Practice the Things You Hate

Generally things like training and practice are not things you enjoy.  Maybe it’s because we wouldn’t call it practice if we enjoyed it, we’d call it play.  Training is a huge part of any serious competitor’s climb to being a better player; it’s where you hone your physical and mental skills between tournaments and serious matches.  It’s good ok? Trust me!  So you sit down to train, what do you do?  Practice some combos? Some movement? Jump online for some For Glory?  Some of these things are WAY more fun than others and you probably spend a disproportionate amount of time doing the fun parts rather than the other stuff.  BUT THAT’S WRONG and here’s why!

People generally like aspects of a game that they do well, and dislike aspects that they don’t do well.  Do you enjoy comboing someone? Chances are that you practice comboing someone!  Do you hate timing someone out? I bet you’ve not put a lot of time into timing people out!  By looking at what you enjoy and don’t enjoy you can learn what parts of your game may be weak and in need of practice. The best players are the ones who see in themselves a weakness or a hesitation towards a certain aspect of the game and do something to change it.

For example a player I know has some stages that he hates to play on.  So when he practices he makes sure those stages get picked a lot.  He even goes as far as to tell people that he loves those stages, and brings people there during tournament matches!  That’s a great way to get over your fear of a stage or anything you might dread.  Telling yourself that you love a stage can help a lot too, acting as if can change your mind! (!) It can also make your opponents scared to pick a stage that they may normally counter pick you with.   All of this gives you a big psychological edge on the competition.

Turning a weakness into a strength can also be a source of pride for certain players and be downright fun.  As a Dedede playing in Brawl, I had a lot of trouble playing against Falco players.  But I lived near a great Falco player and traveled to his house to grind it out for hours, getting way better at it.  While I was never quite on his level and frequently lost that matchup to the great Falcos, I took a lot of pride in destroying anyone who thought they could counter pick the character against me without a lot of practice first.  A matchup that endlessly frustrated me suddenly became one that was really fun and dynamic to play.

Many weaknesses are only weaknesses if you let them be.  Work on them; turn them into points of pride and revel in the challenge instead of dreading them. You are in control of a lot more than you give yourself credit for!

Taking Advice

Learning to play Smash Bros better is tough.  As simple as it would be to just play a ton and try and be a good player all on your own, it turns out that other people can be insightful and teach you a lot.  Woah.  But it’s never as simple as all that is it?

Firstly, why should you take advice?  Very simply, people can offer you a perspective that you might not have.  Even if you think you are the smartest Smash god to every grace our good earth, you can’t always look at problems and issues the way other people do.  Even if your friends don’t always know what they are talking about, or don’t even play smash, they might say something that will get you thinking in a different way.  And asking for help isn’t all that hard…or is it…

Asking for advice can take a certain type of courage to do.  Smash is a game where a lot of emotion can come into play, and a lot of ego.  Like I mentioned in the article on Pop-offs, the whole community is charged with feelings, as you would expect with any serious hobby that takes up as much time as Smash does.  So asking for advice on Smash is like asking for advice in other parts of your life, it can feel like you are admitting a weakness as well as inviting criticism that could feel pretty cruddy.  Don’t be fooled, it is these things, but the growth that can come from exposing your weaknesses will make you even stronger and more knowledgeable about the game than you could be going solo.  Just like you should seek out strong opponents to learn to play the game better, since they will exploit your weaknesses and bring them to your attention the way another player may not, getting advice from many knowledgeable and skilled players can do the same.  Unfortunately for your growth, asking for advice is not nearly as fun as playing the game, but if your goal is to get better then you’d better get comfortable with the uncomfortable.  Often the things you don’t want to do are the things you need the most to get better, because people tend to enjoy the things you already feel skilled at. (!)

So now you are an advice seeking champ who takes shit from EVERYONE, but wait, who are the people who give crappy advice or just want to tear you down?  It’s true that sometimes people are going to give you advice that you shouldn’t follow, so understand a few reasons why they may not be being helpful.

Firstly and most obviously, some people might not know what they are talking about and will give you one reason for what’s happening and it’s just not true.  Always double-check any information that you are given whenever you can, fighting games can have a LOT of misinformation going around.  If they tell you about a habit you have, ask others about it to see if others see the same habit just to be sure.  Simple stuff.

Secondly, people can have some screwed views of the way you play, especially if you ask for advice right after some matches or when they have lost to you.  They may still be emotional charged, or as the kids say, ‘butthurt’, and even if they mean to give you honest and helpful advice they may tell you things that aren’t helpful because they are angry.  For example, if you rush someone down and beat them pretty easily a few games, then lose a few games, then ask for advice they may tell you, “All you do is rush in so I just countered it to win.  You should really mix up your game more and stop rushing in.”  There may be something to their advice, you may really be rushing in to single-mindedly and that makes it easier to be read.  But clearly your strategy has some merit if it won you some games so you shouldn’t abandon it altogether like it should like he suggests, but perhaps mix in more games of playing patient, or only starting your matches with aggression where it might overwhelm a player before they catch on to your ploy.

There is a fine line between being humble enough to take advice and having the confidence to believe in the way you play.  You can’t always change to the way others want you to be, and you can’t be so confident that you won’t change.  Strike a balance.

