Top Ten Reasons Team USA is Better than Street Fighter

by casperOne 6. March 2009 21:32

It’s been a while since I watched the Late Show with David Letterman.  I used to watch it when I was younger (when it was on NBC, if you can believe it, 17 years ago?) and I remember my favorite part being the Top Ten list.

So I was pleased when my mother informed me that Team USA from the World Baseball Classic (WBC) presented the Top Ten List on Thursday:

I always thought that Letterman lost a step when he moved to CBS, but it’s good to see that he can still get a few laughs.  Unfortunately, starting in June, he’s going to have to compete with Conan O’Brien, and I don’t know if that’s a battle he can win.  We’ll have to wait to see the effect Burbank has on Conan.

Going back to the WBC, it reminded me of an ad that I saw for ESPN’s broadcast of the WBC on the subway recently, featuring none other than the Yankee captain, Derek Jeter:

RS12913_jeter_ad

(image credit: ESPN’s Media Source)

I was very pleased to see this, not only for the obvious reason, but for what I see on his right shoulder, an American flag that is flying backwards.

Most people seem to think that this is an error, but in fact, it is not.  It’s representative of the flag bearers that would carry the flag into battle.  When seen from their right side, and moving forward, the flag appears to fly backwards.

So on the right shoulder/arm, it is backwards, to give the appearance that a soldier is always moving forward in the face of battle.

Compare that with Guile from the Street Fighter series:

SFA3_Guile

And even his latest incarnation in Street Fighter IV (rotated 180 degrees to emphasize the orientation of the tattoo):

 Street_Fighter_4_Guile_pkf_21409

(image credit: Mahalo.com)

The sad part about it is that in Street Fighter IV, the characters are three-dimensional models, not sprites which are flipped when they have to “turn around”.

Then again, it could be argued that since the character (and his history) is already established, and that they are tattoos (and aren’t going to be changed easily), that they kept it for the sake of continuity.

Oh well, I guess there’s always Street Fighter V.

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Anger Management

by casperOne 19. January 2009 03:18

A recent post in the Shoryuken forums brought up an interesting aspect of competition, as well as in life (although I wonder if those reading and responding are aware that what is discussed there has broader applications).

"Dealing with Anger" is a question about how to handle the negative feelings that arise from losing, and asks for ways that one might control our reactions in the process.

I was pretty surprised with the number of earnest answers. In crafting my own answer, I realized that there is a lot of good that can be had from what I have learned/am trying to learn (we are all works in progress, no?) and bears reiteration here.

For a very long time, when I would compete against other people, if I was to lose, my reasoning for the loss was always external to me (i.e. the tactic used was "cheap", for example). I would become very angry, and in my mind I was justified because the universe had committed an egregious error against me.

I would subsequently carry this anger into my interactions with the people closest to me and to my shame, it would lead me to treat those people without the respect that they deserve from me, for reasons that had nothing to do with them. It is shameful behavior, at the least.

For me, quantification is a wonderful thing, and computers enable me to do that to a great deal. I can measure many things, and with all of that data, I can track progress over time. The flip side of that is that I can also track failure as well (this is why I don't play poker online anymore, btw).

That's where the Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix comes in. There is a ranked mode, which allows me to see how many matches I have won and lost, as well as my ranking (which uses a calculation that I swear I don't understand completely to this day).

While I was able to see that I would win anywhere from 70 to 75% of my matches, those matches that I did lose would enrage me. Sure, I might go on ten-game win streaks, but then I would turn it around and lose ten. Of course, all of those losses were never my fault.

Unfortuantely, this lead to some poor behavior on my part, and all over a game, no less.

The first thing that had to change was my sense of responsibility (which, outside of competitive situations, is pretty strong). I had to stop shifting the blame to external sources to myself. If I lost at something, it was my fault. I didn't know how to counter my opponent, I didn't know the appropriate responses.

