How can I curb my anger in fighting games?

[People who back my Patreon send me questions sometimes and I like answering them. Please consider joining the crew!]

Hey Pat,

I have an issue with anger when it comes to fighting games, and I was wondering if you could help shed some light on this.

I usually get angry when I feel something happened that I feel shouldn’t have that results in my loss, especially in Guilty Gear, such as dropped inputs, a failed Instant Block attempt, I get wakeup thrown even though I was trying to meaty, or just eating the same stuff I can’t deal with over and over.

This really frustrates me, and since I usually play in an environment where I’m all alone, there’s nobody there to see me make an ass out of myself and think twice about it, so there’s no incentive for me not to get salty besides self-control.

Some solutions I’ve thought up of on my own are sticking post-it notes nearby reminding me not to get so salty, taking breaks when I start to get angry, and so on. Or maybe I should stop taking these games so seriously and get out more. A frustrated 18 year old could use some of that. Hard to do with COVID running around, but still.

What do you have to say about this, and what would you recommend I do to curb down on this behavior? I really don’t want to be the next LTG or DarkSydePhil if I ever get into streaming or content creation. Thank you for your time.


Salt-Bodied Scrub

Great question, SBS! Salt management is something almost everyone needs to work on at some point.

First off, I’d recommend reading two of my essays on this topic — Grown Adult Anti-Salt Tech and “Help! My friend can’t hold their Ls” as these two should give you some decent starter tips for managing your own salt.

It sounds like you’re getting mad because you want to blame the game for not recognizing what you wanted and give it to you, but the game can’t really do that — it’s only doing what you tell it to. You cannot change the game, only yourself. (Which is a life lesson I wish I learned at 18.)

The thing to remember is that in fighting games, pretty much everything is ultimately our own fault. No one made us drop that input, go for that IB, or try to meaty wakeup throws (which, remember, if you’re gonna do that in GG, make sure you’re not in throw range for the meaty, because throws will beat attacks on the same frame). If we’re eating the same stuff we can’t deal with over and over, that’s on ourselves for not practicing how to deal with it. We have training mode, a recordable dummy, and the same characters as everyone else.

When things aren’t going our way, we feel frustrated. We want the character on screen to do what we want them to do, and they’re not doing it. And even though we know that everything in a fighting game happens because we made it happen, it’s not easy to spend our downtime playing a game that is constantly reminding us that we made a bad decision, or that we made a good decision but couldn’t execute it well.

Feeling salty is inevitable, and learning strategies for dealing with it is one of the strongest things you can get out of playing fighting games. An effective strategy for salt management typically needs two components: tactics for dealing with the salt in the moment, so you can keep playing without clouding your judgment or burning your mental stamina, and tactics for addressing the root cause of the salt after the session is over.

Blaming the game for not giving you what you wanted is certainly a popular mid-session salt management technique, but it’s not the healthiest for your engagement, because you’re just projecting your frustration onto the game. The more you tell yourself “This game sucks” the less it makes sense for you to keep on putting work into the game, because you’ve already convinced yourself that it sucks. So let’s try and find something else.

Post-It notes are a great example of a tactic for mid-session salt management, and it’s definitely worth trying — not just to remind yourself to not get salty, but to remind yourself of other mental pitfalls, too. Streaming has been really good anti-salt tech for me because I have to hold my shit together when I’m in front of an audience. Netplaying with the homies on voice chat (no push-to-talk, either, hot mics only) has also been good because I can turn my frustration into friendly shit-talk. And taking notes on the things that are blowing me up is good because I get to turn that salt into my next training mode to-do list.

But if you really want to address the root cause of your salt, you need to make sure that the stuff you’re doing outside of PvP play sessions are addressing the root cause of your salt — and that root cause is you. You’ll need to reframe the way you look at things if you want to improve. Every input you’re fucking up or getting blown up by is a reminder that you could be practicing those inputs better or learning to defend more effectively instead of getting mad about netplay.

Jam takes her frustration and channels it into an Instant Kill. Be like Jam.

The frustration you’re hitting is likely happening because you allow yourself to think that you’re a better player than your mistakes indicate. It’s a pretty common ego defense tool; blame the lag, blame the game for being dumb because it didn’t yield the outcome you thought should happen, whatever. You’re not. None of us are. You are only as good as the level you’re able to play at. So set your ego aside. Take the energy you spend on being mad, and spend it on getting good. When something happens that makes you mad, write it down in the moment so you can work on it later. Swallowing your pride and frustration won’t be easy at first, but neither is Guilty Gear, so take some time to get good at it, because it’s a far more valuable life skill than learning dust loops.

Remember that we all make mistakes. Competitive fighting games is, among other things, a dance to see who can make mistakes the least often, and capitalize upon their opponent’s mistakes the most effectively. If none of us ever made mistakes this shit would be boring as fuck. None of us can do everything perfectly, none of us know everything perfectly, we’re all doing the best we can with what we have and building on it so we can do even better tomorrow.

And lastly, remember that in the grand scheme of things, being good at a video game is cool but largely inconsequential in the big picture. The only thing that really matters is what you got out of the video game while you were playing it. Playing Guilty Gear is putting you in a situation where you have to learn how to control your emotions, check your ego, acknowledge your weaknesses and put in work to fix them at 18 years old; that’s the actual game that we’re playing, and all the combos and setplay stuff are really just about getting us to that point.

Good luck!

Thanks for reading! If you found this essay valuable and want to support my work, please do not hesitate to share it around on your social channels, follow me on Twitter, check out my Twitch stream (Mon-Thurs 830PM-1030PM PST), or join my Patreon.


-patrick miller