Adaption and Mindset
Competition has its ups and downs in all games. There are some things that can be seen as unfair or just outright wrong to have in the game, and then those that are completely underpowered and serve no use. This is something that has been prevalent in most fighting games and even games such as Hearthstone. In fighting games there are usually a couple of characters that out class the rest of the competition and can vary from patch to patch. Some even become more prevalent as the internal meta for the game is developed and players learn new strategies and counter strategies to deal.
Street Fighter 4 has seen many different variations on its top tier from the Original Street Fighter 4 all the way up until Ultra Street Fighter 4. Characters have seen different changes that have retooled the way they play and some of their viability and options. A character like Sagat, who had immense damage potential in the Original Street Fighter 4, have since seen some damage changes along with other minor alterations that may have pushed them farther down the tier list and changed some of the better options to be used with that character. Then there can be characters that are added to the game that may create a severe imbalance and create tension in a game. Yun was one of these examples in Arcade Edition for Street Fighter 4. The end result of Ultra Street Fighter 4 came in the form of a character that at first was not seen as a top threat, but ended out the game being the biggest threat. Elena, went from being a character that people were interested in to a character that top players picked up to win major tournaments.
Other games have seen similar situations with their meta revolving around a couple of characters and limiting successful team options in the case of Ultimate Marvel Vs Capcom 3. While this situation became a little less severe as there are many options within the game, it certainly led to a lot of team compositions resulting in 2-3 characters being the same across the board. One of the more popular shells became Dr. Doom and Vergil. Both characters on their own are strong characters within the game, but together the created a very strong composition that could be paired with almost anyone in the cast to give a very strong team. As the game progressed more and more "broken" things such as infinites became apparent and opened the game to many different team compositions that allowed for similar strengths and control.
Super Smash Bros. for the Wii U and 3DS has also recently seen this kind of change with new patches and new DLC characters. Much of the meta for Smash 4 has been revolving around Sheik, Rosalina, and Zero Suit Samus as being the top three to beat. Many have believed the three characters to overpower the rest of the cast and have a clear and unfair advantage. The three newest DLC characters (Cloud, Bayonetta, Corrin) have instilled that same sort of thought process with them being overpowered and having options that are much too strong to deal with even before time has been spent on them to see what is actually causing it.
Do these differences and strengths mean we need to give up and move on to another game? No. We simply need to find a way to deal with these problems rather than jump around finding quick fixes. Top players will learn to adapt to adversity. This adaptation can be something as simple as learning directly how to deal with that matchup with the character or set of characters you use, or learning to use a character specifically for that matchup. Sometimes the answer can even be found in something as simple as just focusing on your gameplay and seeing why you lost to something and what minor things you can change to make it a harder matchup for them to get freely.
Learning matchups and knowing what you are fighting is probably one of the biggest and most overlooked pieces of knowledge in a fighting game. You can understand how to play your character perfectly in training mode and how to do all of your bread and butter combos, but when you get in a match and don't know character specific combos or that a combo doesn't work on a certain character you risk dropping that combo and being punished for it. Knowing your options as a whole gives you more potential to make the right decision.
When we adapt to an opponent are we adapting to the character they are using, or are we adapting to their particular style and pacing? This is a questions that many mid and lower tiered players may need to ask themselves. We can study a matchup in any game as much as we want, but will we really know how to deal with whom we are playing? Player tendencies can completely change the way a matchup will play out. A defensive minded player is going to have a completely different strategy than a player that plays a rush down oriented style. There are differences beyond play style that will factor into how you need to adapt to a character as well. Players will respond in different manners to different situations. Learning how a particular person reacts can help you to alter how you approach the matchup and how to win that matchup or make it is as difficult as possible for the opposing player to win. Sometimes matchups are going to be one sided, but we can always make that matchup harder for them to win.
So I will ask again, "Do we adapt to the player, or do we adapt to the character?" Hopefully we are adapting to both. We need to learn our characters and their strengths and weaknesses, as well as what we are playing against. Something that can help out with learning these matchups is simply watching prior matches. Go on YouTube and spend 10 minutes a day watching other players play your character as well as other characters to learn their strengths and weaknesses as well. When you are at a tournament spend some time watching your competitors. Even just learning one thing can change the tide of a match. Eventually you will have a great idea on both and can apply them and go forward.
Your mindset also has a huge factor on your own play. Entering into a match or tournament with the mindset of losing is definitely not the correct way to approach anything, but is everything focusing on winning the correct mindset? Some can believe that winning is everything in gaming, and don't realize the added stress that is put on from that mindset. Do we really need to win every match, or is learning from the experience to better ourselves going forward a better idea? This can vary from skill level to skill level where top level players are definitely there to win first and foremost. As we trickle down from that level there are players that have a chance at winning but not necessarily the best of chances. Do these players take the time to learn from what they are doing or expect to win then sulk when they don't?
Games are always evolving and strategies changing. If we do not take the time to learn from our mistakes and learn the ever changing landscape it puts us farther and farther behind. Asking the correct questions can make all of the difference as well. Instead of complaining and saying that something is unfair or cheap, why not ask "What can I do to make this easier?". The game will only give you what you put into it. Complaining and just accepting that something is broken won't make it any easier or better. There is always a "What can I do to be better?" that lurks. It could be something as simple as learning to anti-air an attack consistently or even just changing your movement in game or learning to not auto pilot.
Look for the opportunity to better your gameplay and not belittle a system or another's play. We can gain so much from spending that 5 minutes complaining on 5 minutes of research or practicing. Build your game and don't try to destroy the game or another's.