Mailbag: Coming back, keeping consistent, and getting discouraged

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Happy New Year everyone! 2022 is here, and we’re going to kick it’s ass SO HORD that 2023 is gonna feel it. In order to pick up the new year with a clean slate, I’m going to start this year off by cleaning out the mailbag.

Every couple years I decide that this is going to be the year I get into fighting games. I make a New Year’s resolution to play every day or hit Platinum or whatever, and then I last a couple weeks to a month before dropping it. What can I do to stay on track?

I’m a big fan of New Year’s resolutions as an opportunity for us to reflect on the kind of people we want to be, and define specific habits that bring us closer to that person. Getting into fighting games is kind of like the video game equivalent of getting used to going to the gym, so this kind of New Year’s resolution makes perfect sense to me — in fact, I wrote about it a couple years ago, as well as another essay specifically on how I cultivate new habits.

The important thing about the goal of “getting into fighting games” is that you’re acknowledging that fighting games are something you want to be into, but are not into enough to feel like playing them is not fun enough for you to do on your own. In other words, you want to have enough fun playing fighting games that you’d regularly choose to play them over other things. I know I’m into fighting games because I play them just about every day without a New Year’s resolution to do so; your goal is to get there, and you want to form a habit to do so.

“Hit Platinum by the end of the year” would be a serviceable goal if you were specifically trying to become a stronger competitive player, but if you’re not even able to consistently kick back and mash a couple nights a week, aiming for “strong competitive player” is a bit of a stretch goal, and if you adopt that as your resolution then you’re likely to be more stressed out while playing, which is not conducive to a sustainable habit. “Play fighting games every day” is a bit more relevant to your goals insofar as it’s the exact behavior you’re trying to adopt, but the fact is that doing anything every day is really hard, especially if it’s something that doesn’t consistently bring you joy or relief, and once you skip a day you’ll either feel like you’ve failed your goal (thereby killing your motivation to continue playing) or you’ll feel like the goal itself was flawed (which will devalue your efforts to continue playing).

The thing about habits is that making small changes to your daily life requires discipline, and discipline is hard to cultivate, so if you’re serious about this, set a smaller goal like “play fighting games for at least fifteen minutes at least three days a week”. That way you can feel good about playing more than three days a week on the weeks that you’re up to it, but you can also just feel good about hitting the goal and moving on during the weeks where there are other things you want to do. Plus, the extra specificity defined by the time makes it easier for you to fit a session into your daily life. Just like going to the gym, the main thing that stops you from completing this habit is just getting in there to do the dang thing, so if you can do it for just fifteen minutes three days a week, you’ll have no problem doing it more.

What’s a good mindset to have when getting back into a community when you disconnect from people for a while? Also, what would be a good mindset for getting back into fighting games?

This one actually came from one of our newbies to the scene who showed up during the pandemic and was doing really well before disappearing without a trace! Nice to hear from you, homie.

Fact is, anyone who’s been around fighting games for a while knows that this stuff is always at the whims of the rest of your life allowing for it. What little success and notoriety I’ve built for myself in fighting games has been a little bit of talent, a little more hard work, and a lot just showing up year after year. Consistency is the hardest thing to maintain, and anyone active in a fighting game scene knows it. So, anyone in your scene should understand that sometimes people come and go, and when we see them go, there are no hard feelings — we just hope that they come back when they can.

This is particularly true for older fighting game communities that can’t count on consistent publisher or event support to keep the momentum alive. It’s why we at Play Guilty Gear chose to continue sustaining the Rev2 scene instead of expanding our efforts to +R or Strive; we keep up our events and streams because we want to make sure that Rev2 players have a home to come back to whenever they’re ready.

As far as the mindset goes: Getting back into fighting games after a break is a great opportunity to try out a different approach or restructure your practice habits if you have something specific you want to achieve. Try out a different character, or tackle some of those combo challenges you never managed to hit! But since you’re coming back with a clean slate, just hop into the game, dust off those BnBs, and start hitting buttons. Just remember two important things:

  1. You might not be able to do all the things you could do before, but don’t worry, your hands will remember how to do them much more quickly this time around.
  2. Anyone who stuck around and kept playing while you were out has probably gotten a lot better! Don’t waste energy having any expectations of how strong you are relative to the rest of the crew. Just take your time and be okay with losing a bunch at first while you get used to everyone’s new power levels.

No one is sitting around holding bad vibes or anything because you had to take care of life shit. You went and took care of it, now you’re back and ready to play, so just hop into Discord (or come back to the in-person events when it’s safe) and let’s get some games in!

I’ve been playing fighting games for a couple years now, and when I see high-level players do really well with my character, I feel bad that I don’t win as much as they do. Do you ever get discouraged when seeing stronger players do better with your character than you do?

This one was a funny one to me because when I came up in my early fighting game days it was just incredibly obvious all the time that top-level players were in a different world than I was, and it had nothing to do with character selection. I’m the same age as Justin Wong and Tokido, who were both winning Evos right around when I got started competing; I play Ryu in Street Fighter because I admire John Choi and Daigo; I play Chipp in Guilty Gear and I know that the gap between my Chipp and Summit’s Chipp is likely measured in decades.

So no, I don’t find it discouraging when I see other people play Chipp better than I can. In fact, it’s the opposite; I find it encouraging, because it means that the thing holding me back is not the character, it’s me. I can’t change Chipp’s health bar, but I can get better at not getting hit. I can’t change Ryu’s Hadouken startup, but I can be smarter about when I throw them. As long as I keep playing, practicing, reflecting, and changing, I’ll be getting closer and closer to the goal.

You’ve been playing Guilty Gear games for a couple years now, but the series is probably about as old as you are, so most of the oldheads (especially +R oldheads) have been playing for longer than you’ve been speaking complete sentences. Of course they’re going to do better than you do! If they didn’t, these games wouldn’t be nearly as rewarding.

I understand that “You’re still 100 years too early” might not be the most encouraging thing to hear, so here’s something a bit more useful: Every generation of fighting game players learns faster than the previous one did. Take it from someone who’s seen multiple generations come in and level up. You have more information, better practice tools, easier ways to find matches, and all the study tools in the world. So while it may take you a couple more years to get within striking range of the players you look up to, if you’re consistent and diligent, you’ll be able to catch up faster than they’ll be able to maintain their lead.

Onward to 2022! Good luck handling your shit, y’all ❤

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

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Game Designer. Learn to play Street Fighter: http://shoryuken.com/2014/07/07/learn-how-to-play-fighting-games-with-our-free-beginners-guide-ebook/

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Patrick Miller

Patrick Miller

Game Designer. Learn to play Street Fighter: http://shoryuken.com/2014/07/07/learn-how-to-play-fighting-games-with-our-free-beginners-guide-ebook/

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