GUEST ARTICLE – Mindset and Competitive Smash Bros

So today, I’ve got something a little different (which is why I’m posting this on a Monday, not Tuesday). I was asked to host an article about Super Smash Bros. Wii U. It approaches the competitive mindset with a psychological eye, so give it a read!

Credit for this goes to a local player of the Chicago-land Smash 4 scene, REZ.

Mindset and Competitive Smash Bros

All quotes and references in this article are from Mindset by Carol S. Dweck, PHD.

When you play Super Smash Bros competitively, you naturally come up against failure. Maybe you lose because your controller broke. Maybe you lose because you’re having an off day. Maybe you lose because your opponent is straight better than you are. The reason for your loss is not important. What is important is how you deal with it.

Dr. Carol S. Dweck asserted that there are two types of mindset. That is to say, that there are two primary approaches to adversity. Through her research, Dr. Dweck discovered that the mindset you adopt for yourself affects the way you live. The first one I’d like to discuss is the fixed mindset. I’ve found that many of the players in this community adopt a fixed mindset towards the game, and it really hinders their growth as both a player and a person. I’m guilty of this mindset myself, many times over. Dr. Dweck writes that the fixed mindset is “believing that your qualities are carved in stone,” which “creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over.” This most commonly manifests itself as a limiter of sorts. “I only lost because my controller broke.” “Another off day, do I even have on days?” “This player is better at Smash than me. I’m never going to beat him.” It also manifests itself as a constant need to prove oneself.  Each victory brings a validation, and each loss proves to yourself what you believe is true. “I lost to player X, I am a failure.”

The other type of mindset is the growth mindset. Dr. Dweck described this as being “based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts. Although people may differ… everyone can change and grow.” The growth mindset takes a completely different look at losing. The growth smasher doesn’t view a loss as a failure, merely as a challenge.”My controller broke, but it’s my fault still for losing. What other mistakes did I make?” “I’m having an off day, next week will be better.” “I got three-stocked by player X. Why? How can I do better next time?” Dr. Dweck presents these points of view from the growth mindset. “Why waste time proving over and over how great you are, when you could be getting better? Why hide deficiencies instead of overcoming them? Why look for friends or partners who will just shore up your self-esteem instead of ones who will also challenge you to grow? And why seek out the tried and true, instead of experiences that will stretch you? The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset.”

So you’ve gotten this far and maybe some of the fixed mindset stuff resonated with you. Heck, some of the growth stuff probably did too. How can you improve your mindset in regards to Smash and maybe more? The first thing you can do is to change your outlook on losing. Losing sucks and everyone hates it. But losing doesn’t make you a loser. Your worth as a player or a person is not dependent on your results. You are no lesser for dropping a set. Take the opportunity to learn. How were you outplayed? Did your opponent pick up on any of your habits? Just as habits are important in Smash, you also want to work on your mental habits. When you’re down a stock, do you start to freak out? Every time that happens, try to make a habit of telling yourself to calm down. Do you throw your controller in a rage whenever you lose an important match? Create a new habit for whenever you finish a game, win or lose. Eventually, it’s all you’ll do when you finish a set.

If you are of a fixed mindset, it’s important for you to realize that’s not a failure in itself. Recognizing your mindset is an opportunity. It’s an opportunity to improve yourself. It’s an opportunity to improve your skills. And most importantly, it’s an opportunity to have more fun with the game we all love.