How Fighting Games Can Help You Deal With The Chaos of Life
Imagine you’re sitting at a fighting game station and you’re duking it out with someone. You’re making all the right reads and punishing hard. Everything is in your control and you see clearly that you have the upper hand. You win! Your opponent shakes your hand and mutters “GG” then steps off the machine.
In the corner of your eye, you spot the next victim coming up to challenge you. You’re feelin’ yourself a bit from winning your previous match, so you’re thinking this next opponent should be free. Shoulders bump, you pick your characters, and then the round starts.
You throw your first attack out and it whiffs, Counter Hit. You are totally blindsided and feel confused and filled with panic. It seems like all you are doing is blocking and taking hits. And this person is avoiding everything you are trying on them. You can’t do anything, and you feel like you aren’t even playing the game anymore. You lose.
The salt of defeat starts creeping in as you shake hands, then you walk away. You sigh and say to yourself, “What could I have done? I did everything I could, so I guess….nothing.”
You might’ve felt a similar way about things in your real life. Things like insufferable coworkers, relationship issues, or just fumbling the ball when it comes to your daily tasks. These situations also tend to feel like they are way out of our control. We feel like we just can’t do anything about these situations because that’s just the way it is. But are they really?
A lot of these situations can be alleviated or even fixed with some hidden skills that we can train up with using fighting games. We’ll use BlazBlue: Central Fiction to illustrate how you can build a few of these skills that can help you with some real life situations.
Patience is both a praised and revolted word in the fighting game community. This is because patience usually equates to blocking or sitting still in the game, which then may equate to “not fun” (for most people anyway). It can feel like you’re blocking forever and it makes you unsure of what you can do. This can stir up feelings of impatience, frustration, and fear.
We often want to just do anything while we’re blocking so we can have some control over the situation.
For example, if Jin is pressuring someone with a flurry of attacks, a player may use their burst (a costly move that pushes away the enemy) or try to counter attack. An inexperienced player will usually waste their burst or worse, get countered for their retaliation and lose a ton of health.
This is something many of us do in own lives. Often times when we run into a problem we just want to solve it ASAP to get rid of these bad feelings of having a problem on our hands. But always wanting to rush to a solution can get you in big trouble.
Say for instance that the kitchen catches on fire. Most people won’t be ready for that and freak out and try to throw water on it (this is death if it’s a grease fire!).
The cause of such panic is that our mind is thinking about something other than what’s going on in the moment. The thoughts are usually of the negative consequences of the problem; “the house will be burned down” or “I’m going to seriously get hurt”.
We can use fighting games as a safe way to counteract this instinctive reaction to just panic.
We can use these stressful situations where we are pressured to build some mental endurance. Tell yourself, “I’ll try to sit still, wait, or block a little longer than I normally do and see if I can get through this without panicking.” Enduring some of that discomfort will train your brain to be able to handle more pressure the next time a problem arises. You’ll be able to stay calm under pressure and be able to have better solutions for problems when things are tough.
For our kitchen fire example, someone who doesn’t have mental endurance may just panic and throw water onto the fire and possibly cause a grease fire explosion. A person with more mental fortitude may have the clarity to grab a fire extinguisher instead and attempt to snuff out the fire properly (or exit the premises and call the fire department).
Similarly in the game, if you can stay calm then you’ll be able to better discern your choices when you’re on the defensive. You may see that you might have some meter to do a super move, or be attentive enough to notice a big enough gap in the opponent’s pressure. With this mental fortitude, you’ll also be more ready to block mix-ups and break throws.
The key here is to that you can train to your mind to stay present in the situation instead of worrying about the negative outcomes. Tackling the issue at hand with clarity will give you a much better chance to turn the tide of a bad situation.
Pattern Recognition & Reads
Pattern recognition isn’t just used in games like Dance Dance Revolution. It’s a key component for playing well (and having a ton of fun) in fighting games.
Having patterns is something that is prevalent in all people because we are creatures of habit. We use a form of auto-pilot so we can cruise through our days and in the game without expending the energy of decision making. This expenditure of mental energy is called “decision fatigue”.