Admittedly, this is the most difficult change to make. It requires humility and an ability to look past the delusions that I allowed myself to get sucked into, namely, that I had reached the pinnacle of my development. And that's really what it is. I was never in the place that I thought I was in, it was just an illusion that allowed me to remain ignorant.

In making that realization, in being honest with myself about my ability, a path (or a number of them) became apparent. There was plenty of room to grow, and in order to grow, I had to be able to learn from my losses, something that my anger didn't allow for. I simply can't learn anything if I was too blinded by my anger.

So, I had to get rid of it.

Ok, so it's not that easy, but in being able to identify the issue, it makes it that much easier to address it, and then move on from there.

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On Fame, Immortality and Teaching

by casperOne 15. January 2009 01:05

Listening to the latest episode of the Street Fighter Podcast got me thinking on a few things.  In it there is a discussion between Ryan Gutierrez (a.k.a. gootecks) and Mike Ross regarding an upcoming project from Mike.

What Mike wants to do is create a series of video shorts (no doubt due to today's attention-lacking viewing audience) to tell the story behind, as he calls it, “those geeks you see playing Street Fighter IV”.  He wants to show you that playing the game is not the only thing that these players are all about.  They have families, friends and interests outside of the game.  But of course there are the equally compelling stories within that community for (and any competitive community in general).  There are allies, rivals, drama, and all the strange, wondrous and absurd events that can occur whenever people interact.

Ultimately, this is just another reality series, and as we all know I abhor reality series with a passion.  As with all things, there are exceptions, even notable ones.  It’s because most of these series capitalize on the worst aspects of humanity that become apparent in high-pressure situations.

But I digress.  As I said, there are notable exceptions.  I love “Top Chef”.  Yes, Padma Lakshmi is a goddess in every sense of the word, and one of the primary draws, but at the same time the drama due to personality clashes are kept to a minimum (the promos pretty much expose all of it, if any) and leave you for the most part with high-level competition which is then critiqued at a very high level.

Underneath all that commercial, consumerist glory lies a lesson to be taught and knowledge to be taken away (I challenge you to tell me what you learned from “Flavor of Love” or “Rock of Love”, entertaining as they might be).

Case in point.  I had a box of donuts that was absolutely inedible.  The donuts were dense and nasty, somewhere between bread and cake with a glaze that just wouldn’t set.  Solution?  Make bread pudding from them with a custard enhanced with lemon and orange zest and a hint of cardamom.  It’s quite nice, I assure you.

It was also done in Top Chef, Season One.

There was no recipe or guide, just a general concept that I was able to take away from the show which, using established fundamentals, allowed me to extend my repertoire just a little bit more.

In the end, I believe this is what Mike is trying to do, and he deserves recognition for it.  He wants to teach people outside the community about the community itself, and in the process attract more people to it.

(An interesting side note to this is that Mike came from the Marvel vs. Capcom community, which tends to be tight-lipped when it comes to sharing things about the game, while the Street Fighter community tends to be more open.  That being said, it’s interesting that Mike is reluctant to reveal much about his E. Honda play during the podcast.  To be fair though, Ryan has interviewed other Street Fighter players reluctant to delve into detailed aspects of their gameplay.)

What’s also great is that he had this conversation with Ryan, who on the “about” page of his blog states:

I’m interested in your ideas about how to reach more people with the podcast, how to help more people get better at 3rd Strike and am also available for one-on-one coaching.

Ryan desires to teach as well, and it’s apparent throughout his podcasts and his blog postings.  His postings are obviously tailored to those who are looking to disseminate information, and he consistently asks detailed questions of top-ranked players to try and expand the knowledge base of the community as a whole.

I don’t play 3rd Strike , but I find myself voraciously taking in his posts and podcasts with meticulous detail (I am more a Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix person, who will be transitioning to Street Fighter IV when it is released for consoles, but there is great discussion about the mindset of playing on a competitive level which runs through most of the Capcom fighters) because more knowledge is always a good thing.  In assimilating some of the knowledge he is trying to spread, I’m always going to be able to find things to apply to my game.

