**If you’re unfamiliar with Smash, this probably isn’t the post for you unless you’re curious. In order to get a full understanding of this, you should be familiar with Smash’s game mechanics and lingo (EX: Forward Air = Fair), specifically the mechanics for Super Smash Bros. Wii U.
You’ve got your tech down. Your movement is crisp. Your spacing? Immaculate. You walk into the tournament venue, ready to take on the world…
and then you find out your first round is against a Mario player.
And you HATE Mario. You just can’t seem to win, no matter who’s using him. The second Mario enters the battlefield, you lose. He Does that stupid grab, Up Tilt combos, Uair combos, Up Smash is ridiculous, he’s such a brain dead character sakjdhenmfdenfrmewtrcnmrcewtUAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH
Sound familiar? I’m sure it does for a lot of you. And to be frank, most players encounter a character like this. But hold up for a second. You’re not losing because Mario’s an incredible character. No, you’re losing because of the limits you’re mentally imposing on yourself.
While I’m of the opinion that you can never be perfect in your fundamentals and tech, once you’ve got a good grasp of those it’s time to move onto the next stage – your mental game. Having mental endurance is absolutely crucial to winning. If you lose your composure, you’ll fall apart, no matter how good you are.
There are a few things I want to address in this post, and they’re all related in one aspect of your mental game – Attitude.
Here’s a definition of attitude I pulled from Google: “a settled way of thinking or feeling about someone or something, typically one that is reflected in a person’s behavior”.
Now, let’s translate this into Smash terms. Attitude is, basically, how you’re thinking and feeling about a)your level of play in comparison to others, and b)characters in the game. There’s more to it (likes how you think/feel about rules), but these two are the ones most important to improvement.
Let’s start with characters. I want to preface this by saying that your opinion of a character can change very quickly. And it really depends on your opponent’s style. You may beat down campy Luigi’s like it’s just a Tuesday for you, but the second an aggressive Luigi comes along, you’re toast. And suddenly, you’re thinking about Luigi differently. Now those campy Luigi players are suddenly doing better because you know what Luigi can really do to you, and it scares you. You start playing differently, but it’s not to adapt. You’re playing afraid, giving too much respect – that kind of stuff.
You start crying out that your character just can’t beat Luigi. It’s time to pick up someone else, but you start doing worse even if at first you felt better about it. You complain that Luigi is stupid. Why does he have all these tools? It’s unfair!
There are three big problems with this progression – the first one, as I mentioned in my post about MU’s, is that character is taking over the player. You’re placing too much emphasis on the character you’re playing, and not the player. That needs to stop. You may lose to an aggressive player playing Luigi, but those guys you were beating before? There’s no reason they should be beating you overnight just because you got floored by the aggressive one. Recognize who you’re playing, not their avatar.
The second problem here is your emotions. One of the reasons why players get so frustrated with characters like Sheik, Mario, and Luigi are that they have good ways to deal with a lot of different options. And when a Sheik hits you 5 times in a row and you feel like you can’t do anything, it can be hard to shake that feeling away. Being more conscientious of how you’re feeling is something you’ll need to work on.
I want you to think about this the next time you fight a character you despise (especially in friendlies). Why do they frustrate you? Is it a move, a combo, their movement? Do you just hate the character as a character? Is there a possibility it’s the player behind the character that’s frustrating you?
The third thing is that a lot of people have really awful, simple-minded perceptions of characters, and project these onto players. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people complain about the throw combos from Sheik/Luigi/Mario/Ness, and how “anyone” can play these characters. Anyone can play Link, too.
But that’s not what they mean. This happens the most with Mario in Chicago, so I’ll use him. Mario, at least in the Chicago Smash 4 Scene, is considered “brain dead”, and “boring”. Anyone can pick him up and do well in a tournament.
I have never, in my 6 years of playing competitive Smash, seen this happen to an extreme degree. A guy picks up Mario and beats his friends, maybe moves from 17th to 13th? Cool. A guy picks up Mario and suddenly goes from 9th -> Top 3? NEVER.
Here’s the thing… there are exceptions, but look at the highest level of talent: world caliber players. When they pick up a new character, they have to put in the work before they see any substantial results, and if they don’t need to put in work then I can only see them as gifted players. These exceptions only happen with mid and low leveled players. I find those exceptions irrelevant because of that. No one’s aiming to be mid level when they want to win tournaments.
However, this was pretty prevalent in Brawl. Top-level players would switch to MK after losing game 1, and sometimes they’d win. Now, being that MK was actually a dominant character in Brawl and had incredible tools on paper that actually translated in-game, sometimes those pockets (as it was called) would win. It was rare, but I’ve seen it. Never, though, did a pocket MK win a tournament. It just didn’t. The better player usually won anyway, especially as you went farther into a bracket; that’s very much the case in every Smash Bros. iteration, including Wii U.
So back to Mario. He’s brain-dead and boring, and anyone can pick him up and do well. Here’s the thing…that’s wrong. Yup, wrong. Look, I understand – Mario has a straight-forward game plan, but why is it that he’s brain dead and boring and Luigi isn’t? Why isn’t Sheik? What about Sonic? Or Falcon? Falcon is literally Dthrow -> Uair/Nair -> Uair/Nair. Dthrow -> Knee or something along those lines for the KO. They’re try to stomp offstage or knee. I dunno…seems pretty brain-dead to me. I know I could pick him up pretty easily. Same with Luigi. Dthrow combos, Dthrow -> Up B, fireball to control space. Bam. Done. Luigi’s brain-dead and boring, too.
