Sunday, September 16, 2012

Farewell, Eskimo Sister

Hey there everybody.  Long time no blog.

Recent changes have demanded that I begin blogging again.  However, since I'm going to be changing the emphasis of the blog away from Melee, and shifting it to competitive gaming and competition in general, this means I will be using a new URL.  So this blog, as it is, has reached the end of its life.

I will archive everything on here and move it to the new site as well, in time.  And this blog will still exist in cyberspace for viewing.  But I'll be updating my NEW blog, twice weekly, typically with essays about competition and competitive gaming, include blurbs about the e-sports scene in general, and if possible, snag interviews from figures in the various gaming communities.  So there will be lots more to read.

Don't worry, there will still be stuff in there about Melee.  It's my game, after all :)

So if you wanna keep posted, bookmark or follow and my twitter @EskimauxRob so you'll know EXACTLY WHEN it updates.  Because that's important!

Thanks a lot for reading.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Take a deep breath.

It has been awhile since I've written anything, silly posts on Smashboards notwithstanding.

I've become a bit better at Melee recently.  Some of it comes from trying to be a better teacher regarding the game.  It's hard to write or teach something you don't understand, and the process of helping somebody improve forces me to refine my own ideas more, and become more aware as a result.

A lot of it, however, has come down to a simple difference that helps me in tournaments and friendlies.  If I start freaking out, or getting frustrated, or getting discouraged, I start breathing.  Deep breaths, in and out.

I can't recall the source exactly, but I read something that said "if you want to control anything, you must learn to control yourself."  And the first thing that you can control regarding your body and your mind is your breathing.  Every martial art and meditative practice that focuses on self-control as the ultimate goal begins with breathing.

There's a pretty good reason.  Deep breathing increases oxygen flow to the brain.  It slows your heart rate and decreases nervousness.  It increases your ability to concentrate.  It gives you a moment to step outside of the situation and look at it like a spectator would--as most of us know, it's often easy to see the right solution to a problem provided it's not our problem.

So I started trying that, and I've found it's incredibly helpful.  It hardly makes me invincible, but it's giving me a power that I haven't really had before; when I get tilted off balance during a set or a match, I can regain my composure.  I make more comebacks.  I stay stable even when behind and find ways to take back lost ground.

Repeated, very simply: to control your environment requires self-control, and self-control begins with breathing.

Give it a shot.  Inhale through the nose, feel the air expand inside your lungs and diaphragm, then slowly exhale through your mouth.  Wait a second, then breathe in again.  Feel your heartrate slow down a bit, feel your thoughts come in slowly and more clearly.  Then go do whatever it was you were planning on doing today.

That's all.  Peace.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Fun, Frustration, and Satisfaction

I remember a friend of mine asking me, while I was playing a particularly difficult game--the specific one escapes me at the moment--"why do you do this to yourself?"  She was referring to the fact that, for at least two hours, I sat there swearing at the console without a break, just trying to conquer some difficult segment.  Because, as conventional wisdom states, games are supposed to be fun.  They are a form of entertainment, source of amusement.  If they aren't, they are failures, or poorly made.

This, I think, is wrong.  Games are not always fun.  But this does not in any way make them bad games.

That's because games also provide another positive emotion beyond the sensation of having fun, which is satisfaction.  It's a pretty simple formula: achieve a goal, experience satisfaction.  The more difficult the goal is to achieve, then generally speaking the satisfaction will be greater as well.

Difficult boss fights where you die eleven times before finally winning can yield tremendous amounts of satisfaction.  Competitive multiplayer scenarios, particularly one versus one, gives a lot of satisfaction to the winner, even moreso if the players are of equal skill.  And that sensation of satisfaction is what keeps people coming back to certain games even when they aren't having the remotest trace of fun.

Then you have the adversary of satisfaction, which is frustration.  Frustration is the obnoxious enemy that pushes you off cliffs and into pits, killing you in one hit that you didn't even see coming.  Frustration is the boss that stun locks your character in a corner.  Frustration is a difficult jump with a two frame window.  Frustration is a cheesy rush in an RTS.  Frustration is a timed underwater escort mission. 

