On Competitive Gaming…

While I’m generally a rather passive and laid-back individual, I do enjoy competitive entertainment, from time to time.

My two biggest competitive outlets are games that are both infinitely different and incredibly the same, all at once; WWE Raw Deal, and Super Street Fighter IV.

I’ve been playing Street Fighter games since 1993 (go back to the “Fighting in the Street” articles from earlier this year for that story), and I tend to try and keep up with whatever the latest offering Capcom has to offer is in the fighting genre – Be it a highly technical game such as Street Fighter III: Third Strike, a flashy so-unbalanced-it’s-balanced combofest like Marvel vs. Capcom 2, or a lackluster game with high potential such as Capcom Fighting Evolution. Since Super Street Fighter IV is the latest in Capcom’s fighting offerings, that’s what I’ve been focusing my time on, lately.

WWE Raw Deal is a collectible card came that came out in 2000, back when World Wrestling Entertainment was still known as the World Wrestling Federation. At first, I bought a Triple H-themed starter deck and 2 or 3 booster packs to try the game out. I was convinced that there was no way a CCG based on pro wrestling would be any good – despite the fact that I enjoyed both CCGs and wrestling! But a friend of mine who didn’t like wrestling at all (at the time), but was willing to try out any new game told me that it was actually fun. And, honestly, that’s the exact kind of endorsement you need for a game with a pitch line like, “It’s a collectible card game based on the WWF,” because that game could have VERY easily turned into an unmitigated disaster.

Without going into every facet of Raw Deal, you begin by picking your wrestler, and construct a deck of 60 cards. Each wrestler (“Superstar”) has a specific Ability; For example, The Rock gets to recover 1 card from his discard pile to the bottom of his deck before each of his turns starts. The Undertaker can discard 2 cards from his hand to pick up 1 card from his discard pile. Edge gets to go first, etc. Each Superstar also has a variable number of Superstar-Specific foil cards with their logo that represent their signature moves and theatrics. Only Stone Cold Steve Austin can use the Stone Cold Stunner, and only Triple H can tell you “I Am The Game.” Generic maneuver, reversal, and action cards make up the rest of your deck. Later expansions introduced a side deck of 20 horizontally-aligned cards, where you could play 5 of them before the match, and 5 others during the match, increasing the options and strategy required in the game.

In Super Street Fighter IV, you begin each match by selecting a character you want to use. Each Street Fighter has a move set of over 100 attacks, with a universal block, throw, focus attack, and taunt command shared amongst the 35 selectable players.

So, right off the bat, it is highly advantageous to the player to know what both their Street Fighter and/or their Raw Deal deck are capable of doing. Building a deck of random cards will likely not work out in a Raw Deal player’s favor, and jumping into a game against an opponent with a character you’ve never heard of will likely not work out well for a Super Street Fighter IV player.

Working within the confines of the rules of the games, things become apparent; both require knowledge not only of your own character’s moves/cards, but also knowing what your opponent is capable of can only help your playing ability. Both games require the ability to execute particular strategies at particular times, either as an offensive means, or in response to you’re opponent’s latest attempt at beating you; In Raw Deal, it’s a matter of having and playing the right card in your hand at the right time, while in Street Fighter, it’s a matter of knowing what move or combination of moves will work, and the ability to execute the controller commands for these moves.

I’ve played both games competitively, and entered into many local tournaments; particularly in Raw Deal, as Arizona had a very strong Raw Deal community for several years. And I always performed respectably in either tournament. I’d win it all sometimes, and lose before the finals other times.

I jokingly used to refer to myself as “The Most Average Player on the Planet,” as I’d often have about a 50% win ratio in tournament settings in either game. But all of that changed when I read a book that is literally thousands of years old:

The Art of War by Sun Tzu.

I know it sounds kind of strange, but reading the tactics and strategies that an ancient Chinese General came up with actually enhanced my competitive play in gaming.

If you’re a competitive player of any game, be it fighting video games, collectible card games, sports, or whatever, I cannot recommend reading The Art of War enough. It will give you an edge that your opponent doesn’t expect, and it will open up your mind to new ways of thinking about your game that you would have never considered, before.

Also, nothing beats old-fashioned practice. After all, those new, ancient Chinese strategies won’t do you any good if you don’t learn HOW to apply them!

I hope that your game improves!