I hope you see where I’m going with this. Every character has an optimal game plan depending on the player and character they’re facing. They have good moves and bad moves. They can all be broken down easily, and they can all be seen as boring and brain-dead in my eyes. But I don’t see it that way. I see a character with tools that a player can uniquely utilize. Will two players use the same tools? Sure, it’s how games like this work, and sometimes they’ll be exactly the same, but more often than not, the utilization is different, and that’s what makes every character interesting. Only when every single player would use the same tool in every situation because it is clearly the best option every. Single. Time…will I find a character to be truly “brain-dead” and “boring”.
And this is how you should see this, too. A character may be simple, but not that simple.
Let’s talk about how good you think you are.
You’re undefeated amongst your friends, you’re callin’ kids in the top 10 of your local scene trash. You think your opinions are so insightful. You never think you should be losing.
That’s a bad way to approach your scene, buddy.
Listen, everyone likes a few hot heads, but you best believe it’s not helping you improve. Look, thinking you’re better than everyone is semi-good. You’ve got a lot of confidence in yourself and expect a lot. Buuuut, that’s where the problem starts. When you lose, it hurts. You should NEVER lose to Player X! But you did, and now you’re lookin’ bad because you were talkin’ trash earlier. Ouch.
You start getting mad quickly, and when you don’t live up to these expectations of being better than everyone, you can start disliking the game altogether. You’re only having fun if you’re beating everyone else, and don’t get me wrong – losing isn’t fun in a serious competition. But to get so angry that you want to stop? C’mon, now.
There’s a better way to look at this. Instead of thinking you’re better than someone, just have the confidence that you have the potential to be the best. Yes, you have the potential to be better than even ZeRo, but it takes time to get there. But as long as you believe in that potential, you can use that as a motivator.
Obviously, you have to put in the work, otherwise it’s a false belief, but you can use this confidence to motivate yourself. I go into every set, no matter who I’m playing, thinking I can win. I’ll even acknowledge that it’s gonna be hard, and if you came and talked to me beforehand I’d tell you I have a good shot at losing, but once I sit down to play I’m 100% convinced that I can win. Not that I will, mind you, but that I can.
It seems silly, but thinking you’re going to win really puts pressure on yourself. Just play the best you can and think you can win. if you don’t? You’ll get ’em next time. It sounds silly to utilize the whole “try, try again” mentality, but if you’re actively putting in the work, I think this is the best mindset you can have. Eventually, you’ll get those results. I have twice achieved status as a top 10 player in Chicago, once in Brawl and once in Project M. Twice I have used this mentality to help myself.
Believe me, I was an arrogant kid back when I first started getting good at Brawl. Then I got really angry when I lost and it frustrated me. I had to take a step back and re-evaluate how I was approaching the game, and it all came together after months of hard work after realizing I had to change how I thought about the game.
So what usually happens with these bad attitudes? Well, the most obvious one is that these players tend to make excuses. Here are some common ones:
– I wasn’t trying
– I was tired/sick/hungry/too hot/too cold, etc…
– Character X is so stupid
– My C-Stick wasn’t working
– Crowd was too distracting
– Couldn’t hear the sound
– Too cramped of a venue
– My hands were cold
– It’s impossible for Character X to beat Character Y
– Move Z is broken
– I SD’d twice
These are all barriers that hold them back. These are the biggest barriers that hold a player from being consistent. These are the biggest barriers that hold a player back from being truly great.
Notice, for just a moment…that these are complaints to hide behind to take away from a player’s victory, and to bolster your bruised ego. You’re using a mid-tier and lose to Sheik. “Sheik’s so busted”. Okay. You knew what you were getting into. “I SD’d”. Okay. Maybe if you were more aware of your positioning you wouldn’t have put yourself in a situation to SD. “Physiological excuses”. Bruh. Really? Part of being good is taking care of yourself. It’s on you that you lost, still.
This mentality that players…I dunno, aren’t important? It’s ridiculous. You’re fighting another person. They’re sitting right next to you. Why doesn’t anyone ever complain about a player when it comes tournament time? Why don’t they just admit that another player is puttin’ in work and it’s paying off when they get beaten by said player? I don’t understand.
These are all things you can work on, but what I really want to stress before this ends is that there’s an intrinsic belief that character > player. I’ve been talking about this since my first blog post, and for good reason. Once you realize that it’s the player, not the character, that’s truly important, I guarantee your mindset will only improve.
Well, except for being arrogant. But we’ll let that slide.
Link to the Chicago Smash 4 Facebook group: Clicky
Check out my other posts on improving in Super Smash Bros. Wii U!
I – Fundamentals
II – A Different Way to Look at Match Ups
IV – Friendlies
VI – Preparing for a Tournament
VII – Training Regimens
VIII – Character Loyalty
Check out the BONUS series!
IX – The Plateau
X – Practice Methods I
XI – Practice Methods II
XII – Practice Methods III
XIII – At a Tournament
XIV – Practice Methods BONUS IV
XV – Game Flow
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