LordKnight Explains: Looking at the Screen

By on October 27, 2015 at 4:21 pm

Hi everyone!

If you’ve followed me on Twitter, you know that I’ve been posting long reads on Tuesdays about fighting games. They’ve ranged from how-to guides to strategy and philosophy. This column is a continuation of that.

I want to share my experiences with both new and intermediate players who might be stuck. If you read one of these and think, “Well, that was obvious,” then good! If you take something away from these articles, then that’s good too.

For those of you who have been following these, I’ve added a section called action items at the end of the article. These are a bit like homework – it’s something you can try immediately. Let me know what you think in the comments!

If you have any questions or suggestions for topics, feel free to ask me on Twitter at @LordKnightBBPrevious articles in this series can be found here.


If you’re familiar with me or have peeped my YouTube channel, you’ll know a common piece of advice I’ve given to players at events is, “Look at the screen.”

I’m a big fan of compressing a large topic into a couple of sentences. In my opinion, being able to do so is an example of a thorough understanding of the idea.

This relatively simple piece of advice refers to screen awareness.

When most people think of screen awareness, they think of the interactions between the two characters and, to be honest, this isn’t totally wrong. I remember when I was playing Super Smash Bros. Melee, an older player told me to get used to looking at the opponent’s character instead of my own. That piece of advice changed the way I looked at the game. Of course, I always knew what I was doing, but how was I supposed to know what my opponent was doing if I wasn’t paying attention to them?

I find that most newer players today know this little nugget. But I like to take it a step further – you have to look at the free information the game gives you. This information can have an effect on both players’ decision making, and I really think a basic understanding of these details can be a quick win for beginners.


Think about how many rounds you lost because you weren’t paying attention to the clock. That could easily be avoided just by occasionally glancing at the top of the screen. In addition, you can potentially weigh your opponent’s options depending on how much time is remaining.


Meter determines both offensive and defensive options. This is a staple of fighting games, but I find that people don’t totally pay attention to meter all the time. Of course, “obvious” usage of meter, such as supers, tend to alert you to the fact that the opponent had meter in the first place. However, the way a character plays can change quite a bit when they have meter in neutral, offense, and defense.

Consider Guard Cancels. All characters, even characters without reversals, have access to Guard Cancels (if it’s available in the game, that is). So, against characters without reversals, you might end up getting tunnel vision during your offense because you have no reversal to worry about. Guard Cancels are considered “get out of jail free” cards, so if you aren’t looking for them, the opponent can reverse the situation quickly.


Character-specific gauges

This is pretty important, especially if you play anime fighters. Some characters are heavily reliant on their unique mechanics, and the amount of meter they have will affect their decision=making.

On-screen information and player intent

With all those in mind, you can consider the intent behind the opponent’s decision-making. Using the above examples:

  • Timer

It’s pretty obvious that an opponent might be more cautious when they are running low on health, but on top of that, some games don’t alert you when you’re running out of time. Even at high-level play, sometimes people don’t pay attention to the timer due to the intensity of the match. You can take advantage of the opponent’s ignorance and play more passively, before they get surprised when the time runs out.

  • Meter

Furthermore, if you notice the opponent is ignoring certain resources, you can catch them off-guard. Think of a time you’ve done a reversal super and the opponent didn’t know you had the meter, so they didn’t bait it. If you have meter and your opponent is not paying attention, there can be points in neutral where you can catch them sleeping with a tool that uses meter.

  • Character-specific gauges

If an opponent isn’t paying attention to one of your character-specific mechanics, you can get away with playing passively until that resource recovers. For example, when fighting Zato-1s in Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN-, they tend to play very passively and abuse his float when he’s low on his shadow meter. If you aren’t paying attention to that, you’re giving him license to regain meter and another chance to enforce his gameplan on you. Usually, that should be your chance to try to push him to the corner, and if you don’t you’re indirectly giving him an advantage in neutral.


My personal recommendation for any of the above examples is to take a quick second during a situation where a direct interaction between you and your opponent can’t happen. For example:

  • Combos
  • Slow moves/moves with a long total duration
  • When you get knocked down/when you knock down your opponent
  • When both you and your opponent are being extra passive

An easier way to summarize this is whenever something is happening that doesn’t take a lot of focus or “removes” one of the players away from the game, you have a little time to glance around at resources and data the game gives you.

Action Steps

When have you lost because you weren’t paying attention to the timer, didn’t look at the opponent’s meter, or, even worse, baited a burst when the opponent didn’t have one? Let us know in the comments.


(Featured image courtesy of FGC: Rise of the Fighting Game Community)