Losing to Win (Part 2)


Part 1

Thing is, you can list all the things you’re working on, the things you need to do, all the mechanics you need to remember, and all the correct decisions you made. Despite this, all that combined knowledge and skill does not ensure a win against your opponent. This mental roadblock is what causes a lot of people, myself included, to simply quit fighting games every few months. If you’re measuring genuine improvement in the game as “winning all matches”, then you have set the bar a little too high for your high jump.

Thus, to put it simply, you need to lose. You need to lose a lot. And I have done a lot of that losing. The problem in fighting games is that we often equate “winning” with “getting better”. There’s a constant tension in looking at a life bar that starts dropping precipitously from a offensively-minded opponent; before you know it, the game’s over, and you don’t even know what happened. And this will happen over and over again.

But here’s the real trick: you can’t be expected to understand everything as soon as you start playing a fighting game like Guilty Gear. There’s just too many moving parts, too many things to remember, and too much of a mental stack to overcome at first. Sometimes, you won’t even understand what happen. Elphelt’s Pine Berry mixups, just for example, will absolutely rock you the first time you see them. It’s silly, and nuts, to figure out how those grenades fan out, when they explode, how Elphelt’s momentum changes when she does a airdash grenade throw, and a billion other little nuances. So, you get trapped in a corner, then shot out of the air, then hit by a grenade when you try to do something, or you get hit with an overhead, etc. What I’m trying to say is that it’s brutal, and hard:

Over time, though, it makes a lot more sense. You start realizing that Elphelt doesn’t have many options to actually get out of any pressure generated on her without taking a lot of risk. Her mixup game between all here options is so good precisely because that’s all she has – if she lets up for a little bit, you can easily start putting pressure on her with your offense. With no invincible reversal (think Shoryuken from Street Fighter) and a ton of character-specific combos with proper spacing, it’s hard for her to recover from a knockdown without doing a good guess, bursting, or something to that effect.


Or, getting beaten to death some more.

Does that mean this will make you win? No, but if you stop paying attention to that life bar, you can start learning how to actually play, plan, and react according to your opponent’s habits. The initial thought process is more “How do I get out of this situation”, rather than “how do I win”? Fighting games consist of a series of moments, split-second decisions and buttons that determine the outcome of a match – learning the right move in those situations takes time in real matches to see them, to the point where you know what to do, rather than playing through a slow thought process.

For me, the problem is anti-airing and dashing like an idiot. The right reaction to an air assault is 6P – that is, forward on the joystick plus the punch button. Leo’s got a great anti-air move there, which leads to punishment opportunities and further movement into aggressive, point-blank range. Since airborne opponents can’t block ground attacks (without Faultless Defense) and air-dashing makes it impossible to block, that’s the right move. The problem is that I keep air-dashing and attacking on reaction instead, which is absolutely the wrong move! Bad habits take experience, and thinking through what move you’re doing – I haven’t surmounted that hurdle yet, that’s for sure.


Come backs are definitely possible, but they require steely nerves that I don’t have!

You tend to forget these things in the heat of combat regardless. I still have this fear of losing from years of playing single-player games where victory was almost always in reach. It makes it difficult to play as your heart rate goes up and you start freaking out that you’re going to lose. That mindset is simply not helpful for fighting games at all! You must lose, and lose a lot, to even get up to speed. Sure, there’s plenty of prodigies out there who will say it’s not hard, but fighting games do not come naturally to me at all. I need to forget about winning in order to learn how the game works, and that’s a tough mental hurdle to jump over.

But, at least for me, it’s been absolutely necessary. I must lose to eventually win, because without losing I can’t actually learn how to win. Strange, and counter-intuitive, as this is, it’s the only way that makes sense to me. Unlearning what you did in the past is difficult, but worth the trouble. Because if we don’t, we’re really missing the rewards at the end of the road – maybe not tangible ones, but relevant nonetheless to our lives and circumstances. Failure’s not a problem, but a learning tool. Some problems we cannot surmount, but that doesn’t mean we stop trying, learning, and adapting.

Nobody said Christianity was easy, either; sometimes, we must lose everything to begin anew, and to be confident even in the trials and duress that surround us. Our lives will be full of conflict if we put anything else before God – and that includes family, friends, and the obsessions of our daily life. Jesus pretty much tells us that we must be committed, regardless of the circumstances, to Him. And that is no trifling matter! We are expected to fail even though we try our hardest not to fail, but still to confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior before all. That is some real bravery, if I’ve ever seen it.

32 “Therefore everyone who [z]confesses Me before men, I will also confess [aa]him before My Father who is in heaven. 33 But whoever [ab]denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.

34 “Do not think that I came to [ac]bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36 and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.

37 “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 He who has found his [ad]life will lose it, and he who has lost his [ae]life for My sake will find it.

Matthew 10

We need to lose, in order to win – in both video games, and in life.

About Zachery Oliver

Zachery Oliver, MTS, is the lead writer for Theology Gaming, a blog focused on the integration of games and theological issues. He can be reached at viewtifulzfo at gmail dot com or on Theology Gaming’s Facebook Page.