Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Five Things

Five Things

This post is a bit haphazard.  It's mostly small, random observations I've picked up over time.  There's not much of a theme, other than "hey, stuff is weird sometimes."

1) People who try to improve sometimes only see failure.

Why do sometimes exceptionally nice and smart people have low self-esteem?  Why?  And why is it that some players are convinced that they aren't good at what they do?

This is because, in the quest for improvement, you can try to create, understand, and implement new strategies and techniques.  You can try to optimize things you already do, and tighten up your game.  Or you can try to eliminate clear errors.  And when you're focused on eliminating your errors, they become all you see.  When you start to see your gameplay as a roof held together by the holes, it's easy to lose track of the things you do right.

So remember that, especially because...

2) The worst of the best may not realize how good they are.

Consider this made-up conversation.

"Hey buddy, you look kind of depressed."
"I was in a tournament yesterday and I got last place.  I'm really bummed."
"Oh yeah?  Which tournament?"
"The 'Five Best Players in All Time And Space Invitational."

Maybe you have the lightest bench press in your gym, so you're stuck at a measly, pathetic, featherweight 850 pound bench press.  The fact that your gym is frequented by a bunch of guys all competing to break the next world record is a point of non-interest.  You're the worst.  Sad little muscle-man.

You will be measured (and generally you will measure yourself) by the company you keep.  If you only keep company with the best of the best of the best, odds are you will feel like the lowest of the low.  Ignoring that you may be better than a few billion other people at what you do.  These five people can do it better?  Yeah, you're a scrub.

Corollary to this?  When the best players of a game face against each other, sometimes they make one another look like idiots.  Most of the time, they aren't actually that bad; when the competition is crazy good and you aren't 100% on your game, they rip into you for every little error.  An off day against some people makes you feel like a leaf in a typhoon.  And no, it doesn't look any better on video, either.

3) Funnily enough, that means that sometimes close matches happen because great players are playing badly.

This one is kind of anecdotal.  I was in a tournament match against a friend of mine, and it came down to the wire in the last game of the set.  The people behind us were going crazy.  I barely clutched out the win.  And afterwards, when we talked about the match, neither of us could stop talking about how bad we were playing.

We were both constantly letting little things slide that we normally wouldn't have let go.  We were making error after error, and since most people couldn't see what those mistakes were, they assumed that we were just doing a really good job of escaping dangerous situations.  We didn't really have the heart to tell them, since at least they were having a good time.

In fact, two players playing magnificently might lead to very boring plays because they aren't making mistakes.  After all...

4) Most openings and advantages come from errors.

If you want to start winning games of ping-pong against people, learn to keep the ball in play.  People give away points for free all the time, so until you're facing people who are pretty decent, you don't even need to try to score.  In fact, if you think about describing somebody's gameplay as "solid," that's exactly what it means!  Stable, sturdy, and free of holes.  And if you're ever at a loss for how you can improve at something, start hunting for mistakes.  The places you are off balance or give away momentum because of an innocuous habit.  And don't forget, the better you get, the more subtle and minor the mistakes may become.

Of course, having done that, please watch out for observation #1.  And to finish off, completely unrelated to the first four points...

5) Your bull**** is unfair.  Mine takes skill.

It isn't fair that your character has ambiguous crossups.  And it's not fair that this character has an instant overhead.  This one has a 60% combo off a throw, and this one has a nasty projectile wall that can zone me indefinitely if you guess right.  It's stupid.

Okay yes, mine has projectile invincibility on this dash.  My zero-frame command grab starts the meanest wake-up game known to man.  My race in this RTS has the fastest aggressive unit for cheese rushes.  I can camp forever because my character has a million jumps and air-dashes.  Certain combos don't work on me because of my character's hitbox.  But my stuff takes skill, okay?  It's actually hard.  Yours isn't.

And that's why I don't play your despicable, easy-cheesy character.  Because I have real skill.

Thanks for reading.  See you next week!