Throughout 2017, I worked my ass off to become a top player. I pushed the Marth meta a great deal and became one of the most consistent top players. My goal for the spring of 2017 was to maintain the high level of play I demonstrated at Genesis 4, where I defeated Swedish and Professor Pro. Come summer, I signed with VGBC, changed my tag to “Rishi” from “SmashG0D,” and decided it was time to push even further and increase my peaks.
I had a decent start at EVO 2017 where I racked up wins on Drephen, Blea Gelo, and Nintendude. I lost a close set to La Luna and lost convincingly to PewPewU. I knew I would be able to take it over La Luna next time, and the manner in which PewPewU won inspired me to reach an even higher level.
But a couple weeks after EVO 2017, I made a major life change. I moved to New York City and started my full-time job. I was still determined to push my peaks in the midst of this new part of my life.
In August I competed at SmashCon and Shine, where I played on par. In fact, Shine was the first major in the history of my career that went exactly according to the projected bracket (I beat Ginger, lost to M2K, beat Slox, then lost to HugS). Then, at The Big House 7, I had my worst singles performance throughout the entire year. I credit that partially to an increased focus on teams at that tournament, but even had I been more focused on singles, I don’t think I would have made any huge upsets.
In November, I ended up winning the 10-person Round Robin MD/VA Invitational, where I took sets over lloD, Chu, Zain, Chillin, Jerry, Redd, MilkMan, and Aglet, only losing to Junebug. Even here, my victory was not necessarily an upset.
Shortly thereafter, I entered Pat’s House, where I beat Spark and ARMY, losing to Crush and SFAT. Once again, I performed on par. Two weeks later, I defeated La Luna at the Twitch Invitational, but lost to the rest of the players seeded higher than me.
Despite numerous close sets, I was not making the upsets I wanted in the latter half of 2017.
Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been taking a closer look at how I feel about Melee and competing, and I’ve come to this conclusion: I’m not getting as much out of Melee as I can. And a big part of that is an overemphasis on results. So I’m re-prioritizing.
I used to compete in sm4sh at Xanadu every week, and I had a blast doing it. The fun part for me wasn’t sitting and playing the game for hours – it was competing and showing off my innovations and entertaining the viewers with Kirby. To this day, I find new compilations on YouTube of my old Kirby videos. How is it that I have some fans as dedicated, if not more dedicated, to my old Kirby than to my modern-day Melee Marth?
There is a deeper question here – how is it that I found more satisfaction with less effort in sm4sh than in Melee? There are a few possible answers.
For one, my self-worth and self-esteem is too closely tied to my results and rankings. I feel a constant pressure to perform as well as I can, and it constricts me. I feel limited and unable to express myself in the ways I want to in the game for fear of producing less-than-ideal results.
Another cause, possibly tied to the first, is that I very, very rarely feel content with my gameplay. I’m a pretty objective analyst, even of my own games, and I rarely feel content with the ways I lose sets. This is partially because so many of them come down to the wire, like against SFAT and Duck. Even when I win, sometimes I feel like it was something dumb my opponent did. In case my point doesn’t come across here, I’ll just throw in a couple of counterexamples:
I felt good about my wins on Spark and ARMY at Pat’s House. Against Spark, it was a close set, and I felt really confident in my adaptations as the set went on that led to a decisive game 5 victory. Against ARMY, I felt confident in my prowess in the ICs matchup and felt I played accordingly. I felt good about my losses to PewPewU in 2017. We played twice, and he defeated me handily both times. I felt that I prepared properly, got cleanly outplayed, and walked away from those sets with very little negativity.
Another tell for me is that I hardly ever go back to watch my Melee sets, even when I win. It doesn’t provide as much satisfaction for me as it used to. This is contrary to sm4sh, where I got a lot of joy from watching myself play. Again, I don’t even enjoy sitting down to grind out sm4sh the way I do Melee. All of this in mind, this is what I think is best for me:
Find a way to play Melee in such a way that I get the same satisfaction from watching myself play as I did in sm4sh.
I think this will be a much healthier approach for me to take. It will increase my enjoyment of the game and of competing.
This isn’t to say that I am forsaking results completely. I do think this is actually the best way for me to improve long-term. Right now I feel like I am experiencing crazy diminishing returns on the effort I put into competing. By working more on feeling good about my gameplay, I’ll be able to explore different styles and get more comfortable in a variety of competitive environments.
Short-term, this means my results may suffer. But this is an important step of the process. By learning to detach my self-esteem from short-term results, I can focus more on long-term improvement, and other priorities. And I have a lot of other priorities I need to focus on right now, especially given that I’m still in a big transitional phase of my life.
