Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Basics of Brawl - Mentality - Playing to Win

When in a tournament or competitive setting, there is only one value that a player should hold important: winning. To clarify, as long as a player operates entirely within the rules of the game being played, he is free to choose whatever options best advance him towards the goal of winning. Ideally, a player will do whatever it takes to win, nothing more and nothing less.

Many times, a player will let a purely subjective code of conduct come between themselves and the goal of winning. I'll list a few examples that I'm sure you've heard before while playing:

"What you're doing is cheap! It should be banned!"- There are very few tactics in any game that are so overwhelmingly powerful that they ensure the user victory without any fear of losing. At the same time, if your opponent is using a tactic that is powerful enough to repeatedly defeat you despite your best efforts to win, logic would dictate that you should use the same tactic in return. In the case that a hypothetical unbeatable tactic exists, in a playing to win environment, player's will eventually gravitate towards only using this tactic. At the point that something absolutely and completely unbeatable becomes the central tactic of play, then a ban is warranted.

"Stop Spamming!"- If your opponent is using the same tactic over and over against you, it is probably for two reasons: First, he might not know any other tactics. Second, the tactic is working. If you know that a specific tactic is coming repeatedly, you can then safely revolve your strategy around specifically countering the spammed tactic. If you find yourself as the spammer of a tactic, you need only ask yourself, "Is that tactic working?" If it is, you should continue to use it, showing no regard for an opponent's protests. If they really need it, you can remind them that you beat them simply using the same tactic and it isn't your fault that they weren't able to adapt their strategy.

"I like using this character/attack because it's cool" - In terms of winning and losing, the game doesn't know what "cool" means. Certain inputs and orders are better than others in situations. Certain characters are much better suited for competitive play than others. Winning and Losing is objective and can be measured, but what is "cool" is entirely subjective and means little to nothing in the context of a video game.

"I am bad at this game, so why should I try?" - The beauty of a video game is that, unlike most other games such as sports where athletic conditioning matters nearly as much as in game decisions, at the moment you pick up the controller, you and your opponent are on an even level for a playing field. What determines who wins or loses from that point onward is simply the one who could make the better decisions and execute those decisions. If you want to win, learn to make better decisions while playing. If you learn to make the perfect decisions and execute them at a perfect level, nothing should prevent you from being the best.

"The game is bad/random/uncompetitive" - Having run many tournaments using competitive rulesets, I can safely say many people play Brawl on a competitive level, so it isn't the worst game in the world to play. Many people think it's a great game. If you truly don't like it, you would be better of playing one of the many other available (and possibly better for you) games in the library.

*It should be noted that many of these ideas strongly reflect a book by an author named Sirlin titled Playing to Win. For further reading on the competitive mindset, I recommend it.

** It should also be noted that these ideals are only for playing competitive games. In the real world, there are values that are often times more important that the central value of winning seen in a game. Remember that when you aren't playing, the game is only a game. But also remember that when you are playing, the games is meant to be won.

Keep Chasing It,
Philip Fukuto

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