The Five Stages of Hax

By Treecko. Art by RitterCat.
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Imagine yourself in an intense battle on the ladder, against a friend or in a tournament. Everything is going well: you've set your entry hazards, gotten your sweeper in safely, and you've set it up with a couple of boosts. Your win condition has been set, and you're a few clicks of a button away from winning the match. It would seem that things have been wrapped up, that you've finished the match, right? That's where you're wrong. Pokémon is a game of coin flips and statistics. While it might seem as though these minor possibilities couldn't possibly rear their ugly heads, they always seem to do so at the worst possible occasions. Your sweeper has taken out your opponent's physical wall, and then he brings in his Liepard. No problem, your sweeper is behind a Substitute! Liepard can't touch it. Then your Pokémon misses its Rock Slide. Liepard breaks the Substitute with a Foul Play, but things are still fine; you've prepared yourself for just this occasion. When Liepard goes for the priority Thunder Wave, your sweeper consumes its Lum Berry and goes for another Rock Slide. Unfortunately, once again, the odds are not in your favor, and the Rock Slide misses. A Thunder Wave and some Swaggers pass, and suddenly Liepard has not only taken out your sweeper but the remainder of your team as well.

This is just one of the many examples of hax turning a game completely in favor of the opponent. We've all been there before, and we all know just how infuriating the feeling can be when you're on the receiving side of it. Many people outwardly rage against their opponents when they find themselves being haxed. They blame it on the opponent when typically—I cannot emphasize this enough; people who use Liepard deserve the blame—the opponent had no intention of trying to luck their way through the match. This is the sort of behavior we should be looking to correct, but before we can do so, we need to understand the natural process that everyone goes through when they experience hax.

The Five Stages

Stage One - Denial

The first natural step many of us go through when we are on the receiving end of hax is denial. Basically what this means is that players who are haxed usually refuse to acknowledge that the hax has cost them the game, or in more serious cases that it happened at all. You may notice a long pause after the opponent has been stricken with a severe case of unluckiness; this is totally normal. Typically when this happens, the opponent is dumbfounded, confused, or dare I say flabbergasted at the events that have unfolded. They may be asking themselves, "What just happened? Is this some kind of cruel joke? Are the evil Pokémon Showdown! admins adjusting the luck percentages?!" Of course this line of thinking is entirely irrational (I'm pretty sure it is at least. I don't think Zarel would do that. o_o), but this is the easiest way for our players to cope from the start. After this short period of time has passed, the opponent might make a couple of odd plays because they are still a bit disoriented from the previous turn. If you're lucky, the opponent is having a good day and will carry on throughout the remainder of the match without getting upset. However, we all know that this isn't always the case. This is what brings us to the second stage.

Stage Two - Anger

For many players, whether you intentionally tried to flinch their Tentacruel to death with your Jirachi or you just happened to crit their Ferrothorn with your Garchomp is entirely irrelevant. Many players are less concerned with good intentions and more concerned with the outcome of the match, and if hax changed the outcome, you can rest assured that you won't live it down for a while. After going through the denial that the hax was important and that they could still salvage a win, your opponent will likely begin to get aggressive. The symptoms of anger are generally very obvious; the opponent may curse you out in your battle chat, complain about your game on IRC, or angrily type in all caps on the simulator, only to be met with a swift mute. In severe cases, the opponent may even post about you here on Smogon, saying mean things such as, "let it be known that i despise all of you fuckers who predicted against me," and, "lost my dual screener turn one to a crit, my second that would tank a hit and ohko in return to another crit, my third mon to a Speed tie, and then get fucked by the priority that the first mon carried when i tried to set up with another mon that would 6-0 had his priority user not been there." It's best when faced with such anger to let your opponent blow off some steam. Trying to justify the hax by proving that it was unimportant or that you would have outplayed them anyways is just going to make the opponent even more angry. No one wants that, right? After a while, the opponent will simmer down, and you can both move on knowing that Pokémon is just a game.

