RipTen Dojo is an original series focused on fighting games, with tips for new players and experienced fighting gamers alike.

No one likes to admit it publicly, but losing sucks. No one inherently likes to lose, or finds any enjoyment from it. It’s a cold reminder of your own inadequacies, and in a tournament scenario, it’s an exhibition of your own weaknesses. However, I think it’s important to learn to lose like a winner. In this article, we’re going to go over some of the things you should try and get out of losing a match, as well as look at a match and analyze why someone lost, and what they might have been able to do differently. Along the way, I’m going to look at some examples of times when I had to learn from some key losses, and reminisce about how I learned from them.

To begin, remember that losing is necessary to begin winning on a consistent level. If you kept to yourself, and only played with a small group of people who you consistently beat, would you have any inspiration to improve? Losing is not just a stark reminder that there are players better than you, but motivation, on some level, to become better. Whether it inspires you to get better to beat that player, or you saw something so interesting that it makes you want to further explore the game, losing is a part of learning. When you can look at your own matches from the third person perspective, and begin analyzing actions, you always come out ahead.

Think about the last time you lost when it meant something to you. The match might have been part of a tournament, or just against someone who consistently beats you. Try and think about everything that happened, or if you can, watch a replay! Depending on the game, a limited number of your matches might be saved to the console, allowing you to view them at any time. Why did you lose? Start looking at your own actions. One of the most common trends that occurs in players is repetition of the same patterns without even realizing it. Some players refer to this as “playing on autopilot”, where you aren’t actively thinking about the moves and decisions or their consequences. It can be the result of stress or fatigue, or even just laziness. I’ve seen amazing players go down in tournaments because they were the victims of stress, fatigue, or some horrible combination of the two.

A lot of times when we lose, it’s because we’re uninformed about a certain situation. Let’s say you’re playing against someone who continuously abuses a certain trick or setup. It’s something you might have not ever encountered before, and you had no knowledge of it at the time. You might not have been able to figure it out or adapt to it during the match. This is when you should try to recreate the scenario in training mode. From there, just learn everything you can about that particular trick. Look at some of the online message boards and resources I listed in my last article to see if there’s any documentation about it. Above all else, use the practice mode to play as the character you lost to, and try to perform the trick itself. The more knowledge and understanding you have will only benefit you.

See this guy? Seth's all about ridiculous mixups and messing with your head. He's fun to play as, and a pain to play against.

There’ve been multiple times I can think of when I benefitted greatly from looking at my losses. Perhaps the most sobering experience is also something I learned the most from. I had been caught saying some rather negative things about a player who had started to talk himself up rather big in Super Street Fighter IV, when the only thing I could find about him was some videos of him playing relatively poorly. He seemed like a big fish in a small pond, thinking highly of himself even though he hadn’t played many people in my circle. He challenged me, and I accepted, thinking that I was going to teach him the meaning of humility. I was wrong. I was very, very wrong. It was the fastest five matches I had ever lost.

He spoke to me afterwards, and told me that aside from being the worst player on the face of the planet and how my mother was currently being sexually satisfied by him and many other men (among many other colorful bits of prose this fine poet had concocted), that I would never be taken seriously if I couldn’t hit my combos and maximize on my damage. He told me how stupid I was for the way I had spent my resources, how I fell into the same patterns over and over, and that beating me was no real accomplishment. I was mad at him for being so brash about it, and mad at myself for the way I had talked before. But mostly, I was mad because he was absolutely right. He not only told me that I was wrong, but through the matches we played, he proved it to me. Once I had calmed down and checked my replays, I realized that the proof was sitting in front of me. I was reminded through my losses that there are always going to be better players, and that I needed to consistently work on improving if I ever wanted to be considered “good”.

The above video is a match from 2009, at a qualifier tournament for the Japanese Super Battle Opera tournament for a 2v2 event in Street Fighter IV. The winning team was going to win two round trip tickets to Japan, as well as entry into the tournament. Being able to not only attend a Japanese tournament, but the chance to train with Japanese players was something that most Americans aren’t able to experience, making competition especially fierce. The match took place during the top 16 of the qualifying tournament, between Keno and Mike Ross against Magus and Haunts. Skip ahead to 5 minutes and 45 seconds in to get a prime example of how to take something away from a loss.

Keep in mind that at this point, it was Mike Ross playing as E. Honda against Haunts playing as Sagat, which is a notoriously hard matchup for Honda. Honda can do a lot of damage, but he can have a hard time even just getting close to characters that have good projectile zoning tools like Sagat. Not only that, but Mike’s teammate had already been eliminated, meaning that if he lost this round, they were eliminated from the tournament. Mike played somewhat risky, and it got to the point where Sagat had a significant life lead over him. It was at the point where even if E. Honda blocked a special move, he would be beaten by chip damage, the small amount of damage taken from blocking a a character’s unique attacks. Then, at about 6:35, it happens. Sagat gets knocked down in the corner after taking a slight beating from Honda. Honda does a light headbutt to Sagat, who then performs a fireball as soon as he recovers, expecting for Honda to be forced to block it, and losing by chip damage. Unfortunately, Mike Ross had been expecting the fireball, and activated his Ultra move, which can pass through close projectiles. The damage caused was just enough to KO Sagat.

The beautiful thing about this moment was that Mike Ross had planned it all along. He knew that the jab headbutt was to bait out a special move, and that an Ultra, on reaction to that special move, would have been enough to take out Sagat. He knew that Haunts was thinking so intently about winning at any cost that in order to get the fast victory. Mike took a gamble, purposely playing risky the entire round, and it paid off when he conditioned Haunts to try and take the fastest way possible to end the round instead of playing it cautiously.

It's almost like the Mike Ross vs Haunts match was predicted ages ago...

So what can we learn from this? Many things! The most obvious of which would be to never underestimate anything, no matter how significant of a lead you think you have. Haunts mistook Mike’s oddly risky play for that of desperation, and certainly paid the price for it. Also, there are multiple times when Haunts doesn’t capitalize on as much damage as he could have, or fails to punish certain things that Honda does. But, perhaps the most noticeable thing that happens, other than the dramatic finish to the match, is how Haunts begins to respond once Mike Ross begins dealing damage to him. His style suddenly changes, and he begins acting afraid. Ross begins capitalizing on Haunts frantic attempts to put more space between the characters, and he punishes him for it. While it can certainly be attributed to the environment and the fact that there were some big prizes on the line, Haunts ended up being affected by a classic case of nerves, and paid for it.

These are all things that everyone is guilty of. Everyone loses matches, including the best of the best. Being able to learn from your losses, however, is the first step at improving your play. I took a look at some of my losses and became a better player for it. I’m positive that Haunts still thinks back to his now memorable loss to Mike Ross and thinks about the things he could’ve done differently. He most definitely reflected on it and became better for it. Take a step back and observe yourself when you play. Look at why you won matches, and why you lost. Fighting games are more about thinking and perception than they are about physical execution. Being able to analyze your decisions, both right and wrong, is key to continuing your improvement.