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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here’s just a little page to clarify what it is I mean when I talk about esports.
Esports is basically electronic sports, sports played on a computer or gaming console. They are competitive in nature, often pitting either one player against another or two teams against each other. Just like traditional sports, they require different types of skills depending on which game you are playing, and professional players practice and train just like professional sports athletes to be the best at their game.
Esports is different in one major way from sports like baseball or football in that a company created the game that is being played competitively, so they own all the rights to that game. Major League Baseball doesn’t own baseball, only runs a league and all that the league entails, while the company Riot Games OWNS everything League of Legends and thus can dictate everything around the competitive play of it. This is a pretty major difference that changes a lot of the monetization of playing games and esports as a whole and I’ll go into that in more detail at a later point.
For those who know me, I can be quite capricious or moody when it comes to my endeavors. I seem to have a habit of becoming overly excited for new prospects, but give up when I hit the first bumps in the road, at the first signs of trouble. It stems from multiple aspects of my personality that I’ve been thinking about and working on for a long time now, and I will continue to work on it probably until I die. I’m the odd type of perfectionist who would rather give up then fail. Combine this with my sensitivity to others opinions of me and a proclivity for negativity and you get a recipe for giving up a lot.
Recently I moved to Melbourne to try and get time to myself, explore, and try some new things. So far its been a wonderful experience and I’m lucky to have the opportunity to take this on. Being in an entirely new place, without friends or family is both lonely and freeing, and the loneliness in particular is vital to taking time to reevaluate what you are doing with your life and look at your values in a new light.
In an effort to overcome my urge to achieve perfection without even trying, I’ve been reminding myself of how essential trying and failing is to improving. One thing I heard that I quite liked was a quote about learning the game Go is “Lose 100 Games As Quickly As Possible”. (In fact this guide to starting Go is applicable to whatever new endeavor you find yourself in here)
Being able to take losses and moving on, learning, and continuing is such a powerful way to live and I want to work on being strong enough to keep working on the things that matter to me without getting sidetracked, without being beaten down by my own negativity and laziness. It’s not going to be easy and I will fail again and again, but I’ll try my hardest to come back again and again with new knowledge and more stamina. Self control is like a muscle and you can slowly improve your mentality by repeatedly doing what you can, working as hard as you can. And when you can’t work anymore, take a break, don’t assume you need to quit. Just because some days I just can’t make the energy to work doesn’t mean I should quit, it means I need to rest and try again tomorrow.