And while it sounds like frustration is something you should actively seek to remove from your games, it's important to understand that an element of frustration is NECESSARY for there to be any meaningful amount of satisfaction.  As Snoop Dogg once said, "that which we obtain too easily, we esteem too lightly."*

Games that are too easy don't really satisfy people.  Because fun is distinct from satisfaction, it's also mostly isolated from difficulty.  It can be isolated from winning and losing.  It can be isolated from doing anything at all, in fact!  People have plenty of fun passively enjoying other forms of media, so it's silly to think that the actual game is necessary for it to take place.  Fun comes generally from surprise, from the presentation of things we think are cool.  Fun happens when you're playing a physics based flash game and you get nuked by a rocket launcher and your character spazzes out uncontrollably.  At the end of the day though, the key difference between fun and satisfaction is that while fun is typically at odds with frustration, satisfaction relies on it and plays off it.  This isn't to say something can't be fun AND satisfying; finishing off an extremely difficult boss fight with an awesome finishing move while you get to listen to a rocking electric guitar track would, I assume, be fun AND satisfying.  I guess if you had to tack on an unneccessary definition to THAT emotion, you'd call the fun-satisfaction hybrid "exhiliration."

(It also bears mentioning that what people find fun and satisfying does vary from person to person)

This is, I think, where the terms casual and hardcore come in as they apply to games.  Casual games focus primarily on fun, and hardcore games focus on satisfaction.  Likewise, casual players focus on maximizing their fun from games, and if a game becomes too frustrating or just isn't fun enough, they will typically drop it.  Meanwhile,  more hardcore players will not even notice if they aren't having fun, provided that when they beat a level or win a round or whatever, they experience commensurate satisfaction. 

Please note that I'm not really trying to pin any one definition down on any player or game.  Some people become more hardcore about different games and endeavors.  Certain games hit a decent middle ground, and some games have a variety of modes that appeal to both ends of the spectrum.

So what's the point here?  Well, for all game designers who think this is actually worth paying attention to, look at it this way: games that have high levels of fun AND satisfaction will appeal to wider audiences and be more successful.  But if satisfaction increases based on frustration and adversity, what's the answer?

For starters, you can try and turn the failure into fun.  One of the primary tenets of a party game is that everybody is a winner in some form or fashion.  And since you just KNEW that I couldn't go one post without talking about Smash, we can look at it as a prime example.  Somebody takes first place in every game of Smash, and will experience some measure of satisfaction.  But in the chaos of a four player game with explosions and crazy effects, most people--those focused on fun--will not really NOTICE failure and frustration provided the outcome is cool enough!  Or, at the very least, the frustration will be heavily minimized.

How effective is this approach?  Well, in the case of Melee, people still played it religiously (and we're talking outside of the tournament scene) for years and years after its release purely because it could provide fun and satisfaction for everybody involved.  And the best part is, it didn't force people to play a particular way.  This let the audience define its own experience, which is how the tournament scene was able to grow from a casual party game environment.

That element in itself is another excellent example of how to expand an audience; permit the audience to define its experience and allow a variety of options.  Different game modes, difficulties and options let people decide how they plan to play the game.  The difficulty of this is, of course, that you run the risk of spreading yourself too thin and you end up with a bunch of poorly realized features, none of which end up delivering.

Another way to mitigate the downsides of frustration is simply by having a good soundtrack.  I believe that the reason older game music is focused heavily on catchy and simple melodic hooks--apart from hardware limitations--is that if the song wasn't catchy, it would drive people crazy to have to listen to it while they replayed the same levels over and over again.

More to consider: a game's frustration and satisfaction both need to be paced properly to create a proper emotional payoff.  A level that is insanely frustrating followed by a boss fight that's as mind-bogglingly easy and boring as the stage was obnoxious has limited impact.  It will typically create a sensation of, "what the hell, that's it?" when you win, followed by "well at least it's over..."  And if people are saying "at least it's over" when your game is finished, then you've probably done something horribly wrong.

Let's go in a different direction now.  One of the ways to enhance both fun AND satisfaction comes from, surprisingly enough, the game's aesthetics.  Appropriate graphics and sound effects do have an effect on how fun and/or satisfying the game is.

Let's say you're playing Adventure of Action 3, Quest For the Thing.  And you are running around beating stuff up with a wooden stick, which we will call the Newb Stick.  It makes an amusing "bop" noise and when you kill things, they fall over.  This is all pretty much in line with what you would expect a stick to do.  It's not the most exhilirating experience in the world, but it's a stick so no big deal.

