The clicking of buttons, flashes emitted from screens, the uncomfortably warm temperature. It’s hard to mistake a gaming tournament, even if it’s a locals tournament located in a school. The intensity that each player attending radiates is little like casual gaming. As a competitive gamer myself, I both see that intensity up close and feel it first-hand.
With the rise of competitive gaming, the question of whether or not esports are “sports” has been debated over and over. But one of the ways in which esports are very similar to other sports is how the competitors feel in high-pressure situations. Just like athletes, each and every gamer is different. Some do well under pressure while others don’t. One day we’ll be exceeding expectations, others we’ll be back to square one. Anxiety, nervousness, panic, pride and accomplishment are all emotions that every player experiences.
The first tournament I attended was stressful. My first match in the competitive scene would be streamed. There were participants all around me, both playing and watching, including my friend who had invited me in the first place. As expected, this caused a lot of stress for the match. Not exactly a pleasant experience. My opponent and I were evenly matched for the most part, then I started slipping. In our best of 3, we were tied 1-1. This made me nervous. I wanted to move to round 2 of winners. He had my Roy figured out by game 2. As a result, I switched to Cloud, the character I was second most confident in, I thought I would be able to take the game quickly and efficiently; however, at that very moment, the anxiety got to me. I fumbled, made poor decisions and even self-destructed. Granted, I would not go down without a fight. During the entire match, I used many unsafe and predictable actions. It wouldn’t be until after I had performed the action that I realized how many other options I could’ve used. From defaulting to extremely basic get out options to even doing exactly what my opponent wants. It was over, my mind was frozen, short-circuited from all the pressure to put on a good show. Then, I had lost.
Despite not winning the match, I was, and still am proud of it. If I had won my first match, I likely would’ve lost my second in winners bracket immediately after due to my mind being taxed by stress. This taught me an important lesson which is to stay calm in bad situations. However, keeping calm isn’t easy. It’s among the harder things to do in a tournament setting. The crowd all around you either watching for enjoyment or to understand how you play in the event they need to play you. But that doesn’t change the fact that you want to win, you want to be flashy, you want to go for the gold. I learned to clear my mind and not let anything upset me in those situations. Games aren’t only about your physical ability. Your mentality and mindset play an extremely important role to your match. A negative mindset could affect your physical performance to the point of tightened muscles to a drastic increase in bodily precipitation. Not something you want while doing any sort of sport, whether electronic or physical.
No matter what kind of player you are, casual, competitive or something in between, you’ll always have one thing in common: the mentality of wanting to win the game. Your mindset drastically changes your outcome during a match. If you’re overconfident, you might go for extremely risky plays that you would have no reason to go for outside of looking flashy. That might lead you to a loss. If you’re calm, it’s much more likely for you to assess a situation and react accordingly instead of running in headfirst with no plan and being punished for doing so.
Smash Bros. may be a party game, it may be a competitive game, but that doesn’t change the fact that you want to win, that you want to put on a good show. Your viewers or even just the friends you play with causally are always going to put pressure on you to do something cool, unexpected, hype or straight up disrespectful to the other person in the game. After all, if the viewer just wanted high-level gameplay, they could just play the game themselves. But, the most important thing to remember is that a game is still just a game and games are meant to be enjoyed.