It’s no secret that games have a knack for triggering emotions in people when they are confronted with certain challenges. Often these are feelings of frustration at the inability to do something, fear in a tense or suspenseful atmosphere, laughter at an absurd occurrence, or joy at an accomplishment.
One emotional state I often don’t see spoken of is the one that sticks with me and makes me reevaluate what I’ve been doing with myself: the feeling of losing so badly that it Knocks your confidence; the kind of loss where you want to scrap everything and start over.
I play smash bros competitively, have done for over 5 years now. I really like the smash games, they took a unique concept, the made the design it’s own, and became something bigger seemingly by accident.
Playing it competitively taught me how to travel better, how to use hotels and hostels, how to befriend people who don’t speak English and so on.
For all the good things I’ve done with this game (introducing people to it, teaching them, starting up new tournaments and communities) it is always the failures that have stuck with me the hardest.
I like the game but playing has given me painful memories, from traveling to Scotland and going 0-2 at hypespotting 2016 in Wii U (despite playing less I seemed to be far better at 3rd strike and melee), to getting wrecked constantly in Japan for almost a full year, to going 0-2 at the last ever UK Smash Wii U tournament.
I could go into details about these losses and how I had my small victories in the end but point being the experiences stuck and made me grow both as a player and as a person.
Smash Ultimate has been far kinder to me but even yesterday showed how cruel competitive games can be.
I ran a tournament for at shop in my home town that was keen to have video game tournaments. The turnout wasn’t fantastic (19 out of 32) but there was a far bigger tournament happening in Sheffield. A few tournament regulars showed up anyway.
As the tournament organiser Im happy with how the event went, people enjoyed it.
As a player the tournament crushed me.
Considering I left home, moved into a new flat, and started my new job this week I thought I played quite well. I felt good about my odds of winning.
There is one player in my scene who has given me problems in the past. He uses Bayonetta, a heavily nerfed smash ultimate Bayonetta but Bayonetta all the same. In short, this character is a pain for mine to fight and I went into our bracket set with a new game plan to deal with her (big stages, don’t approach). This plan of action worked out great for me as I was able to learn new counter play on the spot. I won the set 3-1 and felt like I was finally making progress in a match up that had been giving me so much trouble (Ike vs Bayonetta).
I kept winning and progressed to grand finals. The Bayonetta player made the run back in losers bracket and met me once more. Having already won once I went in with confidence. Little did I know they had a new strategy to deal with me playing keep away.
I got camped, I got camped harder than I’ve ever been camped.
Anyone who has played smash may be familiar with bayonettas bullet climax special, if not just because of the infamous 2018 evo grand finals.
This move completely stopped me in my tracks. I could not approach or even get close to Bayonetta. If I try to challenge it she can cancel into numerous burst options that can easily lead to a 50% combo on Ike.
I tried to play through it but sadly lost 2-3, forcing a reset of grand finals. At this point the struggle only intensified and I found myself 2-0 down. Come game 3 they used this strategy to protect their lead again and I was defeated before the game had even ended. I mentally told myself “I can’t do this anymore”, I wanted to get off the chair and leave. I had seen enough, I did not have a sound answer to this strategy.
This loss hurt, it hurt because I saw all my progress and achievement wiped away in the space of 30 minutes. This character is giving me problems I cannot overcome. Other players insist Ike dominantly wins the match up but neither me nor this Bayonetta can see it. When you’re being told you win by completely abandoning your best options and “playing differently” you’re conceding that you probably lose the match up in my opinion.
Anyway I was frustrated at my inability to deal with the problem in front of me. It has made me rethink where am I with the game and where I can go from here. The Bayonetta player knew losing like that hurt me so we hugged it out because at the end of the day we’re friends before rivals (it was his first tournament win also).
I’m already moving on but it was definitely soul crushing. Once I got home I jumped back on the game and played until 1am with the frustration still in my system.
I’ve had to give up a lot of things for smash Bros (mainly the freedom to play other games) but I persist with it because it brings me things few other games can. It seems like a silly thing but I genuinely cannot think of many other things in my life that test me in the way competitive play does.
Bit of a long post but I’m curious to see if anyone else has ever been left crushed or powerless because of a game and how they were able to bounce back from it?
I like that games can make us become disciplined and invested in an activity in the way smash and competitive fighting games do but those upsides do come with a cost. There are few disappointments bigger than seeing your hard work fail to pay off.