“Oh, there’s a Smash Bros. tournament? I’m totally going to win—I beat my friends every time!” said many newcomers to competitive gaming. The rude awakening swiftly followed, as the wide-eyed casual was introduced to brackets and tournament organizers and double elimination and commentators and fist-bumps.
eSports is an entirely different world from the living room rivalries of old. A world where most people lose.
I’ve been losing in Super Smash Bros. competitions for the better part of decade now. I attend tournaments, get beaten, learn a few lessons, and wake up the next day experiencing post tournament distress disorder, a phrase that I coined to describe how it feels inside the crushing cycle of defeat.
Clearly, I must be getting some enjoyment out of these events or else I wouldn’t keep coming back for more. I’m not a glutton for punishment—am I?
After talking to many fellow competitors, it’s safe to say I’m not alone. “I should just quit this game.” “I’m not coming back next month.” “I’m such a scrub.” “This is just a big waste of time and money.” All fairly common remarks to be heard as setups are unplugged and venues packed up.
PTDD normally dissipates in the weeks between big tournaments (or “monthlies”) as Facebook events are created, alliances are formed, top-ranked players make travel plans, and hype rises. But the funk waits to greet you at the threshold of your next elimination. And the cycle repeats.
If you are looking to curb the nasty effects of Post Tournament Distress, there are some techniques you can employ. Adjusting your expectations is a good place to start. Realize that your odds of winning the whole thing are slim, and remind yourself that winning isn’t what it’s really about.
Look for ways to improve. Don’t lose hope when your name is called along with someone who outclasses you; be in a constant state of downloading information. See if you can take more ground in the second match, even if you just 25% extra damage.
Set smaller goals. Over three tournaments, you can improve your overall rank if you maintain the right attitude and keep learning.
Choose your Battles
My miniature claim to fame was Ranked 7th best in Eastern WA. It was a lot of hard work to obtain that position, and I was proud of it. But you know what? It was even harder to keep it.
Players in my region really stepped up their game. Multiple weekly practice sessions sprung up all over, and the serious competitors were dedicating half their evenings to invest in their Smash skills.
I decided that this wasn’t my battle to fight. I had gotten married young, accepted a full time job, started side-projects like a daily YouTube channel and writing my own novel. In order to minimize the effects of PTDD, I had to realize that I simply can’t match the effort these other guys are putting in. Their situations are different than mine. I could practice as much as them to try and claw my way up to the #1 spot, but I’d be sacrificing other things in my life that I’m not willing to give up.
Fun on the Sidelines
It’s amazing how much I enjoy everything at the tournament… except for the tournament. The main attraction isn’t the most attractive to me anymore.
Oftentimes there will be crazy side-events, like Crew Battles or Smashketball (a weird mash-up of Smash Bros. and basketball using a custom stage) that are way more fun. These things cost $0 or $1, so the pressure is off and it’s easy to get into the team spirit and cheer people on.
Commentating is also a blast, especially when you’ve built a rapport with your co-host. Sometimes, it’s actually a relief to get booted out of bracket so you can sit down with a headset and help make an awesome live-stream.
If you want to be the very best (like no one ever was), it’s a long and hard road and I wish you good luck.
Otherwise, find every opportunity to release the tension, lower the stakes, and enjoy video gaming for what it is: a reprieve from the grind.