Character’s Social Value

With a new game on the horizon for smash players one question that is on everyone’s mind is “What character am I going to play?”. While most people engage with this question more for the fun of mulling over a characters potential strength in a new meta, I think one aspect of playing a character is often overlooked or ignored more than it should be and that’s the social value of the character’s playstyle.

While most smashers are competitive in mindset, Smash is primarily a social game that people play for fun, and yes I’m talking about tournament players not just casuals.  Players go to tournaments to interact with new people, make friends, hang out and have fun.  Playing to win is just the way that those players like to have fun, but ACTUALLY winning is secondary to the social interaction for a vast majority of them. So if the social aspect is vitally important to these players it would behoove them to play a character that can facilitate having fun games with friends and increasing their interactions with others.

Now bear with me on this, but what I’m saying is that playing characters that most people hate playing against is COUNTER to a persons want of social interaction because people will actively dislike playing with them.

Now before you get mad here are some caveats: I’m not saying that players should be shamed if they play unfun characters. Defining what is fun is tough, and is different for different players as well.  However there are certain playstyles and characters who will receive more than usual disdain and playing one of these characters can hinder a persons social interactions. Ice Climbers in Melee is the classic example.  If Smash is a social game for you then showing up to the smashfest as an ICs main is probably going to be a little shitty because lots of people just won’t want to play with you.

I was a Dedede main in brawl and I can tell you that people just didn’t want to play against me.  Dedede destroys low tiers, requires that you play campy against him, and heavily punishes small mistakes.  Not fun!  Also the character was very underrepresented in tournament play so having practice against him wasn’t very useful.

So take a second when playing Ultimate to evaluate why you play the game when you pick your character, and I wish you luck in having tons of fun games!

Some ramblings about a future training project

I’ll be starting to help other players and probably myself by analyzing videos of game play, so I’d like to come up with some basic training regimens for all of the most common fighting games that I may help people at.  My first thought was that some games have pretty robust tutorials and some of them are really good at teaching fighting game mechanics, Skullgirls comes to mind as well as Guilty Gear.  Teaching smash-like games though, I think I’ll either have to borrow an outline of the training from others or make one from the ground up since I don’t think any smash games have good tutorials…but I’ll check Rivals of Aether and maybe Brawlhalla to be sure.

I also know that when I tend to create these sorts of regimens that I act like I’m programming a robot, you just list the steps and hit “enter” and BAM you get a top player.  But giving a player a list of skills to master is not training, goals need to be set in manageable ways, emotions need to be accounted for, progress needs to be palpable and regular.

I also feel like whatever games I will be training people in that I need to become more proficient and simply a better player in.  I know that expecting me to be as good as the player I’m training is just a pipe dream but I would feel better if I was at least confident in my play.  You wouldn’t expect a football coach to be as good as his players, but in the world of FGC and Smash I think most people expect trainers and coaches to be REALLY good at the game for someone to take their advice.  I’m going to work to dispel the notion that a player needs to be amazing to give good advice, but I understand that inclination to only want to hear from the best players.

The “why” of it all

In the book “The Fighter’s Mind: Inside the Mental Game”, author Sam Sheridan interviews various stars, movers, and shakers in the greater fighting community, mostly MMA fighters and trainers, to pick their brains about the intricacies of fighting. While I myself am not much of a fighting or MMA fan, I found the accounts to be fascinating because here is a group of people who put themselves through so much pain and anguish for the thing that they love. Training regimens for fighters are so much beyond what the average person would refer to as “one of the shittiest days of my life” and yet they do it day after day, year after year in order to achieve their goal. I can’t help but be in awe of their achievements, dumbstruck by the magnitude of it all. I may never in my life want something as much as these men want to be strong.

Sheridan leaves the last chapter of the book for the question that must burn brightly for so many, why? Why do this to yourself? Why do this to others? Fighting is about hurting another person, as Sheridan repeats often, but on others who are consenting in their own twisted way to being hurt. Hurt becomes not an undesirable but instead a way of showing effectiveness, the more hurt you output the better you are at your job, the worse your opponent is at avoiding it. Your own blood and bone are like health points in a game, a dispensable resource to be used to achieve your goal of knocking out your opponent, if you know how to spend them. But having the mental fortitude to make such an exchange is nearly beyond me.

And yet, I am intrigued as are many others, MMA continuing to pull more and more viewers into the fold. Something about the struggle, the exchange, the domination of one over another seems to draw people in even as the world seems to grow more and more appalled that such a sport could still exist.  Perhaps the reason we watch is the reason they fight. Contest is it’s own reward, intrinsic value. Some are willing to pay almost any price to be pitted against each other and win. Others will allow others to pay any price just to watch.