I’m putting a lot of emphasis these days on mental and physical fitness. I’m trying to write more and more (you’ll be seeing more instructional Melee content from me on team-dignitas.net – on that note, please let me know if there’s anything in particular you’d like to see me write about). I want to experience more of the city – just recently a friend of mine took me to see a live dress rehearsal of SNL. Quick aside:
Seeing SNL was awesome. Somehow we got put on the floor seats, front and center (I’m pretty sure they pick the young and attractive people to sit down there ;]). I literally had to move out of the way for all the actors to get on stage, and for the crew to bring in set pieces. I almost got hit in the face by the Weekend Update desk. Kate McKinnon scooted right by me. Will Ferrell was in arm’s reach multiple times. OH, and if you watch Will Ferrell’s monologue, he sits in the audience, right?… that was the seat I was in. I had to be escorted out of my seat temporarily during the monologue so they could put an actor there for Will Ferrell to push out of the way, so he literally sat next to my friend. Also, the crew there is freaking amazing. They executed complicated scene changes in under 40 seconds. And they utilize the entire space within the theater, setting up the set for the next scene in one wing while taking down previous sets in the other. It was honestly awesome, and I want to keep having those kinds of experiences in the city.
Not being so beholden to my results will allow me much more breathing room in my daily life, and improve my relationship with Melee.
So what does this mean, specifically?
Many have already noticed that I’ve been using more Fox as of late. Especially in the Fox ditto, I’ve already been feeling better about my play. I’ve also tried using some Fox and Marth in the same set. Frankly, I’m not super good at this yet, but I’m approaching a state where I feel good about my gameplay. Some people take it upon themselves to totally twist my actions, e.g. against Stango where I switched to and off Marth on FD. I want to continue experimenting with the Marth-on-FD pick during Fox sets. I’m not sure what will be best strategically long-term, but I feel good about my conscious choices to keep experimenting despite what results may precipitate.
A couple of weeks ago, I lost 1-2 to G$ in Fox versus Falco. In losers, I brought it back 3-2 against his Falco and Marth – I felt really good about being able to adapt to the matchups and play comfortably. Then I beat Smuckers in Fox versus Falcon 3-2, before losing 0-3. This week, I lost to Hax in a Fox ditto, 2-3. I went Fox on Nerd and went 2-2, before switching to Marth on FD game 5 and playing a very frustrating style (I ledge-camped and looked for big chaingrab punishes and taunted noce). It may have come across as BM, but it was more of a statement to the boisterous crowd cheering against me. I really didn’t mind the crowd – I consciously chose to not use my headphones so I could get the practice in a tense environment. But I felt good about my performance under that pressure, where it was so loud that I couldn’t hear myself think. Then I lost to Hax with the Fox/Marth combo in Losers’ Finals.
The improvements in my Fox are already clear. I’ve been describing it as “Golden Frieza Fox.” Fox has been my 2nd-best character for a long time, but now I’ve put effort in for a short period of time and I feel like I’ve achieved new heights. The results are clear in teams, as well. I’m experimenting with more Fox with lloD in teams now – we used to run this team as our primary before Marth/Peach, but we’re experimenting with more flexibility. It definitely showed when we beat MilkMan and Zain 3-1 with Fox/Peach.
Continuing with the trend of playing in such a way that I feel good, after losing with Fox and Marth plus Peach against Abate and Lucky, I turned to lloD and said: “This might sound crazy, but… what about Luigi?” He said sure, so I switched to Luigi and we took the next game. Our Peach Luigi team hasn’t been seen since 2012, but for those who don’t know, I used to be a Luigi main.
We barely lost the next two games, as Lucky clutched out two 1v1s against me. On the last game, I actually airdodged off the stage at like… 20%. Felt bad, man. Especially since that game went to last hit. But I was happy with the choice I made. It was bold, it actually had strategic value, and it was pretty entertaining. PA players were actually cheering for me in the 1v1, thinking I was Abate and Lucky was me. It was hilarious. They were so confused when Luigi lost and me and lloD got up.
One more habit I’m trying to enforce is this: when I feel the urge to waste hours away on netplay, I’ll redirect that effort into watching videos. I hardly watch recent videos anymore, because it’s so much more tempting to get on netplay. But netplay has pros and cons, and lately I feel it’s been holding me back. In just one very short session of watching videos on Tuesday, I felt significantly better about my gameplay at Nebs later that night, specifically in the two-three Marth versus Fox games I played in bracket. At this rate, not only will I feel much better about my gameplay, but I will improve as a player as see better results. I am not losing my grip on the long-term goal of breaking into the top 20. I am just ensuring that once I get there, I will stay there.
Anyways, I’m out of time. I’ll have lots more to say in the near future. Once again, if you’re interested in specific instructional content from me that isn’t about my own competitive journey, let me know on Twitter (@SmashG0D) and I’ll see what I can do about getting that material up on Dignitas’ site.