In continuing the theme from my previous article — in which I talked in depth about an important aspect of training: rest — I wanted to continue the discussion surrounding important aspects of training which apply not only to real-world skills, but also factor in heavily when training with fighting games. Today I want to focus on other key areas to pay attention to if you want to get good at fighting games.
The most obvious habit to begin with when discussing fighting games is repetition. Repetition is needed for combo memorization, but not in the way you might think. The point is not to sit in the training mode and memorize a move list, or even memorize combos you see from videos. You need to perform combos at repetition so that you do not have to think when doing them. Thinking leads to hesitation, hesitation can cause a win or loss for you in situations where 1/60th of a second is affecting a combo. At a more advanced level, this extends beyond combos. You’ll need to record the dummy performing actions that you are uncomfortable being in, so that you can obtain the muscle memory to react defensively as well. These range from basic things like recording the dummy to jump randomly so you can practice anti airing, to learning how to defend against specific sequences that have been used on you.
Learning to ‘Hit Confirm’
The definition of a hit confirm is as follows: Mentally confirming, through visuals or audio, that an attack has landed or has been blocked, and proceeding into a combo or block string.
After muscle memory has begun to develop this is the next skill you can practice. Since you should be able to perform your combos with relatively little or no thinking, you can devote mental energy to realizing if your combo has began hitting the opponent or not. This is also relatively easy to practice as all major fighting games now have a setting in training mode to make the dummy block at random. If you begin your combo and the dummy is blocking, you must practice stopping your combo, or changing it to a different sequence to keep your advantage. Without this skill, you may be extending too far and putting yourself in a situation where your opponent can punish you by performing their own combo in response. A typical hit confirm is two to three hits before ending your combo with a special attack. At the advanced level, players are able to perform what are known as “single hit hit confirms.” That is, performing combos upon seeing only one hit connect and proceeding.
Adaption and Pattern Recognition
After the previous two skills are developed you will begin to develop patterns. Everyone has these, and so it is time to learn how to recognize your opponents as well as your own. Pattern recognition for yourself can be developed by watching replays of your matches. If you notice yourself doing the same string of moves, long or short, at the same points in the match, opponents can gain foresight on you and develop or implement counter strategies. Learning to not fall into these patterns, or changing up the use of a pattern after it has been beaten once by your opponent, is key to being able to adapt. You have to be aware of this from the opposite side as well, and the easiest way to scope out patterns is through testing your opponent. Observing how they react to a specific situation may mean the opportunity to set them up for punishment when you repeat that situation. Another way is to be very defensive, let them come to you and play their hand first. Then you can start showing them the holes in their play you have found.
Adaption is a difficult skill to grasp due to the fact that it comes down to relying on split second decision at high level play. If you grow too concentrated on certain expectations and your opponent changes things up, you can be easily caught off guard. Playing safe is the best way to mitigate problems like this, and try to keep your opponents options limited to a scale that is reasonable for you to deal with.
The Three Yous
As you begin to play at a higher level in fighting games, it can become much more mentally taxing. All of your attack and defense actions are in the back of your mind, while the functioning aspects are devoted to more real time decision making. This is where the three yous come into play. The “Memory” portion of your mind and the “Delta” portion of your mind work in tandem. Memory takes care of the things you’ve done before, which are ingrained into your muscles. Delta is the part of yourself that has to live with what Memory has done (training), and is the only one that can cause changes in the match (adaptations) to steer yourself towards victory. This not only includes recognizing your patterns, your opponents, and hit confirming, but things that vary from game to game like special meter management, assist management, and space awareness. This is where things become even more difficult, as you need to maintain the mental fortitude to continually out-think opponents. The third you — “Fantasy” — is the you that has to live with Delta’s decisions. This is where the losses can start to be highly effective on yourself. Fantasy may be very disappointed in what Delta has done. You spent all this time learning so many things, but you still lose.
Excelling vs Winning in Fighting Games
“How is it fair that I am still losing?” is a question that I found myself and others asking anywhere from between a few months playing fighting games, to years. The blunt answer is, like life, fighting games aren’t fair.
While a big win will make you feel accomplished, the best mind set to take on the genre of fighting games is to remember it’s about the experiences you can have along the way to these goals you may set. Fighting games can be a great source of growth for those who play them seriously. It is easy to become blind to that growth when you get to the point where a lot of losses can happen. It is because of this that I recommend everyone to view every single round as a stepping stone in your journey. Every time the announcer shouts for the match to begin, you are taking another step towards improving yourself. When fighting games are viewed in this light, it makes for a much happier, passionate player, who will always look for the good in a match, win or loss. Mastering this aspect can be carried on into your normal life, improving it in ways you may be surprised.
Above All, Be Consistent
Like any practiced skill, if none of these habits are worked on consistently, improvement simply will not happen. If you consistently practice some but not all of these, you will hit a wall somewhere. If you’re reading this article for the first time, I sincerely hope you bookmark it for the future should you find yourself lost. I have found myself needing reminding of my own advice from time to time, so I am sure some others may need the same.