You may always opt for cereal in the morning or have a favorite route to go to work or school. Or you may tend to use a certain block string or combo a lot. These habits and routines make life much more streamlined by essentially reducing the amount of thinking we have to do (thus reducing decision fatigue).
Every single fighting game player has tendencies for what they do in their matches (even the best players). These tendencies are a result of people being in their comfort zone for their own style of play, which is how they reduce their own decision fatigue. So these patterns can be very telling of what a person is thinking (or not thinking) and even reveal parts of their personality.
For example, if a Litchi player keeps using her dragon punch (a powerful but highly punishable move if an opponent blocks it) after being knocked down, it may be a sign that the person is easily panicked or just likes taking big risks.
Using this information we can “read” (educated guess) that the next time this Litchi player is knocked down, then a DP will be coming. So of course we would want to block or dodge this attack to punish the player.
This is something that can be used outside of the game as well. If someone you know always suggests to eat some type of Japanese food, then getting them a gift card to a Japanese restaurant will probably make them very happy. Or if someone tends to react negatively when you talk about school, you might want to avoid talking about children, books, or other related things.
The key here is gathering data and integrating it into a read for the next time this situation occurs. Of course it won’t always be as obvious as our examples above when it comes to human behavior. But using any information you get and finding patterns will help you to be a better reader (of people that is). Once you hone this skill, people in your social circles will come to think that you have mind reading powers. And you can start winning in the game and in your social circles along with feeling super smart.
Effective planning is a huge part of playing any fighting game well. A good strategy is required so you don’t just keep getting hit by the same attacks and end up wondering why you lost a match.
We can play a metagame we call “theory fighter” to think about how matchups can go and how characters counter each other. We consider the strengths, weaknesses, and tools that 2 characters have and see how they might fare against each other. With 35 characters in BlazBlue, you’ll have plenty of think about.
For example, if Rachel (a fast moving zoner) faces off against Tager (a slow moving grappler), you’ll want to stay far away from him. But Tager has a very powerful move he can charge up called the “Spark Bolt”, which can magnetize an opponent and draw them close to him. Getting hit by this or even blocking it can turn the tide in Tager’s favor and make it a nightmare for Rachel.
The same goes for any situation in your life. Having a planned strategy for situations will immensely increase the chances of having a favorable outcome. If you jump right into a task without really thinking about the tools you have and any possible problems you’ll face, then you’re signing up for disaster.
If you drive a car for example, you can plan for an incident that you think can possibly happen. Say someone is merging into your lane without noticing you, but there’s another car driving way too close behind you. What would you say is the answer for this problem?
A possible answer for this problem could be to actually honk & speed up. You’ll gain distance from the car behind you and possibly allow the merging car to get into the lane. Or the merging car will take better notice by both seeing and hearing your car. Hitting the brakes in this moment will probably lead to getting rear-ended or eventually getting side swiped by the merging car.
The answer for the in-game problem with the Spark Bolt, is that Rachel should just avoid it somehow. She can try baiting it by getting out of the line of fire by using her wind powers. Or she can try to make Tager’s bolt hit George XIII (a frog minion that Rachel can summon), which will neutralize the projectile.
The key here is that we’re imagining the possibilities of a given situation and we’re preparing for them mentally. We’re doing this in a safe environment where you have all the time you need to figure out the solution before the problem is present. Then when that moment comes, all you have to do is to judge if the plan may work or not and execute. You won’t be caught in a situation where you to make a plan on the fly with no time to think.
By improving in the game, you are demonstrating that you have the ability to improve your situations in your personal relationships, your career, and your personal growth. It’s a lifelong process that we’re all going through no matter how seasoned anyone is considered to be.
It may seem farfetched that something like video games can help you with things in your life, but I can say that in my own experience it definitely has helped me. So I hope that something in these musing ends up helping you as well.
And some of you may think that you’re not improving or that you can’t, but that’s a total lie (that we can talk about in another article). Keep fighting the good fight and when you look back you’ll see how much stronger you’ve grown and leveled up in the game and in life.
Feel free to comment below if there are other skills you feel like fighting games can or has helped you with.
If you want to fight me in BlazBlue: Central Fiction, pick it up on Steam and tweet me @choysauce85!