Negative Emotions: The ignored aspect of playing Melee
Failure sucks. It’s hard to miss the exact moment you fail. An inner sigh, as you release the tenseness you didn't know was there. Then, nothing. Failure is best understood in that single moment. The moment where concentration bursts and the world disappears. Reality shifts in those moments. It becomes a chore to observe the world, let alone act on it. In a competitive game like Melee, that feeling becomes all the more intense.
Some have started to refer to this state as “salt stasis.” A sort of trance that comes from losing a high adrenaline set. What players do in such a state is unique to each individual. Some get violent, while others become mopey. Some even lean on humor and friends to cope. Over the course of one’s Melee career, players tend to experience all forms of an after match catharsis. Everybody has that moment they rage, and that moment of post-match peace. It’s not my place to determine what is and isn't a poor way to accept a loss. Rather, I find more intrigue in the recovery from such a state.
Coming down from an adrenaline high is interesting, to put it lightly. The stasis effect comes from the sudden decrease in adrenaline output. It’s the body acknowledging that the “danger” has passed. When the majority of adrenaline has drained, a human is left with a system filled with cortisol. The “stress” hormone. A system filled with cortisol is in a state of tension. An evolutionary trait that helps keep the body ready to bounce back into an adrenaline high. This is the end of “salt stasis,” and where recovery is meant to happen. This is where the reaction to loss is most vital and telling.
Most players have experienced “that guy.” The guy who spends the rest of the tournament beating himself up over simple mistakes. Every friendly match played becomes another reason to berate himself. Every conversation turns to “I’m so bad.” The guy who just can’t get over how “bad” they are. Eventually, these players tend to quit. The self-flagellation overcomes whatever positive motivations they had in the first place. They defeat themselves.
There is a sort of shunning of such behavior. Being around such a player is no fun, I’ll admit. It’s hard to feel good at a tournament when there is a feeling of gloom coming from the guy next to you. As such, it is not uncommon for a player to berate themselves for being “that guy.” They know how much they drain from another’s experience. They feel bad for feeling bad. Which can make it that much easier for a player to set themselves up for such a loop in the future. Some never see that this is more common than they think.
Everybody is “that guy” at some point in their Melee career. Stress can set off the worst in a player. Sometimes, that self-defeating loop grabs hold and won’t let go. We are animals, and instincts weren't built for competitive video games. To be honest, there is no advice I can give on defeating such a loop. That is an answer that must be discovered by each player. I’m still looking myself.
It is important that players don’t knock themselves out for such a loop. Anger, rage, frustration, and gloom are all part of human experience. When adrenaline and stress are introduced, it is natural that those emotions skyrocket. Sometimes, it’s okay to take time away from the competitive side of Melee. Take some time to get yourself in working order, and try to understand where such emotions come from. Practice some more, learn your weaknesses, and come back stronger than before. Failure is only a temporary state. There is no reason to let a bad tournament push you off this path. There is no reason to be defeated by what everybody experiences. It’s just another part of Melee. A part that must be understood and accepted, if you wish to keep moving forward.