“It’s not that I’m fast; I’ve just seen that setup so many times.” ~Jezmo
Australia’s best player shared those words with me after taking two sets with his Diddy without dropping a stock. They summarize everything you should take away from this series, though that’s not obvious until you read the stuff below.
So you are a terrible player, and you’re looking towards another terrible player for advice. That sounds like a great start. But hey, I’m not your mother (but I could be your dad eyy). Before getting to how one improves, let’s tackle the biggest hurdle I see from entry- and mid-level players: excuses. In fact, excuses are such an impediment to improvement, that’s all I'm talking about in this part.
Get Rid of Excuses
Excuses don’t get you anything, but they provide comfort without effort. It’s the same reason you haven’t gotten the girl, that job, and also the reason you’re reading this instead of doing your homework. Regardless, excuses don't solve anything, and don't get you ahead. They are also bull, and I’ll show you by breaking down three popular reasons.
"I don’t have enough time"
This argument would hold weight if the world was right and fair, or it was an MMORPG. Reality doesn’t care how much time you put in, nor how much you “deserve” to win. In Smash 4’s short history, you can see how many upsets have happened. Especially notable are victories over players who started playing since the game came out.
A more honest way of phrasing this excuse is
I can be the best by merely putting in the time, but I have better things to do. Yes, I have the most untapped potential, and, if I had all the time in the world, I would do better than anyone who put in less time.I imagine no one would admit to believing this delusion, yet they are fine when it’s phrased as “I don’t have time."
The point is, it’s really not about how much time you put in, but the quality of the time you do dedicate. Look at Joshua Bell (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BJhZ0J3bIYc), a violinist who outclasses many older professionals despite being relatively young. Or you can look at more relevant examples like GamerBee (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GamerBee) who started his gaming career late.
So if time is not on your side, what should you do? Whatever you think is the most important thing right then. In Part 2, I'll discuss what that entails, but right now, getting rid of excuses comes first.
"I don't have anyone to practice with"
Okay, I hear you, but look in the mirror. You see that handsome stud there? He’s a human being. Like humans, he can do two things that are important for getting better: making mistakes and empathizing. If you think spot dodging is the best option in a hypothetical situation, then chances are another person will as well. If you play differently than anyone else, you can still imagine what another person wants to do.
"My character sucks"
No, you suck, and that’s okay. Everyone starts somewhere, and your character usually doesn't affect your skill. Although they may affect how you improve, they won't prevent you from improving. Let me explain with a graph. Let's take two characters: Falcon and Zelda and graph their performance vs player score:
To verbalize what you see, as you go left to right, both players are of equal, increasing skill, but their placements (i.e., how high up) vary because of their character. Both players continue to improve (i.e., go to the right) equally, but you can see their tournament placings don’t reflect that they are of equal skill.
Falcon is a “pickup and play” type character, where you have some objective measure of success early on. However, as you improve, you realize there’s a lot more to learn. In other words, you can see your improvement in tournament play early on, but later you may see a (temporary) stagnation in tournament results despite continuing to improve. At a certain point, all that improvement will again be realized (not shown).
Zelda, on the other hand, doesn’t reward you in any tangible way until you get really good. Like, really good. I’m talking god-like. As a result, you will not see any impressive tournament placings until your skill reaches the level of a top player. You are, however, still improving. Just don't expect to beat anyone who knows how to side+B for quite some time, n00b.
In both cases, you are progressing and improving. You just have to be aware that some of your progress won’t be visible until much later. And that’s okay. I’m not saying it is easy to keep pushing yourself when you feel like you are not making any progress. In fact, I think setting proper milestones for specific characters is critical to stay motivated, rather than using just tournament placings. I doubt I'll talk more about this concept further, but an example of this would be "1000 spindashes" for Sonic (lol j/k).
— END OF PART 1 —
So this covers the top 3 excuses I hear in the Smash 4 community. If there are others you want to discuss, leave them below, or even share why they are lame excuses!
Part 2 will be focused on what I think “training” is about. Here’s a taste of what to expect:
My Recommendation for Training
As a beginner, your goal is to master basic controls and inputs, of both the game and your character. Strategies and victories should be a distant second. It’s pretty pyrrhic to know you should have done a smash at that moment when you have trouble executing it. The other reason is, like riding a bike, the cognitive load on execution is high before you master something, so you can’t pay attention to the match as well as you should. This reduced awareness can result in the formation of bad habits. For competitive games, it is a balancing act between the Einstellung Effect (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Einstellung_effect) and Desirable Difficulty (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desirable_difficulty). Paradoxically…
Fortunately, the best way and fastest way are one and the same! As gwen.net (http://www.gwern.net/Spaced repetition) highlights:
Rates at which Halo: Reach players advance in skill matches nicely predictions from distribution: players who play 4-8 matches a week advance more in skill per match, than players who play more (distributed); but advance slower per week than players who play many more matches (massed).
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