I’ve Reached a Plateau

Photo by Massimiliano Morosinotto on Unsplash

I play fighting games pretty seriously. I’ve been dedicated to getting better at them ever since my uncle double-perfected me in Street Fighter 2 back in 1993. And while I’ve never been the best, I’ve been pretty good at the various fighting games I’ve played over the years and felt like I could at least compete at the higher levels of competition.

Recently though, it feels like I haven’t been making much improvement. These days I play Guilty Gear Strive and Dragon Ball FighterZ. Again, I’m pretty good at them, but I find myself losing to opponents that I should be beating. It’s not just a matter of dropping combos. My defense isn’t strong; I see patterns in my opponent’s playstyle but don’t exploit them; my mentality feels off and I get frustrated far more easily than I should.

Normally, it would just be a matter of hitting training mode and working out the kinks. I’ve finally learned how to use training mode effectively to practice combos, responses to situations and setups, and all the other neat things modern training rooms can do. But I haven’t felt motivated to lab in the proper way. Instead, I go in and practice the same combos I know already, over and over.

The last time I felt this way was about three years ago, when I’d been playing FighterZ for about six months. I was stuck then too, but fortunately I attended an in-person practice session (shout out to Flokey) and it completely changed my perspective. I was able to talk to other players about improving and get their perspective on how to play the game better overall. I got better in that one day than I had in the previous six months of playing alone. Thanks to Covid though, that’s not an option- I haven’t been to an in-person event in almost two years.

This would be the time I would take a break from the games to relax and clear my head, but I just did that. I moved at the end of October and didn’t have internet for almost six weeks, so I went without playing videogames for basically that whole time. It was cool to do other things, but gaming is still my main hobby, so I was right back on it as soon as my internet service returned.

Maybe I just need to rededicate myself to getting better. There’s a difference between playing the game and practicing the game, and I’ve just been playing lately. But maybe all I want to do is play. Practicing is hard and not fun. There’s a sense of accomplishment when you finally can do a technique or setup that you couldn’t before, but that takes time that I could be playing instead. I don’t like losing either though, and that’s what happens when you don’t practice and play against people who do.

I’m constantly reminded of that when I play my son in Guilty Gear. I don’t think I’ve beaten him in a set in months. He not only practices regularly, but he studies the game in match footage and discusses the game online with his friends. The difference in our skill is vast, and it shows the efficacy of his approach to the game as opposed to mine. I may just need to hunker down and get back to the practice grind, at least if I don’t want my 14 year old kicking my ass every time I pick up the sticks.

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