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 🙂

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