5 Unlikely Lessons I Learned From Hardcore Competitive Fighting Games

Fighting gameThe art of competitive fighting games has been a hobby of mine since high school.

Through a friend, I was exposed to the game Super Smash Brothers Melee.

An unconventional fighting game with an emphasis on free-form movement, the game was  fast and fun all at the same time.

Playing it exposed me to the competitive gaming world, and really brought out the perfectionist in me.

I had this strong desire to sharpen my skills and become the best player I possibly could.

The competitive gaming community represented something that I wasn’t accustomed to – a group of people who wanted to test their skills against other opponents. People who wanted to hone their abilities, develop experience and increase their knowledge in order to gain the advantage in battle.

I loved it.

It was like an anime, where fighters from across the world got together to find out who among them was the best.

And I wanted to be the best.

Have Video Games Taught you Anything?

My history with competitive gaming actually taught me lessons that we’re applicable to real life.

But I wonder, have video games ever taught you any valuable life lessons?

I at first found it weird.

“Video games?” I thought. “Teaching me something useful?” I further questioned.

But I realized that it wasn’t the video game itself that taught me something, but the process of playing and improving that did.

Training in Fighting Games is Like Training For a Martial Artist

I noticed that there was a strong similarity between competitive fighting games and martial arts.

in both you must:

* Train yourself physically till you can execute moves with out a second thought.
* Learn about the techniques involved.
* Spar with others to improve your skill.
* Learn to get up when you are knocked down.

It would take me more than a few years to realize, but these skills had immense carry over to the other facets of my life.

And I did my best to condense all those years of competitive gaming into these 5 tips:

1) Act Quick, Fail Quick, Learn Quick – Rinse and Repeat

In a match, you only have a small amount of time to defeat your opponent – this means everything you do must teach you something about overcoming them.

And you got to do it faster than your opponent.

How is your opponent reacting to your movements? Is your opponent conditioning you in order to strike at the right moment? Or is he trying to push you into a corner?

It wouldn’t be inaccurate to call a competitive fighter a game of observation and pattern recognition.

Because all you’re really doing is seeing when its prime time for you to take action.

In Real Life (IRL)

So when does opportunity strike in real life?

You need to be observant of your life in order to see it. You need to recognize when it occurs, and when it re-occurs.

And just like in a match, it’s most likely on a time limitation.

So if you want it, you got to do more than see it – you have to observe it.

In a match, if you miss opportunity then you risk losing the fight. In real life, if you miss opportunity then you risk missing out on happiness and satisfaction.

2) Train Often

In a match, its always obvious if a player hasn’t been working on his execution.

They tend to use sub-optimal strategies simply because their hands can’t keep up with their brains.

Staying physically sharp keeps all of your best techniques and strategies available to you.

In Real Life (IRL)

You should always be able to do your craft to the best of your ability.

If not, what you create will never truly represent what you are capable of. It will always be second-rate, a shadow of your true potential.

Practice often, and keep your skill level nice and high. Because when opportunity comes a knockin, you want to be able to take complete and full advantage of it.

3) Experience is the Best Teacher

Albert Einstein understands this lesson well –

Information is not knowledge. The only source of knowledge is experience.

There were times where I didn’t always have access to other players to spar with. So what I did was go online and learned all the newest strategies and techniques in the mean time.

But I quickly learned that it was no replacement for legit experience.

I never got any better in between matches. I watched matches of all the top players, studied techniques, learned match ups, yet if there was any improvement at all it was minuscule.

But when I played with people on a regular basis, my skill level would rise gradually.

Experience showed me what strategies actually worked, the ones that failed, which match ups were in my favor, who I struggled against, and so on.

In Real Life (IRL)

You can’t just learn about life in a book or on the internet – you must experience it.

You have to try, you have to fail, and you have to learn. Everything is so much more substantial when you are smack dab in the middle experiencing it.

Sure, knowledge has its place in our lives. But it will always be second-best to actual experience.

4) Learn by imitating the best

When you first start out playing a competitive game, its easy to become overwhelmed with the amount of things there are to learn.

