Roy Tang

Programmer, engineer, scientist, critic, gamer, dreamer, and kid-at-heart.

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“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

I was reading a forum thread recently about learning competitive Street Fighter. The poster was using a particular character (his “main”) and asking how he could learn to counter the attack strings of other characters. The answers from more experienced players were pretty much what I would have expected: you had to dedicate specific time and effort to each matchup you wanted to study. That meant going into training mode, looking at the opposing character’s attack strings and seeing where he could interrupt them or the proper way to answer them. It meant a lot of hard work too, since fighting games typically have a lot of characters. So reaching the top tiers meant understanding each opposing character in and out, knowing their strengths and weaknesses and so on.

I think it not only applies to competition, but also to any scenario where there is an opposing party or point of view. In order to make any progress or improvement, it is necessary to understand where the other side is coming from and study their motivations. Sadly, in online debates it often turns into the equivalent of a shouting match where everyone just screams out their POV hoping to brute force their opponent into some kind of “submission”.

Back to Street Fighter: When picking up a new fighting game, I typically try to sample all the available characters until I find one whose fighting style I like and am comfortable playing as “main” (hint: it’s often Ryu lol).

In the same way, in any online discussion it’s important to expose yourself to a variety of opinions, and not limit your discussions only to people with similar views. Political discussion online can get toxic so it becomes tempting to block out those views that you disagree with, but this tends to create an echo chamber effect. It’s a good idea to keep a healthy amount of opposing views on your feeds. Although where you draw the line is of course your own decision; Personally I try to avoid blocking any friends and have not yet had occasion to do so, although I do block any sites that tend to promote misinformation or stuff like racism.

Unlike competition, the goal of an online discussion (especially for sensitive topics like politics) isn’t really winning. Discussion should lead to some sort of progress or learning, or in the worst case, “agreeing to disagree”. But regardless of the outcome, understanding opposing points of view should give you valuable insights into your own views, and maybe even convince you to reconsider them.

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Any chance you’ve read Sirlin’s Playing to Win book?

He talks about how competitive playing will bring out the best in you if you remove bad mentality (such as that shouting contest you mentioned) and play with your best. While the book is fighting game centric, it has value on bringing something to a person’s mindset.

Yes, yes I have! I always recommend it to anyone interested in competitive play.