Universal Fighting Game Guide: How to Improve Through Losing


The fighting game genre is defined by the process of at least two competing parties fighting each other to determine a winner and loser. As someone who has been playing fighting games seriously for the past few years, I’ve lost thousands of matches in virtually every way imaginable. I almost beat Arturo Sanchez in AE 2012 until I choked at the very end of the final round. I’ve been destroyed by Marlinpie at Marvel vs. Capcom 3 in a tournament. Most recently, I lost a match in Street Fighter X Tekken to an opponent who beat me by pressing only one button. Regardless of the circumstances around any given loss, the feeling that came with losing sucked every time.

In this installment of the Universal Fighting Game Guide, we’re going to focus on the least desirable outcome of any given match. Though the act of losing always spawns some level of anger, sadness and frustration (or in fighting game community terms, ‘salt’), it doesn’t have to end there. Losses today can be leveraged to help you gain wins tomorrow. Instead of simply getting mad, let’s talk about how to use losing as a means of getting better.

Salt Factor

Losing at anything always spawns some sort of negative emotional response in humans. I don’t know how you deal with losing in a fighting game, but I have a very hard time containing my emotions when I lose, especially if I lost to an online opponent. My release of negative energy due to a loss often includes yelling, coarse language, and a number of physical gestures that indicate that I’m not a happy camper.

A negative emotional response is normal. However, if you’re committed to getting better, you need to look beyond the ‘salt’. You need to take a breath and do some critical thinking.

The Question

There are lessons to be learned from every loss. When you lose, you should always take a moment to answer this one question:

“Why did I lose?”

If you’re committed to getting better, the answer to this question isn’t as simple as saying something along the lines of, “My opponent got lucky,” or, “My opponent was just better than me.” You need to probe deeper than that to ultimately answer that. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, then answering that question can be really hard to do. While I can’t possibly analyze every match for you, here are a few factors to think about when you analyze for yourself:

– Opponent’s skill: If you feel that they were better than you, in exactly what ways were they better than you in? If you feel that they weren’t better than you, then exactly what did they do to beat you?

– Turning point: What was the turning point in the match? What did you do or what did they do to cause that turning point to happen?

– Defense: Was your defense not up to snuff? What maneuvers did you find difficult to defend against?

– Strategy and tactics: Did they catch you off-guard with strategies or tactics that you hadn’t encountered before?

– Execution: Did you screw up your combos? Did you screw up your combo at one pivotal moment that could have won the match for you instead? Was their execution on point?

The above points are just a handful of factors that could have contributed to your loss. Analyze your losses carefully so that you can ultimately answer the question.


John Madden Style Replay Analysis

When you are playing in a tournament and you take a loss, you generally do not have much time to analyze what happened. However, for most people, you’ll be playing most of your matches at home online. One of the benefits of most modern fighting games is that they offer some sort of replay feature. Though it may bring back the salty feelings, going back to watch your losses can be extremely beneficial to your growth. When you go back to watch, analyze the match from moment to moment, making note of all of the key moments in the match.

The above video shows Gootecks breaking down one of his sets against a Ryu player. Thanks to the benefits of instant replay, he can do things such as watch moments in slow motion. More importantly, watch this video carefully to see Gootecks thought process as he analyzes his matches. This is the type of thinking you should be doing in order to properly analyze your matches.

Now What?

Coming to a conclusion is one thing. However, that conclusion means nothing if you don’t take steps to address the problems you had in your loss. Whatever that problem was, make sure you address it in the future. Go out of your way to spend some time in training mode to work out any kinks that cost you the match last time. Maybe do some further research online on a particular factor that still confuses you. Whatever it is you need to do to learn from that experience, do it. The worst thing you can do is to not learn from your mistakes and to keep committing them in the future.

Losing as a Means of Motivation

While I’ve been covering this subject from a very rational place, but losing can also provide a strong emotional motivator if you don’t let the losing get you down. At T12, I got destroyed by Chi Rithy in Street Fighter IV. It was arguably even worse of a drubbing than the one I took from Marlinpie. I was so upset at myself for that loss, that I took it upon myself to get better at the game. Within a matter of months, I went from a 5,000 BP Rose (slightly above average) to a 15,000 BP Rose (#1 Rose in Canada and top 8 in North America) using that loss as a driving motivator. Instead of letting it bring me down, I turned it into a positive. Granted, getting to that benchmark took a ton of hours and hard work, and I can’t simply credit that loss as automatically making me better, but would I have put in the time and the effort if I didn’t suffer that loss? Probably not. If you’re passionate enough about the game, I’m sure you can turn a loss that you suffered into a positive motivator, too.

In Conclusion

A loss is not the end of the world. A loss is also something that shouldn’t always be brushed off immediately and left behind. There is valuable learning to be had and motivation to gain from any given loss. If you make the most out of your losses today, you’ll lose less overall tomorrow.

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