The problem that exists is that there is nothing along the lines of a structured curriculum for advancing (“leveling up”) one’s skill level.  You’ve always had to “climb the mountain” so-to-speak (even though it’s been made easier in recent years because of the Internet, which enabled things like the Shoryuken site and forums, allowing for the collaboration and archiving of information, as well as YouTube videos which allow for people to witness the execution of that information).

People like Ryan and Mike are trying to change that.

Ryan started to develop his “from scrubs to winners’ clubs”, which strikes me as an experiment of sorts, with the desire to expand it if it is successful.  From what I can tell, he is taking a non-top-ranked player, and determining if a structured learning experience (instead of “climbing the mountain”) can be successful in producing a top-ranked player.

The initial subject in this experiment is John Rog, and the established goal is to place in the top five at AI with three months of training.  The results are pretty evident:

While John placed in the top eight, it’s still a vast improvement, and shows that structured learning will work in this competitive environment.

Congratulations to both John and Ryan, with wishes for continued success.

So what does that have to do with me?

I want to do what Ryan and Mike are doing.  I want to contribute and I want people to gain from that knowledge.  It’s not completely altruistic though.  I desire fame, and I desire immortality, and teaching is a very good way of doing both.

When I was young, surprisingly, I was not the most popular child.  It’s nothing that I have issue with today, but it’s definitely something that has impacted me to this day.  Simply put, I find myself desiring attention, and I would let a lack of attention affect me in negative ways.

Needless to say, I’ve grown past that, but this desire for attention has transformed subtly into a desire for fame, specifically in the things I am passionate about.  Cooking, Street Fighter, baseball, etc, etc.

I do realize that there are limitations to my ability, and I will never get the all fame I desire.  Take baseball, for example.  I’m never going to play for the New York Yankees.  So what do I do? I  adapt.  If I can’t play for my favorite team (or one of the other 29 lesser teams), then I would find my way to the baseball diamond another way.  Umpiring.  Assuming I had the financial security to do so, I would quit my job and go to an accredited institution to lean to umpire (there is one that I know of) and then put the time in until I am tenured enough to work on the major league level.  No, I wouldn’t be the star of the game (nor do I want to be, unlike Joe West), but I would have a unique experience and perspective that I would cherish always, as well as be woven into the fabric of every game that I participated in.

What very much applies in this particular instance is rooted in the saying “those that can’t do, teach”.

There is also the death of my father to consider here.

As children, we believe that we are invulnerable.  It’s why as a child I rode my BMX bikes off ramps over garbage cans and why today I see children 1/3 my age flying off ramps and rails I’d never consider while snowboarding.

When he passed away, I realized that nothing (myself, the people and things I love) will be forever and that my time here is limited.  Because of that, immortality is more and more attractive to me.  Unfortunately, the means just isn’t there yet to allow my physical form to last forever.

But aspects of me can survive long after I am gone.  It’s one of the many reasons why I wish to have children in a timely manner.  Not only is a child literally part of me, but I can imbue them with lessons and ideals, and take pride in the contribution I’ve left to the world.

That’s for the future though.

So for now, I do things like contribute to the Shoryuken forums, contribute to newsgroups (for which I have been awarded the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional Award) and places like stackoverflow.com, write a blog, etc, etc.

Yes, there is an unexpected personal gain that I get from all of this, but over the years, I’ve come to appreciate the satisfaction that is inherent in doing something for which there is no expected gain in return.  It also falls in line with my desire to produce more than I consume.  Considering that I’ve spent the majority of my life taking from the universe, it only seems right that I begin to give something back.

Fortunately, it becomes a perpetual cycle, feeding itself, I end up learning more, so I can teach more, which enables me to learn more, and so on, and so on.

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