|Posted on January 28, 2012 at 9:20 AM|
David Sirlin, a game designer and professional Street Fighter player, is famous for his mindset of "play to win." As far as his line of thinking goes, you should go all out to win by any means necessary – even if the route of shortest resistance is something boring to take and to watch, like spamming a single move over and over.
One of Sirlin's most famous matches (yes, Street Fighter has famous games like chess and go) was in the finals of a Street Fighter Alpha 2 tournament. Now, he was burned out after an entire day of playing, he was facing an insanely good Chinese Chun-Li player, and he had badly lost the last set with his best character. As you might imagine, he didn't exactly have the best of odds. In a last-ditch effort, Sirlin picked Rose – a character with an awful matchup against Chun.
As the game started ("Go for broke... Fight!") Sirlin positioned himself at a careful range from his opponent, and did his crouching medium punch just out of range. Then he did it again. And again. And again. What?
For those in the know, Rose's crouching medium punch, or low strong, is pretty good for a normal attack. It has decent range, it's faster than a lot of other attacks, and it can combo into any of Rose's special attacks or super attacks. With extremely precise range, a good player can use it to zone out many characters and grind his way to victory... and that's exactly what Sirlin did. After round after round of winning by the bell, Sirlin took the prize. The match went down in history as the most boring Street Fighter tournament finals of all time.
Imagine that glowing punch, except 9000 times in a row
Here's a quote from Sirlin's book:
"I low stronged my little heart out. Probably over 90% of my moves were low strong, done at a very particular range, and with a particular pattern of timing that I dare not reveal (let me keep some secrets). I had infinite patience to low strong forever, forcing Thao to defeat this trick. If he could beat it, we would then have to actually play, and at that point surely he would win. But fortunately, he never did beat it: he fought it head on. At times, he would decide not to attack, not to beat against a brick wall. I used that opportunity to get at the optimal range (which is one pixel farther from him than the range of my low strong). From this range, I continued to low strong forever. I wasn’t winning by doing that, but I wasn’t losing either. Even the robotic Thao would eventually tire and attack, sometimes at the wrong times out of annoyance or desperation. Spectators reported that I did an amazing 18 consecutive low strongs without either myself or Thao doing any other moves."
Is this a legitimate way to play Street Fighter? Definitely. It's strategically sound, requires buckets of skill to execute, and won David Sirlin the match. Whatever you think of his tactics, he was playing to win. He got the grand prize.
Now I'd like to direct your attention to the following videos:
How to win at SF4 forever
"Zevak" and his lazy Cody
What do these videos have in common? They display the mindset of playing to taunt. For these players, mere winning is not enough. They must win with awesome. When confronted with obviously terrible adversaries, they handicap themselves by showing off every other second and making fun of the other player's inability to defeat them. When fighting strong opponents, they give their all, yet taunt at every opportunity. This is Playing to Taunt.
Playing to taunt is basically an improvement on playing to win. When we play to taunt, we play to inject a little sense of humor into our games; when we pull off something truly badass in the context of the game, we have already won the battle. Where playing to win states "Do everything in your power to win," playing to taunt ripostes "Do everything in your power to maximise the awesomeness of your win." In other words, you should never defeat someone with a practical move if a sillier, flashier, or lower-damage is also available to you.
Let's paraphrase Sirlin for a moment.
"I taunted my little heart out. Probably over 90% of my moves were taunts, done at a very particular range, and with a particular pattern of timing that I dare not reveal (let me keep some secrets). I had infinite patience to taunt forever, forcing my opponent to defeat this trick. If he could beat it, we would then have to actually play, and at that point surely he would stand a chance. But fortunately, he never did beat it: he fought it head on. At times, he would decide not to attack, not to beat against a brick wall. I used that opportunity to get at the optimal range (which is the other end of the screen). From this range, I continued to taunt forever. I wasn’t winning by doing that, but I wasn’t losing either. Even a robotic opponent would eventually tire and attack, sometimes at the wrong times out of annoyance or desperation. Spectators reported that I did an amazing 18 consecutive taunts without either myself or my opponent doing any other moves."
The huge difference between doing a low strong and taunting is that taunting does absolutely nothing. A low strong deals damage, tells your opponent to back off, can combo into threatening special attacks, and so on. A taunt is just an animation that leaves you completely vulnerable. Something that is actually detrimental to your game plan which you throw in for the express purpose of being awesome. Only when you can literally say "Come at me, bro," to your opponent – and still win – are you a champion of playing to taunt.
Add color to your world. Troll your way to victory!