The irony of brain over brawn in fighting games


Psychology: the study of the mind.

Psychology has always been interesting to me. 

Psychology is a way to look into the mind, mine or others. 

One aspect of my life that has always been intertwined with psychology is video games, specifically one genre that is one of the most mainstream: fighting games, specifically the Super Smash Bros series.

Fighting games have played a huge role in who I am. They have been in my life for a very long time, but only in the past few years have I realized the potential of the mind through them.

In fighting games, at least the ones I play, a traditional match consists of two players. The objective is to eliminate the other player before they do the same to you. This leads to an intense few stages a game can lay into.

There is neutral, where no player has an advantage meaning anyone could take a lead and gain an upper hand; advantage, where you have the advantage; and disadvantage, where your foe has the advantage. The advantage could be in stage control or in mind.

Mind games are arguably the biggest part of a game’s winner. For example, if you taunt your opponent, whether with an in-game or real-world taunt, it can throw them off or make them upset.

Most of the top competitive players rely heavily on mind games and reacting to how opponents play. If you can predict how someone will act, then you can punish them when it matters.

This is where mind games come in; trying to force your opponent into choosing a predictable option. An example is maybe you go for an aerial attack to try to approach your opponent several times in a row, they see it coming and block.

This is where the fun of mind games comes in. You can then land without an attack and grab⁠—you can grab a blocking opponent. This works better for some characters than others, which is where another aspect of psychology and the mind comes in.

Character selection is also a deep insight into your opponent. It can tell you not only what your foe wants to do but also how they want to do it.

Some characters have good projectiles. They will want to disengage and try to use them against you. Some characters are extremely fast. They will focus on running in and out of where you are, trying to make you whiff an attack, then punish you for it.

An iconic character in competitive fighting games is Super Smash Bro Melee’s Fox McCloud from the Star Fox franchise. He is one of the best characters in his game, which is amplified by his versatility. It allows for many different playstyles meaning you can switch up how you play mid-match rather than in between matches with a change of character.

That single factor makes it so Fox is hard to play against because not one Fox player plays the same.

Psychology is also shown in trailers, where, unlike an eight to $16 movie ticket, most games cost $20 or more, meaning they have to use a lot more tricks to make consumers think “this looks good” and want to buy it.

Psychology has always been interesting to me. Maybe I will study it. Maybe I won’t. But that is for me to know and for you to only be able to guess.