Stage Three - Bargaining

Bargaining is probably the most awkward step to find yourself in when your opponent is dealing with hax. This stage is typically marked by signs of desperation and begging. Examples include, "This tournament means so much to me! Will you please let me have the win? You don't even deserve it!" or, "I've been laddering for hours now, and I just hit a high rating on the ladder. Please forfeit!" We all know that it probably isn't fair that an opponent stricken by the powerful symptoms of hax has to experience a loss that they didn't earn, but ultimately, hax is as much a part of the game as entry hazards, weather in OU, and Riolu shuffling its way through your entire team. The one thing that you should not do when your opponent starts trying to bargain with you is to give in under pressure. You probably already feel bad enough that you've put your opponent through this, (or you're an asshole, and you don't!), so don't put yourself through the troubles of trying to bargain back with them. In the heat of the moment, you might sympathize so much that you end up forfeiting or replaying your opponent. This is never acceptable. Even if it was only because the RNG was working in your favor, you won. You should also never rationalize with your opponent and break down why the hax didn't matter in the long run. At this point, your opponent has already gone through denial and anger to get to this point; telling them why you outplayed them without the hax is only going to revert their grieving process back to previous stages.

Stage Four - Depression

During the step of depression, our hax-stricken user finally begins to understand the certainty of their loss. At this point, your opponent has done everything in their power to try to turn the game back in their favor and has failed in doing so. This step is filled with abandonment of hope and an understanding that fighting was meaningless. When you see your opponent enter this stage, it's crucial not to attempt to cheer them up. You see, just like all of the other steps, depression is natural at this point, and as sad as it might sound, it's very important for the haxed to understand that this is indeed a part of the game they love. The opponent might recollect previous experiences when it felt like continuing to play the game is meaningless. Questions such as, "why bother continuing to play when I know I'll just get haxed again?" and "what's the point?" often circulate during this step. If we never question why we play the game, we will never really understand the purpose behind it, and the game will grow stagnant and boring for us. Even our toughest of tournament players go through this stage for this very reason. It's not until we've conquered the stage of depression that we can achieve as Pokémon players, which brings us to the last of our five stages of hax.

Stage Five - Acceptance

By now, we've seen our luckless opponent go through a roller coaster of emotions: they've experienced everything from extreme anger to extreme desperation to extreme sadness. After cycling through all of these feelings, we can finally see them understand and accept that hax happens, even to the best of us, and that trying to rationalize it will drive us mad. Finally, the opponent has accepted the hax that has befallen them, and hopefully they will move on to embrace it in future matches. By embracing the hax, the opponent will grow a sense of understanding that there is nothing that any player can do to try and circumvent hax. It is a real part of the game that we all have to understand and accept from the moment we enter a Wi-Fi battle or click the "Look for a battle" button on Pokémon Showdown! Different players might already have achieved the step of acceptance, and you can tell when you face them whether or not this has happened. If you notice none of the other steps after haxing an opponent, chances are that they've been in this situation before, and they understand that it's how the game goes. Similarly, you might apologize to your opponent when you've haxed them. Their response might also indicate where they are at in these five stages. Common responses to apologies from those who have been through this step include, "it's alright; it's just a game," or "it's out of our control, and we should just keep playing." It is also important for us, the players, to understand this step and experience hax at its realest level as soon as possible. The sooner we can come to terms with what is arguably the worst part of this game, the sooner we can move on and enjoy it. The stage of acceptance is a feeling of relief, understanding, and knowing that while all of our efforts to change things might be out of our control, we can move on and continue playing the game we all love.


It has been a long journey to acceptance and one that we can hopefully all carry with us the next time the coin lands on an unfavorable side. Pokémon is truly a game of luck, and coming to terms with that can mean the difference between a win and a loss in situations that might seem hopeless. Just remember the next time that you're haxed not to blame your opponent and to keep fighting on in hopes of breaking through to the other side. And if you are unable to end up on the winning side, keep in mind that it's only a game. Why you heff to be mad?

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