Saturday, October 20, 2012

Why Tournament Play is Different From Casual Play.


If you're interested in competitive gaming at all, odds are that you've tuned in to a livestream of some big event at some point.  With the stream comes the chat, and with the chat comes the free exchange of opinions and ideas.  Much of it is trolling and cheerfully intentioned bandwagoning trash talk, and then some of it is legitimate ignore.  A tiny percent includes people who know what they are talking about.

It is a basic fact of all endeavors and all professions that the majority of participants are not particularly skilled at what they do.  The 80/20 rule--that 80 percent of the output or knowledge or wealth or whatever are performed, possesed, controlled, or whatever by 20 percent of the people--seems to be a pretty common law.

Most of what you read in a stream chat is misinformed.  For that matter, most of the opinions you read on anything are misinformed.  This isn't an elitist indictment of ignorant sheep-type masses.  It's simply that most people don't know much about most things.  And part of that is simply because there's a lot to learn about everything, and every person is ignorant about a lot of topics.

The worst thing to be ignorant of, however, is your own ignorance.  And since this blog is not about the shortcomings of human tendencies, but it's about competitive gaming, I want to try and relieve a little of that ignorance today.

Tournament play looks much different from regular friendly play for a variety of reasons.  Since most people don't reach the top of tournament play--which is the whole point of a tournament, really--I want to talk about it a bit, if only to give you more appreciation and credit to the higher level players of whatever game you enjoy spectating the most.

1) If you are a high-level player, odds are your opponent is high level too.

I'm not sure how this gets forgotten.  But when you read stream chats and you listen to people speculating about somebody "losing their touch" or "not being good at all," you have to consider that when they get absolutely bodied in tournament, it's usually because they're playing against one of the best of the best.  And when really good players get on a roll, they can make other good players look like total chumps.  One of the hallmarks of being a good player is getting lots of mileage of your opportunities (whether through execution in fighters, or position/spawn control in shooters, or whatever).  So sometimes being off your game even a little can have catastrophic consequences in tournament play.

2) Tournament play is more stressful.

This should be obvious.  But because it's hard to genuinely appreciate emotional and mental situations until you've actually experienced them, most people don't get it.  They think they do.  But again, most people are not in the group that achieve great things in games.  It can be because they have other life responsibilities, they are willfully ignorant, the game is that difficult or the competition is just that steep.  Whatever the reason, most people don't know.

Stressful situations, the kind that trigger flight-or-fight and release chemicals into your bloodstream and affect your thought processes essentially turn you into a different person.  We differ during conflict.  And when crowds are yelling and strong opponents are sitting next to you and everything being on the line, you experience the rush and flood of hormones and chemicals that affect your brain and body.  Sometimes they help.  Sometimes it affects you negatively.  It can make you more jumpy, more impulsive, more likely to go with your gut reaction (which you usually must spend years of training to condition to be a smart one, rather than a self-destructive one.)

3) Hit confirming becomes more difficult.

It's easy to think that you'll just execute your normal combos and strategies, but the truth is, an opponent that challenges you and pushes your mind will force you to think about things beyond surface level.  So rather than know, every time you throw out a move, whether you're going to be continuing a long string, its/

Depending on the game and the opponent. you may be looking for completely  So when people drop apparently free openings, just remember that a lot more is on their mind.  They can't assume that every hit will connect, and without that assurance it can be hard to recognize your opportunities.  They can be worried about some big, salient threat and not even see their little poke connect until it's too late, and by that point they've failed to convert.  It's part of the nerves and part of having healthy respect for your opponent.

4) It's easier to spectate than to play.

When your attention is free to purely analyze and observe a match, if gives you the chance to see things the players miss.  For the same reason that players will record their matches to see themselves from the outside and try to learn, when watching you are free to spend time thinking about what options would have worked in a given situation, what a player might have meaning to do instead of some big goofy error, or whether your mommy hugged you that day.

5) People make big dumb mistakes in casual play all the time, they just don't remember them.

Players drop game-winning combos or make game-losing mistakes ALL THE TIME.  But when you are sitting and playing 30 games in a row with the same person to train or have fun, those start to blend together.  But you only get a few chances to succeed in tournament, and dropping them consequently stands out much more to you.  And, of course, to people watching.

Thanks for reading.

2 comments:

  1. Very true.

    Tournaments are also very noisy. I don't like the noise.

    I don't know how much the increases stress bothers me. I tend not to get nervous or energized by tournament matches. Maybe that's not t he best thing.

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