How to handle losing in fighting games

The key to a more sodium-free life

Posted by Henry 'Choysauce' Choi, guest writer • October 11, 2017 at 7:56 p.m. PDT

YOU LOSE

These two words pop up on the screen and something just start bubbling within you. Anger, sadness, disappointment, and all other kinds of negative emotions start to swell in your body. You start thinking or yell out “man, I suck!” or “that was complete BS #!*#@*!”. Your hand slams on the joystick or a controller goes flying and you sit there, feeling stuck and powerless.

We’ve all been there. The bitter sting of defeat can be too much and we just lose control. But why do we take losing in a video game so hard? Simply put, we just want to win. We put so much time and effort to “git gud” at fighting games that losing make it feel like our effort and ability was not enough.

We invest so much of ourselves into practicing that our self-worth gets attached to our performance and we translate the loss to “I’m not good enough”. It can cause salt to go real deep into the wounds of defeat and do a number on our emotions and self-worth.

Nobody wants to lose, but it’s a necessary part of learning the game (and life). We need to find a way to cope with the negative aspects of losing and find our way to move forward. So then what can we do to not live so salty?

The Solution

The solution to handling a harsh loss is simple and boils down to a single phrase: “Don’t take it personally”. You need to remember that your abilities or achievements don’t equate to who you are and what you’re worth as a person. Objectively looking at your losses is necessary in order to grow and to be less salty. But of course saying this is one thing, the doing part is whole other story.

The human brain is a tricky thing that doesn’t always listen to what you want it to do. So you need to play some tricks of your own and implement some strategies to overcome negative emotions. These strategies can help to mitigate negative feelings from losing or even turn it into a positive experience.

Focus = Feelings

Whatever you focus your attention on will dictate a lot of feelings you’ll have. If you keep dwelling on a loss and think about how unfair it was or how much you suck at the game, you’ll stay in that emotion. Deliberately switching the focus to something different and more positive will help you to move on much more quickly.

Step Away From The Game

One very effective and easy way to change the focus away from your loss is to distract yourself with something else. By getting away from the game for a bit and doing something else, you are giving yourself a chance to breathe and take your mind off of it. You can return when your feelings have calmed down and continue playing after tossing out a bunch of negative energy.

Change what your body is doing and start exercising, doing some chores, or anything that gets your body moving. Physical activity will force a change of focus and release endorphins into your body. And it will give you a boost in your mood and accomplish some tasks that will make you feel much better.

You can also do lighter activities like grabbing a snack to enjoy some TV or play a non-competitive game. If you’re a very competitive player, you can opt to watch match videos to learn more about the game and character match ups. It may seem counter-intuitive to “getting away”, but this works because you’re taking yourself out of actually playing the game.

Reframe The Loss

As a competitive player, it may be difficult to stop thinking about losses even when trying to distract yourself. The negative feelings may still stick with you even when you’re trying to go about other activities. If this is the case, you’ll need to better understand and learn how to control your own feelings.

Feelings are an interpretation of what has occurred in your life. It’s a story you’ve created about what any particular event means to you. But because feelings are a story that you create, you also have a great ability to change that story. The ability to change your story is called reframing.

Reframing is a powerful tool that you can use to help you flip the script on how you feel about any negative emotions. The human mind has a need to fill in the gap for missing information, and people tend to conspire and make up information that makes sense at the time.

Imagine that you’re walking in the mall and you see a friend is about to pass you by. You wave at them but they don’t wave back. What thought races through your head first? Is it, “why didn’t they wave back, is this person upset with me?” or “hmm, this person didn’t wave back... maybe they were zoning out and didn’t see me.”

The first story mentioned here could make you worried and start thinking of why this person is upset, when that might not be true at all. The second story would let you walk along just fine. This is a simple example of how reframing changes the story and how you end up feeling about the exact same event.

You have the power to set yourself up to have a positive story instead of conspiring against yourself prematurely. In the same way, you can reframe losses as something that doesn’t mean much or even something very positive for you as a player.

You can see losses as gaining experience for the game. It could be learning more about a character match up and see losses as stepping stones for being able to more consistently beat a particular character.

Losses can also be seen as a sort of “workout” for your mind. You can even learn to appreciate the pain you experience, knowing that it’s getting you “gains” in your game. Use these feelings to fuel a desire to grow, to train better, and become stronger at the game.

You can also see the loss as something to be excited about. Maybe the character you lost to is one that is rare and you haven’t run into someone who uses that character at a high level. You can reframe this loss as finally finding someone who can push you to truly learn the match up.

This experience may make you want to go into training mode to level yourself up and also push your new rival to greater heights.

Practice Self-Control

The heart of handling losses well is self-control. You may know that you don’t make great decisions when stirred up emotionally, but it’s hard to see when you’re in it. And whether you realize it or not, you are making a choice for how you react. Being able to choose how you react to a situation is a very tough skill to learn. But just like any skill, you can practice it.

Awareness of what triggers you and when you get emotionally unstable is key to gaining more self-control. Try your best to be mindful of when you are starting to lose control of yourself over a loss. If you do happen to catch yourself, take some time to pause and think of how you want to react.

This is the perfect time to “write your story” and reframe the negative emotions in the way that will benefit you and those around you. You can also think back to previous times where you’ve really lost your cool and think how you could have changed your reaction. Find the cues that tend to trigger you and create a plan around it.

Strategizing on how to navigate your emotions or even avoid the triggers altogether is something you can do ahead of time.

Practice the art of working out your emotions before venting out to others. Try to avoid immediately posting on social media or going to someone else to complain. This is a good way to doubly practice self-control and be less reactive with your emotions.

Practice giving your opponent due praise if they beat you legitimately. This really helps to take the focus off your negative feelings and honor somebody who played well against you. Recognize if the opponent hit you with an amazing mix up or punish.

If you really did feel like you got robbed, try to laugh it off and recognize that “everybody gets at least one [lucky game]”. You’ll also get bonus points in the community for being a good sport and not taking away the merit of someone else’s victory.

Most of all, try to have fun. Turn the loss into something silly and try to laugh it off. Try your best to make fun of the situation instead of the other player. Look forward to playing this person again in casuals or another tournament and try again to beat them.

Through this loss, you may have found a new rival or a new friend. You can choose to be serious and train hard, but when what you do isn’t fun anymore, then you may be losing the very reason you started playing in the first place.

If you do end up losing control of your emotions despite trying very hard, don’t let it get you down (again self-control). Everyone makes mistakes and you can make the most of it by continuing to learn from them.

Conclusion

Overall, find what works best for you to deal with losses and keep up the practice. Try not to let yourself dwell in negative thoughts and emotions. Learn the ability to change your state through more understanding of yourself and trying stuff out.

Remember that losses and failures are the building blocks to victory and success. Learning to deal with losses will take time and practice, but stick with it and you’ll look back and see how far you’ve come to live a more sodium-free life.

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