Thanksgiving crawl: the sequel

So my last post was meant with a fair bit of… uh… discussion. And this is good! I like it when my posts spur discussion on one topic or another. Of course, somewhere along the way I became Kat the Chick Who Is Too Hardcore For Smash Brothers. I think I’ve just been treated to a sneak preview of my ironic punishment in hell. Lucky me.

It’s my own fault, of course, for making it seem as if I was waving my hand and dismissing Smash Brothers as a “viable tournament fighter.” My point (which was a relatively minor point in the grand scheme of things) was pretty clear in my head, but it seemed to get lost in the jumble of words that constituted my feelings on Smash Brothers. Writing is kind of a bastard like that.

If you really want to know, I’m mostly just a frustrated Smash Brothers player who spent years trying to master all those crazy techniques floating around the Internet and ultimately failed. It seems that I’m no better at pulling off wave dashes and meteors than I am at performing aerial raves. As I’ve said before, I’m doomed to be forever mediocre (or worse) at games, but I keep trying to get better. I keep trying with all my little heart. Unfortunately, trying and failing to play like all those professionals on the Youtube videos just left me frustrated and bitter. And when Brawl made a relatively quick exit from my group’s regular multiplayer rotation, that frustration turned into disenchantment. So it was with much delight that I discovered this past Thanksgiving that Brawl is still in fact fun provided that I leave behind all my preconceptions, turn items back on and stop worrying about which stage I’m playing on. (Exception: I still hate New Pork City and Big Blue.)

This seems to be true of a lot of games that I’ve been playing recently — even games that I’m nominally good at, like Pokémon. It’s reached the point where I’m actively avoiding multiplayer-oriented games like Call of Duty 4 and Team Fortress 2 (both of which I thought were reasonably entertaining) simply because I know I don’t have the time or the energy to learn to play well enough to even hold my own against random strangers. I would rather play a good RPG.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t a certain amount of fun to be had in joining a competitive community. I know, because I’ve done it with WarCraft III and with Pokémon. But at some point, the payoff of winning a tournament stopped being equal to the effort that I put into maintaining my skills. And looking at all the effort that the competitive community has put into turning a game that’s supposedly “not about winners and losers but the process of getting there” (in the words of Mr. Sakurai) into yet another tournament fighter, I shake my head and wonder if it is actually worth all that effort.

Who am I to judge though? If others find competitive Smash fun and fulfilling, then more power to them. They just better watch out if they play against me, because I’m totally turning on smash balls. And I pilot a mean Landmaster.

44 thoughts on “Thanksgiving crawl: the sequel

  1. Personally, I wonder why anyone would consider Smash to be tournament-level in the first place. It’s designed to be fun, not precise, and it really succeeds at that.

    …Of course, I was super-competitive myself until I realized that the random element can be really, really funny. And a lot more fun.

    Brawl is just a big, stupid, awesome fight. As it should be.

  2. Yes, I agree: New Pork City is a bitch. A large, chaotic, cluttered son of a bitch.

    In regards to your avoidance of multiplayer-focused games, Street Fighter HD Remix currently has me angry and bitter, too. I’m guessing most of the people I play online have been shoryukening since the game came out in the arcades, and I really can’t keep up.

  3. I’m finding I’m willing to look past how crapy of a stage New Pork City is since I’ve been playing Mother 3.

    Anyway! Kat, definitely play Team Fortress 2 with Talking Time (er, if you have the 360 version). We’re nice folks, and some of us (myself included) are TERRIBLE at shooters, but we have a blast anyway. It’s not whether you win or lose, but how many dudes you punch in the face before you die that counts.

  4. I think writing a full entry to explain a throw-away line in a previous entry is a Gamespite tradition.

  5. yeah .. new pork city is awful.

    >>It’s designed to be fun, not precise

    anyway, apologies in advance if this starts any… “discussion”, but it’s statements like the above that rub smash players the wrong way. as if capcom vs snk or guilty gear or sf2 hd aren’t designed to be fun.

    everyone is entitled to their own opinion but, if you want to be taken seriously, please at least attempt to back it up with an argument, or at least a complaint that isn’t so vague that it is useless.