Now you find your SECOND weapon, the Punch Launcher (which launches punches).  When you hit a Derp Goblin in the chin with it, it makes a metal "KCHANG" noise and the enemy does three backflips through the air.  Suddenly, fun.  Fun enhanced by multiple things: the new animations that clearly display progress and the new sound effect that vividly communicates the action.  These aesthetic upgrades over your Newb Stick create satisfaction on multiple fronts; you can kill Derp Goblins faster, and the new method communicates an increased sense of power.

And if the animation is done well enough and the sound effect isn't horribly equalized or whatever, some players will want to run around ignoring level objectives just to hit stuff with the PL.

How could you ruin the Punch Launcher?  If it made the same sound effect and had the same death animation for the enemy as the Newb Stick and the difference was purely in the gameplay element of having a projectile weapon, it would not be as fun or satisfying to use.  Sure, you have the benefit of your new gameplay mechanic--a way to engage enemies from range.  A lot of people say that all they care about is gameplay, and sure enough, the sound and the visuals don't have an actual effect on it.  Their novelty will wear off after awhile.  But that initial impression and hook are important to keep people playing your game and feeling those emotions that create a sense of progression.

And don't forget, the mark of a good sound effect is that it doesn't get annoying.  An obnoxious sound effect is funny at first, but if you force a player to rely on an item with such aesthetics for an extended period of time, it will piss them off.

Good upgrade scaling is also important.  Getting the Punch Launcher after the Newb Stick is great.  Getting it after the Ragnarok Shatterbomb Cataclysm Thing?  Eh.

Hope that was interesting.  I have more to say on the subject regarding particular games and features, as well as the types of players, how they experience games, and what they expect from them.  Look forward to the sequels!


*I MAY have confused Snoop Dogg with Thomas Paine.  But I doubt it.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Implementation Lag

First, this post is coming fresh from Genesis 2, which was pretty darn awesome.  I got lots of advice, played lots of people, and realized what my next step will be in Melee.

I have mainly two people to thank for this.  The first player is Lovage.

During our friendlies and tournament sets, I found myself making... mostly decent decisions.  The problem is that I always seemed to be a few frames too slow, while Lovage was ALSO making lots of good decisions, but without any hesitation.  So he had a tendency to get the shine or the aerial out just a little bit quicker than me, and I couldn't really figure out why.  Was it a Fox thing, or were my reflexes just too slow?

And of course, there was the usual specter of my little technical flubs and clumsiness hanging over our games.  But we'll get to that in a moment.

The second player I have to thank is Armada.  First off, watching his games was pretty much a great experience.  He is extremely sharp, makes intelligent decisions, rarely makes any technical errors despite playing at high speed, and he changes up his playstyle constantly.  So he's like, pretty good or something.

But the reason I bring him up is because at one point I asked him what he thinks about while he plays, and he said, "nothing."  He doesn't think about his tech skill and he doesn't think about winning or losing, he just plays in a blank mental state.

Which pretty much corresponds with what most people have said forever about... everything.  The best mental state for execution and decision making--according to a variety of sources, from old Chinese dudes to modern psychologists--is one of emptiness. After a long enough period of training and practice, any given task turns into instinct for you.  You do not stop to think, "I am going to swing my sword," but rather, thinking and doing become the same act!  Or as close to it as possible.

So the title of today's blog becomes clear.  Implementation lag is the distance between making a decision to do something and doing it.  With training and focus, implementation lag decreases.  I believe one of my problems has been a lack of focus during practice, where I will practice a variety of things sporadically.  None of them become ingrained enough into my brain, which is why I always feel like my reflexes are so slow.

Furthermore, this is--I believe--part of why I make so many technical errors!  Not only am I taking too long to think about it, but the conscious thought process interferes with the action and increases the likelihood of failure.

There are times, however, where I know EXACTLY what I will do given an opponent's action and my own speed surprises me.  Stuff that I rarely mess up.

So today's big point is that if you focus on practicing things enough, and you rehearse them and understand them enough, you will act automatically  when the appropriate situation arises.  And the odds of you screwing up are lower, because you are not consciously thinking about it, which means your body can get on with things without your brain getting in the way.

This is where I want to advocate a practice method that really needs to be used more often--by myself included--where instead of just playing 4 stock matches over and over again, you set the mode to Time but make it infinite.  This allows you and your practice partner to train certain scenarios without worrying about the outcome; you can play as Falco against a Fox that wants to camp the edge, or be a Marth that wants to stop Sheik from ledge-stalling, or just get someone to platform camp you for 30 minutes while you test out various solutions.

