The other day, I was playing online and my play felt a little off. I was playing stressed for some reason. Playing like someone who might be aware of my matchup unfamiliarity and how the opponent could read and punish my moves. I knew I was playing like several skill levels below my recent self but I couldn’t figure out why. Then I told myself to play more confidently.
When I remembered what drove me, I started playing better almost instantly. I knew to reclaim the mindset and the mentality that drove me to improve in the first place. That feeling that my opponent holds no power over me. When I remembered the images in my head that drove me and the mood it put me in, I felt a sudden change.
That’s when I realized that it’s not your skill level or the time spent grinding that will make or break you in a match. Oftentimes it’s your mindset that makes the difference in how you perceive your opponent’s playstyle, reading them out, and how well you perform in the match.
This is honestly one of the most difficult things to really discuss since it comes from a combination of mental images, mood, and how to attain a confident mentality. Everyone’s drive is different and people draw their inspiration from different things. However, at the end of the day, if you know how to play and read your opponent, you can beat anyone.
I say this because the number of players who compete in Smash Bros. and don’t practice regularly is surprisingly high. We think of some kind of prodigies with the innate, alien ability to overcome without the level of training we might see from Dragon Ball Z.
Solid fundamentals pave the way to success. While your hearts and guts are important, people with natural aptitude know how to read out their opponents and win. Smash is a mental game and not a physical one. So grinding out matches on its own will not net you success over someone who plays less but can still overcome daunting opponents.
As such, your ability to beat your opponents comes heavily from your mental state. One thing you want to do is make sure you stay aware and in the moment at all times. This means catching yourself when you're auto-piloting, mashing buttons in neutral and disadvantage, and getting stressed out when you’re at a percent or stock deficit.
Moreover, playing with a scared or stressed mentality will not help you either. Even the best players in the game have suffered from tourney nerves. This anxiety has stifled their play in bracket against a more confident opponent. When you’re stressed by your opponent or even distracted, it takes up room in your mind. This room could be used to plan strategies on the fly while adapting to your opponent and turning the tables on them.
Also, believe me when I say to take losses with a grain of salt. Getting 3-stocked or 3–0'd in a set might rock you. But as long as you can remember that Fatality JV4'd Goblin and still lost his own set, I can assure you that skill levels are relative in Smash. Upsets can and will happen and this is in no small part thanks to how momentum and stock leads can affect the course of a whole game. Unlike most other fighting games, Smash also allows you to spike players to end stocks early which can change the landscape of an entire match.
Remember that everyone loses. Even in the above clip, Fatality lost the set in the end. However, to keep fighting with a competitive mentality speaks volumes about your ability to overcome negative thoughts and emotions. It comes from playing calm, your desire to win, and making smart decisions on the fly.
The best thing you can do is dig into your inspiration. Whether it’s the music you listen to, an anime character, or a superhero that inspires you, get into that right mood and you can win matches more confidently. When you’ve essentially slowed down your nerves, you can see what your opponent is doing and react to it rather than press buttons and challenge their attacks.
Once you hit that mood, you’ll know. If you already have character experience, matchup experience, and solid fundamentals, your ability to adapt to your opponent’s moves using correct options will make the difference. That will come from playing calm, confident, and spending more time using proper movement than pressing buttons and leaving yourself open.
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