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!
I want to take a short break from the tutorials to discuss some tournament time topics.
I want to stress that you can play fighting games for whatever reason you want to – to show off, for fun, for a challenge, whatever. However, competition is a big part of it, so this time, I want to speak specifically to people who are a little deeper in it. If your goal is to perform well at events, this article is for you.
1. Aim for consistency
More than anything, you should aim for consistency. This would make sense in any pursuit, but I find that it’s mostly ignored in our community. Consistency isn’t just your goal, but it’s also something you can lean on. It sucks when you’re losing consistently, but you have to identify that when you’re losing like that, the other person is doing something right.
2. Play to learn (properly)
Of course, it’s common knowledge that playing to win one hundred percent of the time is detrimental. Playing to learn and improve is an important part of your growing experience, but recognize that this takes some focus. I’ve ran into people who have just tried to do something “to see if it works” – which is fine, but there are better ways to explore situations and how to deal with different characters.
I’ve mentioned before, but fundamentally, fighting games are about solving problems. A more effecient way of playing to learn is by identifying what you’re struggling with. Keep track of the situations that are giving you a hard time and review them later. Even better, if possible, record your matches! Everyone can benefit from watching their matches, as the majority of people can’t remember every detail of every match.
3. Treat casuals and tournament matches the same
It’s somewhat common for people to hide tactics for tournaments. This should be expected – this is a competitive environment, and having information that your opponent doesn’t is a huge advantage. That being said, you need to understand that there are different sets of information connected to a match.
In general, there’s no real point in sandbagging or pretending you don’t know how to play a matchup, and I feel that it’s detrimental to practice. I prefer to always use my general strategy against everyone, so I can work out any kinks and refine my play.
Of course, there are definitely things you can keep secret to use as a trump card in a tournament. My general thought is that you shouldn’t hide your general strategy, but I usually have a couple of tricky mixups up my sleeve for a big event.
4. Play sets during casuals
Occasionally, play a set during a session. Set a hard line for how long you’re going to play: for example, set up a quick 2 out of 3, 3 out of 5, first to 5, or whatever you’re in the mood for. When you’re done with that, stop and chat with whoever you went up against.
Playing sets accents a few points:
- If you’re running a 2/3 or 3/5 set, this replicates potential tournament situations. It goes without saying that tournament sets are different from casual matches, and paying attention to the win count can make you play more seriously.
- If you do this against enough people, you can build extra experience if you can’t frequent events often.
- Some people play “serious matches” (sets, money matches, tournaments, etc.) differently than casuals. Asking to play a set might make them suddenly shift their play.
- Sets can be used as a benchmark of progress. Going back to an earlier point, you would want to record these if possible as well.
5. Be open to playing any opponent
If your goal is to perform consistently, then you should be able to take on many types of opponents. While this sounds obvious, I’ve run into players who only want to play strong players. There is certainly nothing wrong with that, but you should be open to playing any opponent.
- First off, a player that’s weaker than you will (hopefully) appreciate you playing them.
- Secondly, you can try out new tactics or build in-match muscle memory comfortably. Personally, I find it hard to try brand new things against strong players – I usually try to implement new tactics against weaker players, then once I get used to doing it in matches, I’ll try it against a stronger player.
- Third, the more experience you have, the better. Being open to playing everyone gives you room to run into more situations and refine your play further. (Note: if you’re playing online and it’s too laggy, it’s fine if you skip out). This information can help you classify new opponents easier and adapt faster – which I’ve covered previously.
Do you do any of the above? Give it a try at your next session. If you have to do it online, that’s fine.
(Images courtesy of FGC: Rise of the Fighting Game Community)