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Losing (with style)
Some updates from the Street Fighter mines, and figuring out how I know I'm starting to get tilted (good news: I'm not yet).
Oof, I’ve got some catching up to do.
Since my last post, I’ve made some substantial progress in Street Fighter 6. I’m currently at Silver 31, having lost it and re-gained it over the last two days. so far, I’ve played over 200 matches, sitting at around a 42% winrate. However, when I only play Ranked, I’m at 62 wins and 34 losses, for a 64.58% winrate.
Noting those numbers seems antithetical to the idea of “play, learn, grow and don’t care about winning or losing”, but I swear it’s relevant here.
In 2017, I took on another version of this challenge, playing Street Fighter V and playing just over 400 matches. I would say that the typical Street Fighter fan will play a couple thousand matches in their time with a game, and a professional will easily clear tens of thousands.
These numbers are repetitions, just like lifting weights are. Each repetitition is adding to a knowledge, and each repetition has its own quality to it: I can half-ass it if I want, but I probably won’t get all the benefits.
Going into this project, I had a mindset with other games where if I wasn’t playing Ranked, it wasn’t something I wanted to care about. Instead, I wanted that number to mark progress, and I wanted its ups and downs to represent a narrative: one that I wanted to hopefully turn into content. The thing with that is the person handling that ride needs to be able to mentally be okay with those ups and downs.
I clearly wasn’t, and still am working on it.
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Instead, here, I’m splitting my time among a number of different modes within the game:
Battle Hub, a virtual in-game arcade where avatars representing players sit at virtual arcade machines. We challenge each other, watch each other play, chat, emote at each other, etc. Battle Hub is useful for me because I’m typically playing people much better than me (in the Platinum or Diamond range) and I can sit on that virtual arcade machine with them for as long as they’re comfortable beating my ass.
Casual Matches are matchmade like Ranked, only I can endlessly rematch an opponent, rather than playing a “first to two victories” set against them. Again, this has a much larger range of opponents, either above or below me in skill.
I’ve also found out a trio of people (shoutouts to MinovskyArticle, who was kind enough to bring in two of his friends into a group chat to basically be my Street Fighter sherpas) that will pull me into Custom Lobbies, which are essentially extended “winner stays on” sessions.2
This is all to say I’ve been losing, and I’ve been losing a lot. Despite that “200 matches” thing I mentioned earlier, it’s probably closer to 250, as I’m not tracking Lobby matches in my giant spreadsheet of doom.
While this sounds like torture, it’s two kinds of training to me:
It helps me get comfortable losing. I am working on actively resetting after each loss, absorbing small amounts of frustration, and letting it roll off me like water off a duck’s back. This is difficult for me sometimes, but I think it’s speaking to “learning how to play fighting games properly” that I can look at a loss and know what I didn’t do well, rather than “the bullshit they used to beat me.”
It puts me in an environment where I’m forced to catch up and improve at a quicker rate. When I do get to a point where I (rarely) take a round off a worse player, I feel like I’ve made some kind of progress; this was something I was especially bad at in the past, because that ranked skill number needed to represent my progress. If it went down, it meant I was bad.
The nice part about this is that if I can get through being clobbered, I feel a bit more comfortable starting up Ranked. There, I’ll be matchmade with people in my skill bracket, or a little higher/lower (ie, if I’m Silver 1, I might get matched with Bronze 4 or 5 players).
Winning here means I get points, and points means I go up or down in rank. If I win multiple times in a row, I’ll get more points with each successive win (up until Platinum; this is mostly so good players can get where “they’re supposed to be” sooner).
Ranked feels easier after I’ve been batted around a bit by Platinums or Diamonds. It feels a bit refreshing, because people are slower, things feel more forgiving, and I’m under less pressure to play defense (because if I don’t, I’ll lose a third of my health or more).
That feeling is important, mostly because I’m trying to to avoid getting too complacent: I want to be able to avoid bad habits I’ll get away with in Silver, because I’m going to have to unlearn them anyway. Getting ultra-punished for them by Platinums and Diamonds means that it’s a clear, glaring lesson: don’t do that. Don’t be lazy.
Make sure every rep is counting.
I figure that the next article I write will be a bit of an update to how I’m doing in Ranked, but it’ll also show some of the situations and moves I’m trying to learn and apply. There’ll be some GIFs and visual aids for you non-fighting-game players, but part of this project is bridging the gap between enthusiasts and unfamiliars.
Right now, my goal is to remain self-aware enough to know when I’m feeling salty3, and when things feel unfair. The ability for me to recognize when I’m getting emotional means I can be compassionate to myself, instead of the self-punishing “You should be good enough not to feel frustrated, but you still do” feeling that I’ve had in the past.
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I guess that’s a lie. I still have that feeling from time to time: mostly when a Cammy or Juri makes me feel like I have no options in a match, and that every button I press is going to lead to a loss.
The above is probably a good example of the “stimulus ► reaction” kind of thought that chips away at the mentality of having fun and enjoying myself. Feeling that kind of despair, and not having the confidence or mentality to think “Yeah, it just means I’m going to have to improve to beat that feeling, and I know that I can” is what kills these kinds of pursuits for me.
I think varying up my time between Ranked and “everything else” is at least creating a new type of feedback loop for me, and I’m eager to see where it goes.
Ranks in SF6 have two parts: a medal (Rookie, Iron, Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, Diamond, Master) and then a divison (1-5). “Silver 1” is lower than “Silver 5”, and you get promoted from Silver 5 to Gold 1.
Custom lobbies also have an “Online Practice” mode, which is a godsend. Being able to play against a friend without needing to worry about time limits or knocking them out is great.
Lingo for “frustrated”