Monday, August 10, 2015

Why Wisconsin Sucks at Smash But Doesn't Have To

(In preparation for Fall 2015)

I’ve personally seen WI go from a 30 person revival tournament to a 90 person biweekly. I’ve seen our average skill rise as well. But while we’ve done a lot, we still suck at smash. If we crew battled Chicago (let alone IL) tomorrow it would more or less be a massacre.

WI sucking or succeeding is a two part problem, both with easy answers.

A. Community

key aspects of a strong scene include
* Regular smashfests, preferably in one place (for motivated people to meet play)
* Strong players (you improve by playing with them because they force you to get better or get 4 stocked)
* Regular tournaments (where you can more or less accurately test how winning your gameplan is)
* Access to local playerbase for recruiting.
* Outreach. (EHG is regularly bringing in chicago players via constructs and players from all over the country for KotN. WI should be more supportive and help expand the outreach rather than take it for granted.)

Improving the local community does two things. First and most importantly it improves our experience playing Super Smash Bros. It’s more fun this way. Secondly, while you do not actually need any of this to get good— getting good is on you and only you— a strong community makes gives you easier access to resources and makes getting good more efficient.

In this way it’s well worth it to improve our infrastructure. If we have to travel twice as far as other states to meet with each other and play then we need to be willing to do that or find an easier way to achieve the same effect. That’s why we have the circuit. If we need to network twice as hard to reach new players then we need to be willing to do that or find an easier way to achieve the same effect. How many colleges with thousands of potential players, friends and potfillers(lol) are we not reaching out to? There's no reason to remain an insular and niche community.

We need community leaders to step up their stuff and continue improving everyone’s access to everyone. Be that community leader. If you have a problem then solve it. If you can make an improvement then do so. If you want to play better smash then do what you can to make playing smash as easy as possible for yourself and others. It’s that simple.

WI is not top heavy. We don’t have a good number of national level players. We don’t get the luxury of improving by osmosis but that’s ok. The resources are in place for us to improve from the bottom up and as individuals. Let’s continue to find ways to improve ease of access and yield.

This brings us to

B. Player Skill
While WI isn’t close to the worst, it isn’t close to the best in terms of player skill. Why? I think it’s because our methodology as individuals is horrible.

In order to improve at smash you only need
* Information
* Understanding
* Motivation
* Work

Many players are LAZY. For whatever reason they can’t be bothered to improve to where they want to be.
But I think even more players improve STUPIDLY. They expend way too much effort for way too little return and get frustrated with their subpar results. You need to figure out what you’re trying to accomplish and the best way for you to accomplish it before you start.

When was the last time you turned on 20xx and drilled something 50 times in a row? I’m guessing never, and sadly that’s probably a good guess.
Think about learning melee as if you were learning an instrument. It’s a large time commitment. It tests a large variety of smaller skills. While simply playing every day will help you improve a lot, it’d be silly to expect to win a musical competition like that. Why would you expect it to win you a tournament? The people that win competitions have routines. They are focused. They optimize their practice for specific sections of specific pieces. They prioritize consistency. They do not put in x hours and hope for the best. Neither should you.

What makes a better player better? Skill is not some ambiguous quality that slowly grows with prayer. It’s a sum of various and distinct qualities. Make a list of what qualities a good player exemplifies. Now look at every item on that list and make a list of what each one contains. Keep going. Keep breaking topics down further and further. Keep using your logician’s knife until you have specific things that are easy to practice. You now have a precious document with all of the ingredients of a good player as you understand what that means. This is your smash bible, your personalized recipe for being good. As long as you aren’t working on shaping yourself to that list you aren’t working on being good, you’re just fumbling around hoping to get good.

What are you doing specifically that made you lose? What can you be doing specifically that would solve that problem and win the exchange? “Do ___ better” is not useful. Is it what attack you’re using? Is it when you used it? Is it where you used it? Maybe a different move altogether would work better. Maybe no move. You need to figure it out. When you lose it’s because his holistic gameplan beat yours. Use your brain. Figure out how. Formulate counter strategies and stick to them. You want to identify small, specific changes to make in your deliberate gameplan. Then you want to practice them. Then you want to use them and only them. Wow, you are now a better player!

Almost all the smash problems I can think of can be better understood if not solved outright by getting a notebook, writing down all of the options, then solving for them. Don’t do it in your head, do it on paper. The more problem solving you do outside of the game the less you have to do at 60fps.
Have you written down your expanded list of what makes a good player yet? Are you going to? How can you expect yourself to improve if you can’t even hold yourself accountable to write down what improvement is? HMMMM.

Way too often I’ll point something out to someone and they say “I know” followed by some excuse. I realllllllllllllllly don’t care about excuses. You either knowingly made a bad decision or don’t actually know. If you are aware of a problem and its solution then the hard part is already done, right? Now it's as simple as practicing and executing.

In closing, I'm starting to gravitate toward the perspective that improving the community and my personal skill mostly involves finding efficient and meaningful ways to make playing smash easy. If melee's such a hard game then why make it arbitrarily harder with bad practice or infrastructure? Let's focus on what we can do to make it easier to play and enjoy for ourselves and others.

(I drafted this after a sleepyk document but edited the format/content to fit my needs)

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