  6. Huh, preview comment button here works, uh, strangely. Sorry if that post made no sense (or even showed up at all), I didn’t finish my thoughts, really, and abandoned the post and decided not to put it up. Apparently, the preview button (I didn’t know how this site would take to brackets) threw it up here all the same. Sorry.

  7. “I think writing a full entry to explain a throw-away line in a previous entry is a Gamespite tradition.”

    Probably because blowing a throw-away comment entirely out of proportion is an Internet tradition.

  8. I think the problem is there is just a bigger gap between how Smash is played competatively and casually compared to other fighters. In order to make it fair for competitions a lot of the random nature of the game is removed, which is what makes the game fun to play. Then as for any game played in a competition there is just a certain way people play that sucks out some of the fun. Its more methodical with people taking less risks and exploting certain moves/situations. All the more power to people who enjoy that sort of play, but in the end it really comes down to what you like more: winning or playing the game.

  9. @ what

    I think you’re misinterpreting Kat’s comment. STILL. I have fun playing Street Fighter, King of Fighters, Guilty Gear, Virtua Fighter, etc. But those all have a fairly long learning curve in order to get really good at them. I do all right in Street Fighter [insert numeral of choice here]… until I play against someone like my friend Josh, who understands characters in and out, spends lots of time perfecting them, and proceeds to batter me into dog meat every single time we play, unless I play one or two characters I know fairly well and spam cheap moves. There is a whole different plane of skill that he’s on which I will never reach, and it’s just not a lot of fun to play against him for extended periods of time.

    Smash Bros. is a much more casual game. Glance at the controls in the instruction manual, pick up a controller, start it up and you’re off to the races. Josh still kicks my ass at Smash Bros., but it never stops being fun for me, probably because the game’s very nature encourages you to just do goofy, entertaining things on your way to victory.

    Street Fighter encourages you to pummel your opponent mercilessly for victory, and have fun along the way. Smash Bros. encourages you to have fun, and if you win or lose, oh well.

  10. @ wolf

    i never misinterpreted Kat’s comment, my only real contribution to the previous post was to correct a few factual errors about tournament rules.

    also unless DF is Kat, I haven’t addressed anything she said in this post, at all! Well, apart from agreeing that Pork City is lame.

  11. @ what

    Er… Sorry about that. I was confusing DF’s specific comments with the more general sentiment of the post.

  12. @ wolf

    ok, a follow up to address the meat of your post. it sounds like you are saying that, while your friend josh is better than you both at smash AND at street fighter, you have more fun while getting beaten at smash.

    what i don’t understand is how that equates to it being more casual or less tournament friendly.

    honestly, until brawl came out and the internet started arguing about smash constantly, i always thought of it as a game with a fairly steep learning curve.

    it’s true that specific moves are never more than two buttons away, but the fact that the game is so different than traditional 2d fighters – especially the need to get a handle on the air game, which is way more robust and important than in most (all?) other 2d fighters – seems to always result in at least an hour or two of play before newcomers even feel comfortable following the action and understanding what’s going on!

    incidentally, david sirlin put together a good series of videos detailing the basics:

    anyway, sorry again if this is the bad kind of “discussion”, not trying to be rude or obnoxious ..

  13. Even though I prefer to play Brawl boring-style, I had no problem with playing shit-crazy games with Calories, Tomm, Prime, Zef, and Morbid; to me, it’s just fun all around.

  14. I didn’t even notice the kerfuffle over the previous post until I went back and read it for context, but I loved all the people going “oh why do people keep making fun of tournament players” and mr. what here saying that most stages aren’t banned. The problem people have with tournament players is that they’re not actually playing Smash Bros., they’re playing a game of their own devising that happens to use the Smash Bros. engine called “no items, Final Destination”. It is like claiming that you are playing Warcraft III when you’re playing DOTA. Most of the rules are thrown out the window and many of the others are marginalised. If the perception that tournament-level players turn items off and stick to the flat, boring stage that marginalises the air game is incorrect, then there we go. Say *that*.