This method allows you to focus heavily on a particularly isolated aspect of the game and improve at it more quickly than if you only get the sporadic training that is characteristic of a regular match.

I hope these thoughts prove interesting and useful to you.  I intend to start training a lot harder and more focused than I have before.  It's kind of funny because it's actually all advice I've given in the past, but never really followed through on for myself.  But this really does feel like my next step, and I hope to surprise everybody at the next big tournament with improved focus and tech skill from my corner :)

Take care everybody.

PS I did not proofread this.  Sorry for all crummy writing errors.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Critical Hits

Not all mistakes are created equal.  A Peach getting hit by a soft Sheik b-air while on a platform and taking needless damage is an error.  Messing up a powershielded laser against Falco is another error.  They cost you a bit of percent, but they generally aren't that big of a deal.

On the other hand, missing a tech against a Pikachu on FD when you're playing as Fox is a HUGE mistake because he's going to CG you from zero to death.  Letting Puff u-tilt you at 10 percent without CC'ing it is big mistake.  Falco burning his double jump somewhere, then finding himself beneath the edge of the level is a massive mistake.  These are the kinds of errors that will cost you an entire stock in the blink of an eye.  So, to repeat: not all mistakes are equal.

Look at this from two perspectives.  First, as a player, your goal in a match is to AVOID those critical mistakes.  Knowing the matchup that you're playing is pivotal for this reason, because it tells you what mistakes are huge, earth shattering, game costing errors, and which ones are not.  And that will generally give you information about how you should be playing your matchup!  You can also learn ways to reduce certain openings and minimize damage on you; CCing, DI'ing combos so they can't land efficient finishers, and just staying in positions where your opponent can't land combo starting moves.  It's an underrated defensive skill, but minimizing damage to yourself is something a lot of good players have.  It's why you don't see them get hit by lots of stock ending combos; not just because they don't get hit, but because they are good at minimizing damage through intelligent decision-making.

Second, your OPPONENT will be making these mistakes as well.  Knowing what they are and knowing how to capitalize efficiently can make you a nightmare to play against in those matchups, because it creates an ever-present threat that any mistake can end the stock.  M2K's Marth against Fox or Falco, for instance, is one of the most shining examples of this.  He practically earned a living by chain grabbing, comboing, and gimping spacies off the most inoccuous of hits.  Of course, this earned him a reputation for "playing gay," but when you get right down to it, every player wishes they could be as efficient at murdering Fox and Falco as M2K was.  It meant that every match against him was close, even if you were 3 stocks ahead, because you were always a few mistakes away from losing the game.  So not only is it a skill to see these mistakes and capitalize, but it's also a skill to convert smaller errors and openings into bigger ones with good resets and reads.

Remember, your job--and your opponent's!--is to turn every hit into a stock when possible.  Likewise, you also must avoid letting little openings snowball into bigger ones, and learn how to read when your opponent is going for big punishes so you can dodge them.

Sometimes stock-ending decisions can just come from a really solid read.  They aren't necessarily mistakes, but simply positions where certain options have nasty consequences if the other guy guesses right.  In this video:

I hit ARC with an f-smash, and read his up+b to the edge, and just go for an edgehog at 54 percent.  It's not really an error on his part; getting the edge is an excellent idea for spacies, and up+b'ing high can give them lots of recovery options.  But if you can get the read in a critical situation like that, you can take stocks without even touching the other guy.  Then my next stock on him is him allowing the ICs to land a synchronized grab near the edge, then not escaping the d-throw d-air, two pretty big errors for a space animal to make in that matchup.

One of the nice things about landing these critical hits is that they have a tendency to send the other guy on tilt.  It gets him thinking that you got lucky, that the matchup is stupid or lame, and that can lead to hasty thinking that lets you exploit more of these nasty mistakes.  And again, the flipside is to understand that every matchup has these and it's entirely possible you may fall victim to them, and shake it off when it happens.