You need to know things like:

  • Match ups
  • Strategies
  • Player specific strategies
  • Playing under pressure
  • Knowing your strengths/weaknesses

The top players have a clear understanding of all of those things.

They’ve encountered all the road blocks and overcame them. Everything that you’ve yet to encounter, they’ve experienced.

This is why you should model your approach after the pros. They’ve got the fundamentals down pat!

In Real Life (IRL)

In any field you’ll find that there are those at the top and those at the bottom (and those in between).

If you want to be one of the people at the top, then you need to use the strategies that the top people have already used and tested.

What you need to do is find out what they all do the same.

These are prerequisites for being the best in your field. Those traits are what make them champions in your field, and you need those traits to be one yourself.

5) Change Strategy, adapt often

Matches always follow a rock, paper, scissors like formula.

You start strong by pressuring your opponent into a corner. Trapped, he has no choice but to take damage as he escapes. You try again but this time he see’s through it – he does a jumping attack and takes you down. Expecting you to pressure him again, he takes to the air. This time your ready for it, and simply walk backwards and attack as he lands.

As you both cycle through strategies, you end up at your original pressuring strategy.

Matches always follow this flow. You’re always trying to come up with a new more effective approach in order to beat your opponents strategy.

Understand that while no strategy is necessarily the best, some end up being contextually better than others.

In Real Life (IRL)

Recognize when you’re using a failing strategy.

Don’t waste time getting mediocre results, quickly find a better method. And if your new strategy starts failing you, switch again.

Stay fluid with your approach and don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.

Keeping this mindset will prevent you from falling apart if you find your once great strategy is no longer working. Being adaptable will prevent you from getting stuck.

Closing Thoughts

My experiences from playing competitive fighting games have taught me that inspiration and life lessons can come from unexpected sources.

I’ve learned how to be flexible, dedicated, and adaptable all thanks to my history with competitive gaming, and I’ve been able to apply to all aspects of my life.

So next time somebody says that you’re wasting your time playing video games, tell them that your learning some valuable life lessons!

Have video games ever taught you anything? Or are they always just a waste of time? Please leave comment and let me know what you think!


If you enjoyed this post, why not hire me to write for your blog? You can contact me at Ericson@onewaythoughts.com


  1. Fighting games teach us many good lessons. For me, fighting games teach me how to make plan and strategy in my life to get best result. But we have to concern that there is big different between games and life. In games, if you fail you can restart again or reset until you win. But life cannot be restart as we like. We have to learn a lot and dare to fail in order to success in life.

    Thanks Ericson for share this great posting
    Penghilang Jerawat recently posted…Obat Penghilang Jerawat Alami Dari TiensMy Profile

  2. SirProudNoob says:

    I’m not really sure how applicable this is, but I learned my lesson in competitive first-person-shooters.

    I started out being a one-trick pony. I would just rush out there and deal as much damage as I could to the enemy before I could be taken down, also serving as a distraction for my teammates to flank and begin supporting me. However, after playing enough, I came across a team that was good enough that I couldn’t just run out there and mow them down,

    I had to completely switch strategies mid match and begin fighting stealthily, similar to guerrilla warfare, with slow stalking punctuated with decisive action, and then fleeing and hiding as quickly as possible. I was able to win the match, but if I had kept to my original (and only) strategy, I would’ve been utterly destroyed.

    What I’ve learned is to be unpredictable. Sometimes the situation calls for relentless attack, while sometimes more finesse is required. Other times it simply depends what your team is doing and what works best with that.

    • Hey SirProudNoob,

      All competitive activities share the same basic principles (adaptation, strategy, match-up knowledge, etc.), so what you’ve learned in competitive FPS games certainly applies here as well.

      As we’ve both learned, when you reach that point where you can’t move forward with your current strategy, you either adapt or die (figuratively of course).

      You decided to adapt by being more stealthy and it paid off with a solid victory, a great adaptation on your part!

      Your definition of unpredictable is synonymous with adaptable, which I like. It prevents you from being locked into a single mindset, making you a much more flexible player. I’m sure you’d have no problem expanding into other competitive activities with that mindset!

      Thanks for the great comment SirProudNoob!
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