  15. @ merus

    “The problem people have with tournament players is that they’re not actually playing Smash Bros., they’re playing a game of their own devising that happens to use the Smash Bros. engine called “no items, Final Destination”.”

    why is that a problem? why does that bother you?

    personally i prefer playing with items, but it doesn’t upset me when people take them out, or filter all but pokeballs, or even play a slow bunny curry metal brawl!

    (just for the record, it is true that *most* stages aren’t banned.. at least in melee. not sure what the rules are for brawl.)

  16. @merus
    Sakurai put customization options in the game for a reason. Who’s to say your version of smash with items is more or less valid than the version without items?

    In melee, IIRC only about half the stages are banned for various balance reasons or in the case of 2v2 framerate problems. You would notice that if you bothered to look into the scene rather than spout stereotypes.

  17. “why is that a problem? why does that bother you?”

    Well, I thought this was obvious, but: if I play with them I can’t play Smash, and they’re taking up the room that high level Smash play *could* be taking place in with their Smash variant.

    And I stress that “playing with custom rules” is different to “no items, final destination”. It’s true that “no items, final destination” is a custom rule, a very constrained version of the game, but if you’re playing with custom rules then next time maybe it’s slow bunny curry metal brawl. It’s the embracing of variety, the essence of Smash, that makes it different. “No items, final destination” is an attempt to suck as much variety out of the game as possible in the interest of “balance”.

  18. @merus
    If you think your custom rule set is so high-level and true to the spirit of the game (whatever that even means), you should go start your own tournament and prove the current scene wrong. As it is, you’re basically espousing double think of the highest order. “You can play custom rules of any type as long as it’s not that one over there.”

  19. I think you didn’t actually read my comment. I said “You can play custom rules of any type as long as it’s not that one over there all the time.”

    As far as I’m aware, they don’t really have console tournaments over here. Too low population density.

  20. I think what Merus is getting at is that if you have to turn off most of the features and restrict yourself to certain arenas or characters to make the game acceptable for tournament-style play, you may be missing the point.

  21. @wolf
    In Super Turbo, Akuma is hard-banned from competitive play in Western tournaments and soft-banned in Japanese tournaments. I guess everyone that plays Super Turbo in tournaments is missing the point too.

    What’s this supposed point that’s being missed? I could just as easily say that those that play with all items on are missing the point by not playing with no items, but I don’t because the game is designed to be customized to your level of satisfaction. I would argue that this is the “point” of Smash Bros: playing it however you want to, whether that is with all items on, with everything off except pokeballs (awesome, by the way!), with no items at all or any of the other infinitely many sets of possible rules.

    If you’re not just snarking about not having tournaments in your area, then I don’t see your reason to complain that all those tournaments that you can’t play in follow the same specific set of rules that you don’t like.

  22. @ [Sean]

    There’s a difference between a single character being banned and all the crap that has to be banned for Smash Bros. in a tournament setting. To me, Smash Bros. is different from every other fighting game out there. Smash Bros. is madcap insanity and potential hilarity. Turning off all the options or otherwise loading yourself down with restrictions lessens that, at least for me.

  23. Hey Kat I was so happy to see Armored Core get some love. I don’t see it mentioned much round here. I completely know what it feels like to spend an entire afternoon or evening tooling around in the multiplayer. I’m like you in that even games I want to be really serious about mastering I can never make much progress. I did get stupidly good at using unguided weapons in armored core, but I steer clear of most competitive multiplayer anyway.

  24. @kat
    It may not sound like it, but I like your posts too. Any antagonism is wholely unintended.

    Even with all the things turned off, Smash Bros still manages to be significantly different I think. No other fighting game I can think of has such intuitive controls, a strong focus on ring outs or such a large focus on physics and the resultant situational combos. Still, as I said, play it your way! If you enjoy it, don’t let anyone tell you you’re doing it wrong. I hate to repeat myself, but if I sound antagonistic in my previous comments, it’s all wholely unintended, and I would be grateful if you didn’t take it as such.

