Universal Fighting Game Guide: Choking

Mind over matter is a valid adage in the world of fighting games. Most matches are won by knowledge and good decision-making; not through large combos. However, the human mind can’t always be counted on when it’s under enough stress. Players in fighting games sometimes choke, just like anyone in any form of competition.

How can you take advantage of a choking opponent without caving under pressure yourself? Find out in this installment of the Universal Fighting Game Guide

What is choking?

Choking is a common phrase used in any form of competition to describe when a person under-performs due to their inability to cope with a high-pressure situation.

When does it happen?

In fighting games, there are all sorts of stimuli that can trigger this phenomenon. Here’s a few situations where the likelihood of choking is high:

– Facing off against a well-known or highly ranked player

– Playing in a tournament in front of a crowd

– The moment after someone quickly dishes out a ton of damage through a super move or large combo

– The moment when one character is on the verge of losing, which can go either way

– When one player grows frustrated at being unable to deal with their opponents tactics or strategy

– One opponent is taunting in-game or in real life

Why does it happen?

In all of these situations, they put players under an intense level of duress. If they are incapable of dealing with that stress, they’ll become more prone to making mistakes. For instance, players who get hit with a big combo may force themselves to respond with an equally large combo, which could ultimately leave them more open to attack. Or in the case of a near-death scenario, the winning character may then make a series of rushed decisions to try and make anything connect, though that also leaves them open to attack.

How can I prevent myself from choking?

Mental fortitude is key. When the pressure starts rising, you must have the ability to take a deep breath and relax. Rushing into decisions during a high-pressure situation usually doesn’t work in your favour, so take every step one at a time. Assess all of the match variables at play, such as health bars, super bars, time left, and where you’re positioned on the screen in relation to them. At this point, you should have naturally collected some information about your opponent’s play. Take a second to analyze the situation, formulate a game plan and execute. After each move, take a quick second to re-assess the situation and make any adjustments as you go. Once you get comfortable with this thought process, you can play very smart while still playing quickly. The trick is to always be thinking and not just doing. If you’re at least thinking through your actions, you won’t charge into as many silly mistakes.

How can I take advantage of a choking opponent?

First, you need to recognize when they’re choking. Have that above list of potential choking moments readily available in your head to cross reference with your in-game action. When these situations occur, look for the following behaviours:

– Desperation super moves

– Dropped combos

– Sudden shift into overly offensive of defensive play

Of course, there are more signs and personal tells that each player has, though this is a good starting point. Once you notice that they’re cracking, don’t begin to crack, too! Sensing that your opponent is suffering from a mental breakdown often causes their opponents to also fall apart as they try and capitalize on the opportunity. Instead, take a breath, relax, and think through the best course of action. Stay on top of your emotions and make smart decisions by thinking first, acting afterwards.

Kick, punch, it’s all in the mind

Mental toughness takes time to develop. It’s also a skill that you won’t fully master until you choke many times over. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give up after letting another match slip through your hands from a breakdown. Instead, make an honest effort towards trying to think every situation through, regardless of how small any given moment might be. By staying on top of your emotions, you’ll put yourself in a much better position to not crack, while being ready to take advantage when your opponent does.

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One thought on “Universal Fighting Game Guide: Choking

  1. oinfrar3do January 19, 2014 / 1:21 PM

    Absolutely right. People tend to underestimate the impact of the mental willpower that can be the difference between coming out victor or at a loss in fighting games.
    As you say, emotional and mental fortitude is key but is a skill to be worked upon. Very easy for players at all levels to call the outcome of a match against themselves when they’ve just been hit by an early Super or something, or erratic behaviour from their opponent – this fuels a different series of behaviours (not necessarily favourable) from the “Choker”.
    Characters in fighting games who can condition their opponent to believe that certain options are more worth while than others, then plays to exploit that (M.Bison, Zangief) are extremely good at this Mental Guard Break. It’s difficult to pick yourself back up and play the same as you have after 6 sets of Scissor kicks have hit you despite you trying every options. Same after a dizzy.
    It’s absolutely a must that you are able to adapt and maintain your emotions mid-game. Occurs in any walk of life too – pressure just gets too much and that can be enough for the “Mental Guard Break” to set in. Comebacks are always possible.
    Always been one of the most interesting sides of competitive play – and truly great competitors have amazing mental fortitude, in any aspect of competitive events – Fighting Games to 100m Sprint.

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