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Dodging the matchup: playing against characters I hate

Dodging the matchup: playing against characters I hate

I’ve come to realize I have a little bit of a phobia when it comes to facing certain characters. This usually comes from when they’ve beat me pretty hard in the past, and that kind of carries over to future matches where I think the same thing is going to happen.

There’s some commonalities between them, too, which is kind of emblematic of a problem with my play: all seem to be of the “all or nothing” archetype, where players who know what they’re doing can maximize their advantage. This means that if you don’t know how to actively shut their playstyle down, they’re likely going to run over you.

That “actively” part is something I’ve noticed I have a problem with in video games: I’m usually reactionary, instead of being the one that dictates pace. While facing these “all or nothing” characters, you have to commit to defusing their momentum, and that doesn’t mean just sitting there and waiting for them to make a mistake.

Fixing this is part of why I decided to pick up Street Fighter, and I’ve started to notice some change already. Just the ability to pressure your opponent is something very foreign to me, mostly because of the mental math of what can happen:

If you try to dictate the pace and fail, you are likely going to lose, or be at a really big disadvantage. However, if you sit back and let the other player make mistakes, you are the one that gets to reap the benefits with less effort. It’s kind of a risk management: if you never try, you don’t have the chance to fail that hard.

However, while facing highly practiced players, you’re less likely to run into people who make mistakes. If they are playing Akuma, Cammy, Vega or Meepo (my personal “problem opponents”), they likely have already gone through the terrible process of learning and making mistakes with worse players than you.

With that in mind, if they win their match against you, it isn’t because they didn’t deserve it, or are playing something “cheap;” you just didn’t get to see the struggle that got them to that level in the first place. Continually failing against them means you didn’t take it upon yourself to realize why you are losing to these characters, or what you could’ve done to fix it.

It’s kind of that feeling creeping up again: “wouldn’t it just be nice if I could beat this guy so I wouldn’t have to play against Akuma? Wouldn’t it be nice to take my own skill out of the equation so he could just make the mistakes I need to win? Maybe if I just do nothing, that Slark won’t find farm and come to destroy us in 30 minutes.”

This is all stuff that you can’t control. What you can control is being proactive and taking the time to learn what those characters need to thrive. Either by playing as them or reading up what other people have found, that takes work.

That’s the scary thing: making that first step towards change. Even doing something differently than you normally would takes you completely out of your comfort zone and almost invites failure.

I feel like it’s really difficult to just force myself to do that, mostly because it’s really easy to fall back into somewhere comfortable: “okay, I know I need to aggressively ward to track Slark’s movements, but I’m getting dewarded, so what now?” or “I know I have to be patient and wait for punishes, but I feel like I’m doing nothing with my time, so let’s throw out something risky.”

That’s the kind of thing that I need to overcome, mostly by getting rid of the fear of failure and learning from it. Sure, trying something new might not work out the first, second or fifth time I do it, but maybe by the tenth I’ll see why it’s effective, and the practice will have built up. The people bodying me with these characters had to do the same thing in order to learn their limits and what they could do within them.

While grinding out technique can be tedious, the end result of being able to win instead of lose is pretty sweet. At this point, my choices are either sitting and losing or working and having a slightly better time: that doesn’t seem like a hard choice to make.


Matt Demers writes about video games, culture and the Internet. You can find him on Twitter and watch him stream on Twitch.