What lessons have you learnt through learning/competing in Pokemon?

Thread approved by Vapicuno

Me, and why Pokemon was different
To those who don't know me (I don't think I've actually said who I am on this account on Smogon) I go by Kingu on Discord, and I'm a competitive Smash melee player. I would consider that my main game and the thing I have learnt a lot of my fundamental philosophies on competing through. I've been a fast learner in that game, reaching top 5 in my country within a couple years, and have even swapped main characters within this time, without a significant drop in performance.

Why am I bringing this up? Well, before Melee, I had dipped my toes into REALLY competing in games, but never went fully in. I was a very high performing player in Geometry Dash, though didn't interact with the community enough to attain notoriety, and had attempted to go high level in CS:GO, but it didn't achieve much. This is to say, Pokemon was the first game and even the first thing in general I interacted with that I would consider slow paced.

I had never attempted to learn a turn based game. I dabbled with Chess purely to give myself something to do on breaks from other games, but I never actually cared. However, getting into ADV through "A History of Leftovers" randomly recommended to me on the YT frontpage, I had to restructure a lot of how I improved and learned to fit this new, very different environment.

The other games I mentioned are all real-time, as was any sports I had half-heartedly picked up before, and so a very difficult thing to learn to deal with was to think during a match. It sounds strange to say, but in almost every fast paced real time game, especially fighting games, you train yourself to make intelligent decisions quickly and without deliberation. Hesitation can lose you matches, and so you need to make correct choices by instinct. Pokemon, on the other hand, was significantly more granular, and initially I spent a lot of my time on the ladder using DDtar against opposing TTar, being frustrated if they had brick break, and forfeiting to loop the cycle again. The timer had only ever hurt me if I was called to go do something else.

Learning to train and consider my inner monologue was a very interesting challenge, because I did it alongside a game in which you primarily want your inner monologue to be silent. I spent a lot of time thinking about very specific aspects of my gameplan and trying to consider how the opponents team was likely to be constructed (mostly failing, missing the forest for the trees is a very common problem with me and hopefully other new Pokemon players). Over time, though I wouldn't call myself good at Pokemon by any stretch, I found my guesses becoming more and more accurate and, whilst I sometimes value the wrong things when it comes to stuff like EVing, I've generally learnt how to structure a team well enough to fit an archetype that I consider good enough.

And this has changed a surprising amount in my day to day life! Not a world-changing amount, but I notice myself thinking through, and talking to myself about the tasks and issues I'm dealing with in a much more constructive way than I ever have before, where my thought processes could only be described as a hazy mess of "yes", "no" and "but what if...".

I will likely post about my experiences competing in Pokemon in another post (I just found a quick time slot to make this thread and invite others to share their own thoughts.)

What's your story with/before Pokemon, and would you say you've learnt anything through your experiences outside of pure game knowledge?
I don't have anything groundbreaking to add to a post like this, competitive gaming has been dissected pretty well in various books and discussions by others in the past. There's actually a pretty cool forum post here about the topic in a broader scope.

There's some points that don't really get brought up as much as I feel they maybe should though, that apply quite strongly to ADV (and other generations as a whole):

1. You will lose. And I'm not just talking about losing as you improve. You will lose games even if you are the best player in the world. You will lose games to players who are less talented at ADV OU than you are. You will even lose games to people playing worse than you and making poor decisions. Because Pokemon is a very asymmetric game (both players use different teams and receive a non-equivalent amount of 'luck'), the bouts of RNG that you'll come up against will sometimes be a much more formidable opponent than the other player.

2. It is impossible to have 100% full control of any match. This follows on from the previous point. There are a significantly high number of variables at play in a Pokemon match, from critical hits to secondary effects, to status affliction all the way down to damage rolls. Even in a match where it might feel like you had complete dictation over the match flow, there are micro-outcomes that aided you on that pathway.

3. Use all the info you have at your disposal. This might sound obvious, but sometimes there are paths to victory that seem unclear or are even classed as 'cheap' by some players. If there is a route to victory that is low-chance but is also low-risk, you should consider taking it. Matches have been won many times by players creating space for Blissey to click Ice Beam multiple times until something becomes frozen. Those 10% odds add up quickly into your favour and being able to identify them as a possible victory path will increase your chances of winning if you can identify when to play into them. It's worth mentioning that there is a hidden benefit to playing like this in that you are restricting the amount of information your opponent is able to gain from you.

4. Take risks. Eventually, you will start playing against opponents who do not defeat themselves through an accumulation of misplays. It is at this point that you will have to start taking risks and trying to keep momentum up by making your position stronger than theirs for as much of the match as you can. Practice making reads and trying to sneak in your Charizard on turns that it can make a huge impact but risks taking a lot of damage. The idea here is that you should be trying to develop a 'feel' for how players respond to information about your team, which in turn will give you a stronger intuition for taking risks on key turns.

5. Diversify your play style. Pokemon is quite interesting in the sense that even though it is quite asymmetrical, the strongest ADV players are all consistently able to play a wide variety of styles. This is quite likely due to how quickly strategies develop against known teams. It would then seem that a good strategy to improve your chances of winning games would be to play all kinds of teams. Get a good grasp of how lesser used Pokemon like Subpunch Tyranitar, Cloyster, Calm Mind Celebi are used. This will also aid you in identifying ways to improve teams or even build new ones.
It's cool to hear your story Kingu, especially having played alongside you this last season in Mushi League.

People who compete at both "real time" and "turn based" games have always fascinated me, simply because in my mind the two are so different. I've put a lot of hours into tons of card games, a few mobas, and a few different platform fighters. I always get to at least a mid-high level in the card games and other turn based games, and never move beyond a beginner level in any of the real time games, despite putting (what feels like) an equal amount of effort into both. Turn based games are much easier for me to master because the decision points are so discrete -- when I have a single decision point to look at, I can analyze it to death for a few dozen minutes on my own, or talk it over with any experienced players I've managed to befriend. On the other hand, real time games don't give me discrete moments where I make clear choices -- it's more about developing habits as a player, so you aren't rewarded for reasoning out the optimal move in a given position from first principles.

In spite of this, when I was a top player of the card game Yomi, many of the other top players also happened to be, like you, talented at fighting games or real time games. Does the way they succeed and improve at both games rely on the same mechanisms? If so, what are the pieces of that mechanism that I'm missing that makes me dogshit at real time games? What a puzzle.

Your thought about inner monologue is a piece I never considered before. Come to think of it, I have an extremely internal (sometimes external) monologue in my Pokemon and card game play, and if I try to do a similar thing in a real time game, obviously it fails completely since those games often move too fast to put your thoughts down in language before the gamestate changes. I guess a natural way to apply the internal monologue to real time games would be to pause the game (or better, a replay) at key moments and talk through what is happening, hopefully gaining some insight that will eventually become subverbal in future games? On the other hand, I rarely hear about expert-level players of real time games doing this (correct me if I'm wrong). It seems to me more likely that they're reasoning subverbally about both real time and turn based games when they play at a high level. But, like you've noticed, it's very hard to play a game like Pokemon precisely without explicitly reasoning about at least some decision points. Are these players just on a much higher level than plebs like you and me? Or is there some other mechanism at work?

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