapter of the book for the question that must burn brightly for so many, why? Why do this to yourself? Why do this to others? Fighting is about hurting another person, as Sheridan repeats often, but on others who are consenting in their own twisted way to being hurt. Hurt becomes not an undesirable but instead a way of showing effectiveness, the more hurt you output the better you are at your job, the worse your opponent is at avoiding it. Your own blood and bone are like health points in a game, a dispensable resource to be used to achieve your goal of knocking out your opponent, if you know how to spend them. But having the mental fortitude to make such an exchange is nearly beyond me.

And yet, I am intrigued as are many others, MMA continuing to pull more and more viewers into the fold. Something about the struggle, the exchange, the domination of one over another seems to draw people in even as the world seems to grow more and more appalled that such a sport could still exist.  Perhaps the reason we watch is the reason they fight. Contest is it’s own reward, intrinsic value. Some are willing to pay almost any price to be pitted against each other and win. Others will allow others to pay any price just to watch.

Play

Have you ever just sat and watched someone play soccer? Or Candy Crush?  What about just watching someone bounce a ball off a wall then catch it? Or one of these cup-in-ball games?  There is a vast diversity in games that people play from the overwhelmingly complicated, multi day risk style board game marathons to something as simple as throwing a ball in the air then catching it. This weekend I found myself drunkenly marveling as bar-goers played a game of swinging a loop on a string into a hook in the wall.  A simple game for sure, but somehow holding the bar’s attention for minutes at a time, each person lining up for their shot to show how they too could achieve victory in less tries than the last patrons.

If you think we are many magnitudes more complex than other animals in our game playing I suggest you reevaluate that stance, a simple ball game can be just as entertaining to us as to a dog.  Many animals play games and they have the added benefit of not needing to find a justification for why they enjoy them. The joy found in catching a ball is all the justification you need to play.  Enjoying something for its own sake, intrinsic value!

Somehow though the value of a game, of play, can become lost and muddled when meaning is needed to justify its time investment.  As someone who is hopelessly lost in my own head all too often, I wonder about the value of most everything I do but I think doing this is a mistake oftentimes.  I want to get back to my roots and enjoy the enjoyment without my added values and meanings. An ongoing journey for sure, but journeys too are intrinsically valuable.

New Project

Gears are turning, bars are filling up, something is happening here.  Weeks and months of thinking, rethinking, and general agonizing is coming to a head and I can really start getting into the nitty-gritty with my new project which I will be happy to share with everyone very shortly.  The size and scale is variable, but I feel like I’ll finally be able to help out the competitive gaming community in a tangible way which will make me feel great 🙂 plus I’ll have something to work on and collaborate with others on!  I can’t wait.

Hearthstone Caster L0rinda

I got the opportunity to talk to professional Hearthstone caster Neil “L0rinda” Bond on Friday to talk about how he got started in his esports career and what it’s like casting for the big leagues.  I first heard him commentating matches at the Dreamhack Grand Prix series this last month, as well as the smaller Loot.Bet Brawl series, he’s been hard at work casting tournaments in Europe and Asia as he continues to make a name for himself.  Here’s the full interview:


Count:  How did you start getting into commentary?

L0rinda:  I was a small streamer and saw a project on Twitter where people were covering Chinese hearthstone (unpaid, it’s almost always unpaid at first) and volunteered to do that for a lot of hours and days.  Slowly got experience, and name slowly got out there.

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Image by Sammy Lam/iEventMedia.co.uk via Flickr.

So you were streaming a little, did you have any other background in esports work?

No other background in esports, but I’d streamed six days a week for about two years.  I had played a couple of MTG pro tours back in the day, and was an arcade game player waaaaaaay back in the day.

Wow, six days a week for two years?  I guess that experience came in handy for being able to commentate.  Now is your commentary work and writing your career now?  Or is it more of a hobby?  You mentioned how much work is unpaid, are you able to support yourself doing what you do?

It is now my career.  The filling time comes with practice, and with research.  I think that the main thing the average viewer doesn’t see is that for each piece of research that gets used, there’s a lot more that don’t.  If you’re in a 30 minute control grind, you have to have a talking point in mind, or it can go downhill fast.

Hah, I hope you aren’t stuck in a Dead Man’s Hand Warrior mirror any time soon.

Yeah, I’ve tried to ask tourney organizers what happens if they keep rematching that and it keeps being a draw, but nobody’s got an answer yet.

If you could somehow send a message to your past self with career advice for what you do now, what would that be?  Or, if someone wanted to do what you do, what would you tell them?

My past self, I would tell to do things the same, I got lucky like that.  If someone wants to do it, firstly you’ve got to actually want to do it, not just feel you want to do it, it’s very competitive and if you’re not putting in the time someone else will.

If they get past the “can’t quite be bothered” phase, which most do not, then the advice I’ve been given by many, which is definitely good advice, is “Don’t copy anyone, be the best version of YOU that you can be”.

That’s harder to do than it sounds as you naturally want to learn from the best.

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Image by Sammy Lam/iEventMedia.co.uk via Flickr.

What’s the hardest part about your work? And what is your favorite part?

Hardest part is either the travel (and being away from fiancee), or not knowing from day to day what is happening next.  Some bookings are VERY late.  The favorite part is being in rooms full of people playing games that they love.  LANs are exciting places to me (see the arcade background), and getting to see the world is also great.

If someone wanted to check out your commentary, what’s the next event you’ll be casting?

I can’t tell you that at the moment, but there should be an announcement soon, so keep an eye on my twitter. 😛


You can find L0rinda’s twitter here and I hope to see a lot more of L0rinda down the line.

The Major Difference: Game Companies

As we established last time, major sports organizations gain a majority of their profit from licencing rights to broadcast their games.  Bringing the show to your TV is the main goal of every game so that broadcasters can show you ads and make THEIR profit. This isn’t all that different in esports, we’re already seeing companies like Blizzard and Riot signing broadcasting deals with companies to stream their games.  But notice that it’s the game companies that are signing the deals, not a league of some kind.  That’s because the creator of the game owns everything about that game and can control who gets the rights which is very different from traditional sports.

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Streaming for charity?!? SHUT IT DOWN!

See, if you wanted to play baseball with some friends in your backyard nobody can stop you.  If you wanted to play with all the people in your neighborhood and make a tournament, fine.  You could even make a movie about it and sell it. Major League Baseball can’t stop you from playing baseball or profiting from it.  But if you were to make a movie about playing League of Legends, Riot Games owns that game and all the rights and could sue you if you use it to make a profit!  Every profit making venture utilizing a game that has a creator, (so anything that’s not a traditional sport like baseball, basketball, football) anything ELSE is owned by someone and they can control it’s use.  Basically using the game in any way gets into copyright issues, which is scary for the little broadcaster.

So the NFL is kinda like Riot Games in that they are both the big company which controls their sport, but for esports the control is more absolute.  This doesn’t mean that gaming companies are going to shut down all smaller broadcasts, streams, tournaments and whatnot but they do have the power to if they want to exercise that right.  Often they will want to allow certain projects to preserve their public image, or smaller ventures will simply be beneath notice, but larger organizations that want to broadcast games will have to be willing to negotiate with the relevant game companies.  And you can expect the agreement to be very profitable for the game companies since they basically hold all the cards.

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Checkmate