Smash Forward 1: How Do I Improve?

When I started brainstorming about this project, I couldn't come up with a good name. I asked myself, "Whats catchy, but still applies to my reader? What makes them want to read this at all? What helps forward their play?"

Welcome to Smash Forward

During my time in the smash community, I've tried to collect and amass understandings about our game and its competitive value. That journey is an ever-ongoing one, and experiencing that has grown my love for this community and the games we all enjoy. It is my hope that this project gives you that same experience that still yet breathes inside me.

The hopeful purpose of this is to start the smash community off with a resource our big brother FGC titles have had for years: A guide to the neutral game, or in slang, "footsies". Understanding what neutral really is, how to adapt, analyzing our play and intentions; things our top players tell us and exhibit in their gameplay, but often don't have the time to sit us down and explain, and, while I may not be a top player, I have been around for a while and study these concepts daily. All I want to do is contribute a resource that I feel my community desperately needs when it comes to improving ourselves.

So that begs the question. How do I Improve?

If you haven't said it yourself, you've heard this from someone else, no doubt. And this can range from the lower level starter players to our higher level players. Sometimes, you hit what we call a "plateau". Your play stagnates, you start playing bad or begin to experience a slump, you may lose to players who you originally surpassed or place lower than your norm at tournament. You just continue to grind and grind and practice and practice and nothing seems to happen and now you're frustrated. "This isn't the game for me", you'll tell yourself and others. You just can't improve past where you are now.

Relax, this is completely normal.

Honestly, you can experience plateaus and all the side effects repeatedly during your competitive journey. This means it's time to break out of your mold. You could be playing with a lot of "habits". Personally, I used to attack my opponent with an aerial, and, once it hit shield or whiffed, I would always roll away. I would do this again and again, and then wonder why I was being punished or getting hit for what I thought was my answer to NOT getting punished.

I was operating in a habit. While my brain was focused on trying to win the match, I was ignoring a flaw in my base play. Habits like these can really hinder us from improving. They stale our play and let opponents take advantage of us.

Habits don't always have to be defensive actions either. Maybe you always attack from a ledge situation, or always use your double jump when hit or juggled in the air. All habits aren't bad habits in every situation either. Obviously, rolling and spotdodging are very helpful tools, along with various other tactics. It was that, in my head and for that blink of a moment, I was afraid of being close to my opponent after making a mistake, and that caused me to panic and habitually choose to roll. Continually playing on these rushed decisions can create bad habits.

How to fix this?

Analyzing replays is a big help. You're no longer distracted by the heat of the moment. This time, everything's right in front of you. You can analyze yourself and the other player, in each and every situation. Asking people for help can be useful. Smash teachers and lessons from great thinkers are also options at your disposal. Even an opponent you may have just lost to. Other players' perspectives can sometimes refresh your own. This part of improving your play never stops, but unless you start it, your chances at getting better will slow to a crawl.

This concept has kept me in the competitive scene since.

I am a competitive person. Not because my only motivation is to win, but because I want to see myself improve. As gamers, I think this is ingrained in us. Pushing our limits, conquering harder levels and faster times. Well, as smashers, our biggest challenges are ourselves. We push each other forward. At times, it will be uncomfortable, difficult, even bitter for a moment. However, the experience of destroying a barrier and conquering yourself is always worth it, and I believe it's attainable for every player. All it takes is the drive to do it.

Pick up your controller. We've got some games to play.


Questions or Comments? Ask @DisqoBunny on Twitter!