Insomnia | Commentary

Domination 101: You Can Lead A Scrub To Water, But You Can't Make 'Em Think

By Seth Killian / March 29, 2009

This article is part of a series of articles originally posted on the Shoryuken forums sometime before the Great Crash of 2003. In an effort to bring them to the attention of a new generation of players, we will be re-posting them here in the coming weeks and months.


In a disappointing development, it seems we have a new wave of scrubs announcing they're not only too stupid to play well, but too stupid even to watch a video. As any player whose SF history predates this site can tell you, what you get here every damn week used to be considered solid gold. Not too long ago, people killed to see how the champs played, and spent hours hunting down terrible quality VHS dubs, then begging someone to send them a copy. Now, we're spoon-feeding top quality SF to you every week, and it turns out you're too stupid even to swallow. Here's you:

"Buh! He ain't done no nuthin' I cain't do! I'm the next durn Alex Valley! Yee-ha! (a hoe-down ensues)."

What cousin Merle means, of course, is that he didn't see any *moves* he couldn't do, and perhaps (like in CVS) not even any combos he couldn't do. Does that mean he could play like that? Any non-idiot (or even a bonafide idiot, who has at least read this column) will know that special moves + combos do not equal SF. There's more to the equation -- a lot more.

Since I'm talking to morons, I'll try and speak clearly: You scrubs watch these videos wrong. In particular, you watch them *passively*. A lifetime of butt-widening, beer-bellifying NFL fandom (and the like) has led to these sorry habits. You see a match, and you just sit back and watch it like a sitcom. You're not living it alongside the players, trying to think like they do, in real time -- you're just soaking it up like the spineless sponge you are. To really appreciate what's going on, you need to feel the tension, and try and react as they do.

The typical scrub match-evaluation goes like this: You watch the video all the way through, then think back to all the places where someone seemed to blow an advantage, miss something, etc. Now, the first identifying mark of the forum scrub (the modern, louder (though thankfully non-scented) descendant of the mall scrub) is that he always watches videos with respect to what they say about HIM and his precious l33t skeelz. He's not watching to understand (if he did, he would hardly be the scrub he proves himself to be); he's watching to try and feel cool about himself, and maybe to find some simple trick or combo he can steal. He feels cool by trying to imagine *himself* playing the match, and thinking how well *he'd* do against the best. Now mind, this isn't done by getting off their butts to actually *do* it -- oh heavens no! (insert excuses about money/parents/gf/having a life/just being too cool/etc., here), but instead, by trying to insert themselves into some random match they saw (a related variant of the same scrub trick: the shockingly dumb transitive fest of "well, I can beat so and so, who once played a guy who once placed 19th in a Cali tournament, so technically, according to logimacality, that means I'm pretty good." And he didn't even have to leave the mall to figure it out!).

Because your scrubby motive is to always think the best of yourself, rather than understand the truth, a favorite evaluation trick is to pull some sequence entirely out of context. This works by ingeniously ignoring all the expectations, patterns, psychological advantages and momentum that the other player had established, and just focusing on an isolated incident. What this does is to let the scrub get away with thinking "Sheeeucks! I coulda DP'd that!", or whatever. Bzz. Not only do you fail to notice how much easier it is to think "I coulda DP'd it!" when you ALREADY KNOW WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN (this is the special, scrubs-only variant of the psychic DP: the hindsight DP!), but the obvious fact is that you COULDN'T have. If you could have, you'd be winning tournaments too, instead of pouting at home and taking out your frustrations on training mode (scrubs at home will be reaching for that bag of excuses right about now, again).

So here are a few pointers on how to watch these matches:

Look for what the players DON'T do. "But how can anything interestin' be a happenin' if a whole mess o' life ain't disappearin', or if there taint no huge ex-plo-zee-uhn on the screen, or leastwise one uh dem purdy color super-deals?" I know this is hard Merle, but bear with me. Yes, it's important to notice what they do (with Kim, don't jump in, poke with st. Short, sweep a lot, etc.), but a lot of times it's what they *don't* do. Why aren't they going for the big Mag Tempest combo with Magneto? "Ooh! I know! It's because they suck, right?" Bzz. Sorry Cletus, there's a little more to it.