So, how can you get better at seeing these situations and capitalizing?  Here are some general tips:

--if you have a chaingrab of some kind, you should spend some practice time trying to link your hits--even really stupid, lame, lucky ones--into grabs.  Resist the urge to go for smash attacks as your finisher, and try to look for ways to extend your combos.
--if you have the option of sending someone off the edge, consider using weaker hits that will send them low, rather than a more powerful one that lets them DI upward.
--if your opponent really likes going for the edge, give them a little time to decide they're going to go there, then just take it from them.
--if your combo can either keep going or you can end it, mix it up!  For isntance, a badly DI'd knee from Falcon can end the stock on a lot of characters at 40 percent, and if they're certain you plan to go for up-airs instead, you can cheese out a stock off one powerful hit.

Remember this and learn how to spot those really big mistakes in the blink of an eye, and soon you will need to go on a diet from eating too many free stocks.  Good luck!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Another practice session, more mixed feelings.

I honestly can't make heads or tails of my tech-skill difficulties.  I have to be honest with myself about some of my shortcomings and things that I need to work around in order to solve this problem: I have essential tremors, which basically means that my muscles are *always* jumping and twitching even when I'm really relaxed.  It's not major (unless I'm really nervous or hungry), and I don't really have a problem doing any day to day activities, but it makes fine muscle control really difficult.  It certainly doesn't help when I try to play piano in front of people, or Smash in competitive environments.

I also have to accept the fact that I'm horrendously ADD and that makes it hard to focus.  I'll be playing matches, even important tournament ones, and not even be thinking about them at all.  I can get a bit of a boost in concentration by drinking a crap-load of caffiene in the form of soda or an energy drink, or I can take Adderall, but unfortunately stimulants directly and negatively impact my tremors.

I've sorted out a lot of my mood issues, I think.  I get frustrated but I've found ways to shortcircuit both my angry and depressive spells.

The question is, where do I go from here?

Last night I played about 7 hours worth of friendlies with DoH, and as usual I was all over the place.  I would go one match nailing everything, feeling really good, and feel like I really understood how to interact with the game.  Then the next game I would miss my jump button, randomly double jump with my joystick a few times, wavedash straight up (which doesn't actually work in case you were wondering) or accidentally overshoot my B button while recovering and brush the c-stick instead.  Usually games were somewhere in between, but it's really hard to understand how I'm supposed to play when I can't actually interact with the game.

This is something I've struggled to explain to people many times.  I honestly have times, entire matches, where I just can't do *anything*.  I will try to dash and jump instead, I will screw up five wavedashes in a row by airdodging horizontally, I'll miss every L-cancel, I'll try to do a basic grab combo with ICs and just whiff my c-stick completely.  I will be the first to admit that I make some really DUMB decisions when I'm under pressure, but at the same time many things that appear to be bad decisions are the result of me being incapable of doing things I want with the controller.

My recorded friendlies at APEX with Armada, for instance, showcase him absolutely raping me.  And that outcome was not entirely unexpected, truth be told.  But when I walked away from the TV and projector frustrated and people tried to calm me down by telling me "dude, it's Peach vs ICs, and it's Armada, relax," I wanted to tell them that they probably don't know what it's like to try and full jump an aerial and roll, then want to bring up their shield and jump out of it because they're spazzing on the joystick, then get raped while a bunch of people are watching and have no idea what my hands are even doing.  At that point it barely matters who my opponent even is, I just don't know what the hell is going on.

Later Armada and I played more friendlies and they were significantly closer; I never actually won, but I was actually executing combos and moving more how I wanted to, and the end result is a bit more of what I expected/hoped for--him beating me 15/15 games, but me managing to bring him down to 1 and 2 stock in most of them.  Against such a smart and consistent player, who is so skilled with a character I've always struggled against, that was a huge achievement and it made me feel much better about the tournament.

The real kick in the pants though, was my set of friendlies with Chu Dat.  I went through a similar experience to my very personally memorable set with Axe, where I just wasn't screwing up tech stuff, I was thinking clearly, and I was relaxed but energized.  I think at that time during those IC dittos I may have played my absolute best Melee ever, period, from a mental and technical perspective.

What frustrates me about experiences like those is that, while they are truly amazing in themselves, they make all my other experiences damaging to my confidence.  Why is that maybe, once in an entire year, I can just zone in and play the way I really want to?  Where I'm thinking straight and having fun even in the games I'm losing, where my hands and I aren't at odds with one another, where the game just makes sense to me? And then every other time I sit down to play, it's an exercise in inconsistency and frustration?