  25. Yeah, I know I’m feeling some fatigue from this. Just drop it, Sean. My position’s clear enough, I feel, Wolf’s pretty much spot on, and rehashing variants of it over and over isn’t particularly profitable. I’m getting the sense here that you’re not interested in a dialogue so much as incensed that someone’s disparaging a game setup you happen to like, and no-one enjoys an argument that goes nowhere and teaches no-one anything.

  26. @ wolf

    i would say a character ban is a far more extreme ban that stage bans .. that said, akuma was never meant to be at all balanced anyway so that’s kind of a special case. but you’re right, it’s like comparing apples and oranges.

    just for the record, item banning seems to be pretty controversial within the tournament community as well. however, that’s the way that MLG, the organizers of the largest melee tourneys, decided to run it, so…

    also, the thought process behind disabling items was not as simple as “items are unbalanced/random”. smash has a filter that lets you disable specific items, so extremely powerful items like hearts, stars, hammers, etc could be disabled individually.

    however, there is no way to disable crates or other containers. crates, regardless of their contents, have a random chance of exploding and so there is no way to prevent a crate from spawning directly in front of a player who has already begun to attack, and then exploding, causing a potential unavoidable unpredictable KO.

    anyway, i’m not arguing in support of that decision, just trying to explain the situation as i understand it.

  27. @ what and [Sean]

    Sorry if I came across as combative or overly confrontational, or seemed to imply that you were. That wasn’t my intent. It’s clear to me now that this is a difference in personal preferences, and continuing to debate it isn’t really constructive or helpful to any of us. I hope I haven’t irritated anybody, and I hope there are no hard feelings.

  28. @Merus

    Not that I want to drag this out too long, but I’m a little intrigued by one of the things you said. Part of your complaint about the prevalence of “no items, final destination” was that game type “taking up the room that high level Smash play *could* be taking place in.” As far as I can tell, there are two possibilities: either a majority of players who are interested in playing Smash in a tournament setting prefer “NI,FD” (in which case, what’s the problem?), or (as I understand you to suggest) a minority of players have taken over the tournament system and forced their preferred ruleset on all the others. Assuming you’re arguing the latter, what exactly do you feel is stopping disaffected players from leaving and starting their own tournaments?

  29. @merus
    sigh. Besides the fact that I don’t play Smash competitively at all and the fact that I said you should play Smash how you want without trying to stop other people from playing it how they want, yes; this argument has dragged on long enough.

    No hard feelings at all. Your points were all well-taken, though my bit about Akuma was intended to be facetious :P

  30. @ wolf

    no need to apologize for anything. this is a weirdly divisive topic, even for the internet, but the comments here so far seem civil enough to me…

    smash players do tend to have chipped shoulders, probably because (to quote a comment from the earlier post):

    “a)they organized themselves completely independently from the rest of the fighting game community and b)they have to deal with a lot of shit talk from said community because of the party game stigma.”

    i have to admit it stings a little bit when i hear people say “Smash Brothers is the most fun when you don’t pretend it’s a fighting game” or “Brawl is just a big, stupid, awesome fight. As it should be” .. it would genuinely be interesting to discuss the differences between smash and more traditional fighting games, but the constant blanket dismissals and misinformation can be frustrating.

    but of course it’s just a game

  31. I got no idea, but mr. what implies that it’s the MLG. So I’d say network effects: people don’t want to go play in another tournament because it’s going to be smaller and not as competitive.

    However: elite players don’t seem to like random chance in games of skill, and are quick to attribute losses to random chance instead of to them not being good enough to overcome both the other player and the misfortune the other player would have theoretically had to deal with. (I’ve even seen players even complain about random chance when the game affects all players identically.) I think many of these players prefer “NI,FD” because it eliminates random chance.

