To win a video game tournament, you need a requisite level of skill. You need a firm grasp of the controls and rules of the game, or else an inordinate amount of luck. But you also need something more than that, to give you the all important “edge” over your fellow competitors.
In one of the early Wai-cons, I won the Super Smash Bros Melee tournament. For some reason on that day, I entered a state of hyper-awareness. Although I wouldn’t go so far to say as everything was moving in slow motion, my reaction times increased noticeably and it increased my skill-level by a huge amount – twice as much, as one friend reported. Every time an attack was thrown I was able to evade it, and every time there was a window of opportunity to attack an opponent, I took it and more often than not succeeded. During this state, I beat opponents who were ordinarily far more skilled than me, but who were thwarted on the day by split-seconds and millimeters of distance. And, indeed, a little luck.
But in most cases, I venture that is takes more than skill to win a gaming tournament. Not to be melodramatic, but it takes what Sun Tzu says was the essence of war: deception. In all of the qualifying rounds before the finals, I tried not to draw attention to myself. I let everyone beat up each other, contributing just enough to the fight to blend into the background (for nothing draws a gangbashing faster than the one guy who’s hanging by himself on the edge of the stage). I quickly determined who was the most skilled player, eliminated them first (often by drawing other players towards them) and proceeded to make the game easier and easier. Of course it didn’t always work out Peachy (a nod there to the amazingly good Peach player), but as a general rule this formula often got results. And it hinged upon appearing non-threatening to the intermediate players, luring them into vulnerable positions and punishing them, while eliminating or weakening the advanced players who caught on to my ‘hidden’ level of skill.
Of course these tactics are not limited to gaming competitions. In the martial arts tournament I recently attended, I psyched out my opponent very early in the fight. I deliberately made myself seem relaxed, even bored. As his attacks continued to be (mostly) foiled by my defence, his morale and energy dropped noticeably over time until there was hardly any fight left in him.
I’m not too sure what I was trying to gain by writing about this, but… Hey, I wrote it anyway. Peace y’all.