Friday, August 14, 2009

A brief note about johning and complaining

It occurred to me last night that making johns and complaints turns you into a worse player. Any time something happens to you and you seriously complain that it's "broken," "unfair," or "gay," you are making yourself a worse player.

If you shift the blame for a loss onto something besides your own mistakes or your opponent's successes, you are telling yourself that you aren't really responsible for losing. It's not that you weren't good enough, something "gay" just happened to you. It's inevitable that this stupid thing happened to you, it was inescapable, it's broken, etc.

Was it really? Don't cement that into your mind. Once you declare to yourself that a matchup is unwinnable or a situation is always going to happen to you, you lose the ability to keep it from coming true.

A personal example: the ICs infinite in Melee is declared broken by some on the basis that it's impossible to avoid getting grabbed, and that every time you get grabbed you will die. It also means that IC players who are "worse" than other people will beat them anyhow.

I noticed something though, which is that the people who didn't seriously complain about the infinite are the ones who did the best job of avoiding grabs. Of course, I still managed to land grabs on them, but they were focused on the solution to the problem. They tried to keep me split apart from Nana, to efficiently KO her; if I was protecting her too well, they would focus on zoning me and shutting me out as much as possible. Even if watching for the grab meant they got hit by other attacks more often, that was fine with them because an isolated u-air is far better than losing a whole stock.

Some people complained that it was cheap, broken, gay, etc., and almost everybody who said that would get their asses handed to them. It's okay though, because I wasn't better and I wasn't outplaying them, they were just victims of my bullshit. They didn't have to improve, I was playing brokenly. I was the "worse" player, they were really "better," and their game didn't have to change. They just had to ban my broken tactic and I'd lose like always.

Maybe the IC infinite *is* broken? Doesn't matter. As long as you have to deal with it, complaining isn't the answer. Same with any other tactic in the game. Marth's f-smash is really good, but it's punishable and avoidable. Peach's d-smash can be DI'd and teched, or baited and punished as well. People complain about how unfair these moves are, and as a result they conclude it's not their fault they lost. This doesn't help them improve; it does the opposite.

I've DEFINITELY been a culprit of this mindset of thinking. ICs vs. Peach is genuinely a difficult matchup, but I've slowly been finding answers and ways to mitigate some of the advantages she has. I spent years whining to myself about how broken and unfair and stupid her character design was, and how she seemed custom-made to rape my ICs; the moment I stopped and said, "okay, let's assume there's a way to deal with Peach. How can I find it and stop losing?" I immediately started doing better. Some of it was simply "space better and outthink her," some of it was tactical, but I wasn't able to find it until I stopped complaining and looked. I still lose to Peaches (it's a genuinely difficult matchup after all) but my attention nowadays is focused more on solving matchup problems, and I do way, way better.

In Brawl--which I play less intensely--I use Wario and he has trouble dealing with campers. His amazing air control makes up for priority deficits against other top tiers, but he still has no projectile and can be grab released into extreme pain. At first I just complained and johned endlessly believing that Wario "shouldn't be able to win," but then... why were other Wario players winning? The fault was clearly mine. I started using his air control to deceive my opponent, DACUS to quickly and surprisingly approach projectile campy characters like Olimar, and as a result my game immediately expanded. I just lost against a Diddy in tournament, so I decided to practice glide tosses and mixing them with DACUSes; I can't wait to see how it works out, if only because it's better and more productive than complaining that Diddy's banana game is unfair.

No johns, Wobbles.


It bears mentioning that sometimes things *really are* broken, unfair, or imbalanced. The important thing is that you look at things honestly and not shift blame from yourself as an automatic ego defense.


  1. I'm pretty sure most smashers agree with this. Hugo actually thinks it is good to john sometimes, though:

  2. That's an interesting way to look at it :) I suppose it all depends on how the person responds afterwards.

  3. Good post. I've been guilty of the "can't win" mindset soooo many times with Peach vs Link/Marth. When you buckle down, you come up with solutions to most everything. Vs double fair, stickywalk a dash attack to go between them and get Marth into a bad situation. Turnip negates bomb, slap negates boomerang.

    Still, when you're in a bad mood, it's so easy to let the tiny disparities in a match-up overwhelm you.