    I don’t think Smash is a game that benefits from this attitude. I’d much prefer tournament organisers, if they’re worried about random chance, to consider very close wins as ties (Smash has the ability to play for a certain amount of time instead of by ringouts, something untenable in most fighting games). That way, losers are compensated for theoretical KOs thanks to random chance not going their way by only “losing” if they would have lost anyway. Conversely, players only “win” if they win convincingly enough to overcome random chance.

  32. @ Lithros: ” either a majority of players who are interested in playing Smash in a tournament setting prefer “NI,FD” (in which case, what’s the problem?), or (as I understand you to suggest) a minority of players have taken over the tournament system and forced their preferred ruleset on all the others. Assuming you’re arguing the latter, what exactly do you feel is stopping disaffected players from leaving and starting their own tournaments?”

    No one is going to follow a new standard because the one he mentioned is so damned prevalent for that game. I can relate to this personally because I remember back when I worked at my local malls arcade a couple years back, I ran a few DDR tournaments. My rules were basically: best of 4 songs, same difficulty, speed mods only, yes you can hold the bar, Player one picks songs 1 and 3, Player 2 picks songs 2 and 4…most perfects out of the 4 song set wins the match. Apparently, this isn’t the standard DDR tournament ruleset, and because of this…players instantly lashed out at me for even THINKING of it. (keep in mind that the players that lashed out at me, weren’t evn going to show up…what was the point then?) There was hesitation, but people came out anyways and my ruleset was efficient and a success, and the next tournament I had run had an even larger turnout. I don’t think peeps that want to have a tournament with a different ruleset for the game have the courage to try it because they don’t want to deal with the instant kneejerk backlash the “pro players” will give them.

    I think the question that should be asked to those players is “are you complaining because it’s honestly flawed, or are you complaining because it ruins your road to an easy win?”

    I was introduced (badly) to the competitive style by my local “pro players” and thats where it all started for me. It’s not that I have a problem with people modifying Smash…if it wasn’t meant to happen, the options wouldn’t be there. It’s the douchebag attitude that the “pro players” have about the game, and then dissing “traditional” fighters without ever having played them (which was exactly my experience). The main argument comes from the Smash Crowd saying “we do it this way so there’s nothing to interfere with the fight”, to which the Fighting Crowd retorts with “Then why not just play a Real Fighter then?” and it goes on and on and on and on and on…

    Smash has been in the last two EVO tournaments, so…everyone should take notice of that.

    My question never got answered either…”idiot-savants down, down-forward, up-forward kick, yeah, yeah, up-forward kick, yeah”

    Seriously…what does that mean? I’m not bent out of shape about it…I just don’t get what it’s supposed to mean is all…

  33. Wouldn’t this thread work better on the forums? All these @marks are making me dizzy. I’m all like @_@

  34. “idiot-savants down, down-forward, up-forward kick, yeah, yeah, up-forward kick, yeah”

    Tiger Knee! I only know it because I never got the down-forward to up-forward timing right.

  35. @Riot.EXE

    I understand what you’re saying, but doesn’t the eventual acceptance and success of your new rules run contrary to your premise? Presumably, if you kept running tournaments, they would keep getting bigger as people realized yours was an acceptable alternative. Apparently, all it takes is one person dedicated to a new style of play who’s willing to put up with criticism from the mainstream players to found a new style of tournament. Why can’t this happen with Smash?

  36. @ Lithros: It doesn’t run contrary…I was pointing out that change could happen, but it doesn’t seem like anyone in the community is willing to do that…plus, Smash is in EVO and MLG, so thats even less reason, while DDR isn’t. The stakes are “higher” in a sense. I should also note that I had no prior knowledge of standard DDR rules for tournaments when I started running them…I just devised a rule set that seemed to be logical, and the main problem naysayers had with my ruleset was, and I quote, “It ensures that the better player would win.”

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t that the point of competition?

  37. I came into this steeled for more arguments but what I found makes me even more proud of Gamespite’s commenters. Originally I was just going to say ‘thanks’ @Kat for posting again to clear things up but now I have to say ‘double thanks’ for provoking more comments that were much better and more informed than the ones in the previous post.

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