Basically, this was covered last article. You don't want to give away opportunities if you don't have to. In fact, you don't want to give away anything at all -- you want to be minimal in all regards. Think of your bad kung-fu movies if it helps (images of bad kung-fu movies seem to influence scrub-think a lot). Who's the real badass? Mr. Flying Fists of Fury who's shooting out twelve million flailing attacks a second, or the calm, cool, collected guy who sends Flying Fists packing with a single, well-placed move? There's a sequence like that in pretty much every one of those movies. When applied to tournaments (since that's what you're watching) I call this the lowest common denominator theory -- just like Mr. Cool, you want to do as little as possible necessary to still win. And rather than an embarrassment, this is a major skill.

Tournaments, even for seasoned pros, are tense environments. As such, you'll often see MORE mistakes, not less, in actual tournament footage. It can also tend to be slightly conservative, because people don't always trust themselves to go for the flashy stuff. Another thing outside observers will miss in watching is that these matches MATTER. For anyone who's never been to a real tournament (and no, getting your ten friends together at the mall and xeroxing a flyer doesn't mean you've been to a real tournament, please sit down), this is extremely difficult to grasp. They're thinking "Wtf -- it's the same game I play all the time, isn't it?" Yes, but mostly no. Tournament play is extremely different from casual play. At my first big tournament, I went on an over-an-hour-long, pre-tourney win-streak, against all the best players. I was a machine. Then when the tournament rolled around, I sweat my way into the final 16 (this was a 256-man tournament, IIRC), and got wiped out by someone I had beaten easily before (and beat easily again later). When you actually get to your first real tournament, then you'll know what I'm talking about. The worst you've ever faced before was that smart-mouthed kid who worked at Cinnabon, and if he managed to beat you, the only thing that stood between you and revenge was a trip to the bill changer. Not now. If you blow it, you're out. And *these* smart-mouthed kids live two thousand miles away -- there won't be any chances for revenge. And you're not just playing to stay on the machine -- there's actual stuff involved here, not to mention bragging rights. You can tell yourself it doesn't really matter, but (if you're good enough to have a shot at winning in the first place) your guts won't believe you. As such, you want to conserve all your mental energy, and focus as much as you can. You don't want flash unless it's required. Ask anyone about their first tournament. It's different than you think. You don't know. Shut up.

Back to the loud variety of scrub critics. How do I *know* they don't know what they're talking about? They prove it themselves. Once again, I ask you to take a look at what *isn't* there. What's missing from these jackasses is any actual contribution. Here's what you don't get: pointers on how (move x) would beat that poke for free. Or how so-and-so can't retaliate against this move, so you should shift your offense more towards that. And so on. To wit, what you don't get is something worth knowing -- instead you get the empty opinions of someone who's proving he doesn't understand by speaking in the first place. Worse than nothing. If you show me an average match between two scrubs, I can tell you a million things they're doing wrong. You no-name scrub critics, however, can't manage anything beyond the super limp "uhm, you should, uh, roll more!", or the time-honored "jump in when he fireballs!". Those above the third-grade level might realize "Hey, I have nothing to say because, while not flashy, this is some really solid playing." But instead, the scrub has to convince himself he's a big man by publicly announcing that he's "unimpressed". If *he* were there, *he* would have won easily. How exactly? Um, no comment. All they can ever offer is empty, 20-20 hindsight. Does anyone need to be reminded they could probably win if they knew every move their opponent was going to make in advance? Then shut up.

It all comes down to this: If you're too dumb to appreciate the invaluable resources you're getting handed, for free, with a little bow on it and cherries on top, at least try and refrain from showing it off. Before you post, take a moment to reflect. Collect yourself, breathe deeply, look in the mirror, and seriously consider: Am I a complete f*cking moron? Thanks in advance.