Some players aren’t the type that can offer good advice because they just aren’t the most cerebral of players.  They don’t ACTIVELY think during matches, so when you ask why they made a decision or why they punished you the way they did they might not know how to answer.  Lots of people play this way and there isn’t anything wrong with that, but they often are at a loss for advice.  For players like this, asking different types of questions can work better.  Instead of asking “Why did you favor using bair instead of uair in that situation?” you can ask a question like “When do you feel threated by my character/me?” or “What’s different about my play rather than this other guy who plays my character?”.  Asking questions that are more about the FEEL of the match rather than particulars will sometimes be easier to answer, and they are still great questions to ask that can teach you a lot!

Finally, some players may not be forthcoming with advice for whatever reason.  In a somewhat small community like smash, it can be hard to get advice on specific subjects when most of the people who play a certain high level matchup just don’t want to talk about it. Maybe they don’t like you very much.  Maybe they just don’t have an answer. Maybe they think that giving you advice will help you beat them next time, which I will write about at a later time (!)  You can’t force them to help you, all you can do is try and become friends with them, ask them some different types of questions, or move on.  Don’t take it personally if someone can’t help you!

Now go out there and ask for some advice!  Oh, and if you think of a way that this blog could be more useful to you or you have an idea I missed, let me know in the comments below or on twitter 🙂

Sponsorship

The dream of getting paid to play games is alive and well here in Smash land and how can you cash in on all the free* money? Let’s talk about sponsorships.

A sponsorship is when a company or person gives a player money to advertise their good or service. You, the player, are a walking talking billboard for the company. But you can be BETTER than a billboard. And that makes you worth more MONEY than a billboard too. As a sponsored player, or a Pro, you are now marketing yourself as a money making tool for businesses. So to get what you believe you are worth, you’ll need to sell yourself like you would with a resume to get a job. And the name of the game is:

Visibility
The reason you expect to see pro players at the top 8 at tournaments is that they tend to be better players. Winning more matches means more opportunities to show your sponsor off on stream. The more people who see your sponsors name, their logo, their cool shirt they gave you, or their cool product is how they get more sales. All parts of a sponsorship boil down to visibility, it’s vitally important.

So winning is one of the most understood ways to showing your value as a visible player, but there are lots of other ways to be visible. Social media like Facebook, Twitter, Twitch, and online forums are great places to get attention and make a name for yourself. By building friends and followers you can be more valuable to your sponsor. A well connected and well liked player also helps the products image, which we’ll get to later. Creating content like videos, tutorials, guides, humorous rants, art, controller mods, music, or blogs are all good ways to gain value as a sponsored player.

If landing on stream is a goal then being a player who everyone want to see play is a good way to do that. Maybe you play an unusual character or have a ridiculously aggressive style. Stream viewers probably want to watch you play and that makes you more valuable to the tournament stream AND the sponsor. You bring viewers to the stream, and you get more visible for the sponsor. Win-win.

Your image as a player is also important to sponsors.  Are you well liked in the community?  Do people know your name?  Do you have good stream presence? Are you looking professional when you are in the public eye?  Do complain on twitter when you lose? Do you exhibit any unsportsmanlike conduct in tournament or on stream?  You can hopefully guess which of these things are good and which are bad.  (Hint: first four are good, last two are bad)  How you are viewed is a huge part of your value as a sponsored player, so treat yourself like a celebrity.  A lot more than an actor’s acting skill goes into creating his image, so think long and hard about your own image.

Lastly, when you are wondering what you can do to be sponsored, act as if you are ALREADY sponsored!  Be professional!  Dress well!  Get yourself out there!  Create content!  Practice!  Oh, and don’t forget that just like getting a job, you have to tell sponsors that you want the job!  Don’t be bashful; let anyone you can know that you are ready to be sponsored and that they can have this gamer on their team.

Get to work!

*: Free money not actually free. It takes lots of work.

So Little Time

In Smash 4 there is a six minute timer for each match. One way you can win is to get that timer to zero and have more stocks and/or less percent than your opponent. Some people treat timeouts as somehow a lesser victory than KOing your opponent but you should do your best to rid yourself of that notion. If you are playing to win and timeouts are wins, then you need to practice for timeouts!

In order to start being comfortable with timeouts, understand that time is a lot like percent in smash, it exerts a pressure on your opponent (and yourself) and must be respected. When percent is getting high a player has to start respecting new options from their opponent, like killing moves. Likewise, when time is running low certain strategies become more viable that normally would be considered subpar. Each player will react differently to this change in game tone, so understand each opponent’s habits when timeouts are possible. Some may attempt to time you out back; others may double up on aggression. Even if the game doesn’t end in a timeout, exerting the pressure of the clock can lead to your victory.

Since many players have little respect for timeouts they become more agitated and can quickly become tilted if a timeout is pushed. This all by itself could be your key to victory, as a tilted player can become much easier to read. (Careful of players who can seem to play even harder when you push their buttons.) If you as a player are known for being comfortable or even relishing in the thought of timeouts, this can make a player feel defeated before they even start.

Go into the lab and practice timing out. Do it in friendlies. Have yourself and a friend both practice timeouts on each other. Matches will be about establishing a lead and holding on to it, which at first may be really boring and not fun at all. In fact, the less fun you have the more necessary the training probably is, since people generally hate training at things they are bad at or that they hate their opponents doing.

Remember, this is Smash. The only rules during a match are win and don’t punch your opponent in the face, basically. You can only gain from being comfortable with different types of wins.

Get to work!