For the longest time I've been of the opinion that if a feat or mindset can be achieved once, then it can be duplicated.  Back when I was a Fox player and I wanted really badly to learn how to SHDL, and I saw videos of Thunder from Japan just busting them out left and right across the level, I was convinced that I simply could not do it.  That I never would be able to.  Then randomly, while messing around, I did it (just with my thumb, without using two fingers to jump and fire, just my normal configuration).  I stared at the screen and started jumping up and down all excitedly, and then I just tried to do it again for an hour and couldn't even get one and got dejected again.

But then I thought, "if my hands are capable of moving quickly enough to do that ONE time, then there's no reason they aren't capable of doing it again."  So I practiced and just studied my hands and fingers while I did so, trying to figure out what I did that made it work, and then I got another one.  And another and another and another.  And soon I could do it over and over again, bolstered by that confidence that one time could equal a million times if I wanted.

Right now, I'm in that same state.  Where I will have a moment thinking that this game makes sense, that I am a good player and I can do what I need to do to win, that if I went to a major tournament right now and played like this I would shatter my pools and make top three easily, even with the unbelievably difficult competition facing me.  Then the next game I'll wonder how I've ever won any money at all, even at the smallest of tournaments.

When it comes to mindset and playing well, I've mostly achieved what I've wanted to achieve, and felt like I've wanted to feel.  It's happened a select few times over the course of my entire career.  So the question that I have been asking myself, over and over again, is why are those feelings so elusive?  And why is it, that no matter how much I seem to practice and study and think and meditate and work, the only thing remaining consistent is my overwhelming inconsistency?

I dunno.  That's what's on my mind right now.  I know most people read this thing for my thoughts on the game but I guess today I'm just kinda whining.  My apologies.



Oh, also, I think I won't be doing any more of the Vlogs.  Almost nobody's watching them and I'm kind of at a stage where I feel like my opinion on most stuff really isn't going to help people.  I guess in the future if I really just feel like doing one I will, but for now I'm just going to abandon the idea.  It was kind of fun though.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Mindset, preparation, and bracing.

In Part 1 of my most recent video log (view it here), I discussed getting into the right mindset.

There's something I'd like to add to it, something I've touched on before, which is an element of mental preparation that I call "bracing."  Bracing as in bracing for impact, for instance.  The idea here is that, when you are mentally ready and accepting of a negative experience, its effect on you is lessened if not negated entirely.

For instance, you are a relatively new player about to go to your first big tournament.  You hear that 3 of the top 5 players in the world are going to be there.  Wow.  You also realize that, as an unseeded player, your odds of running into them early are pretty high.  But you decide you're going to go anyways, because you can see what it's like playing them.

Or you go to a smashfest with some really really good players that you rarely ever beat, and you lose maybe 95% of the games you play that night.  But you have a lot of respect for these players and going into that evening, you know they outclass you and that you're going to be learning from them rather than winning.

So in either case, going to your tournament or smashfest, you are mentally prepared to lose, to be eliminated quickly, to have very few victories.  Prepared as you are, the losses don't feel all that bad.

Better players could learn from this.  There's an element of ego involved as you improve, where you start separating and classifying players by skill based on observation and past experience, and you decide that you rank above certain people and beneath others, and you're really good at X matchup and you never lose on Y level and so on.  If they lose when they expect to, even pretty good players tend not to get upset.  I mean, they knew it was going to happen and they played anyhow, so it's not like there's any mystery, right?  However, when somebody is convinced they will win or do well and they don't, that's when self-destructive attitudes set in and people begin to crumble.

So here's the idea: if you aren't ready to lose, you aren't ready to play.  If you're only going to enter the tournament because you think you'll get first, then mentally speaking you are not prepared.  You are setting yourself up to make mistakes, get sidetracked, and lose your cool at important moments.  You're creating the perfect environment to lose all the games you "shouldn't."

I'm not saying you should expect to lose, or you should *want* to lose or screw up.  I think that defeats the point of competition, self-improvement, and striving to be better than your opponents.  But I think it drastically improves your outlook and your ability to recover from negative situations when you understand that these things are in the realm of possibility, and that you are ready to play and have a good time regardless.

So here's a question: if I told you that at the next smashfest, or the next time you play, you would lose 20 matches and win zero, would you still be willing to go?

I've come to believe that if your answer isn't "yes," then you aren't mentally prepared to play your best.

Lemme know what you think.  Peace.