15: Talent is Overrated

Weird Arcade: 3 Models of Practice

You stumble into an arcade. Didn’t they turn this into a pizza place a decade ago? What games are around? Why does that other room have PCs set up? You’re about to wander to that room but something else grabs your attention. There’s a group huddled around a standing cabinet.

It’s Street Fighter II. Someone tells you to grab the joystick, he’s gotta run. Sweet. You move the joystick over to pick Ryu but it’s locked. That guy picked someone before running off.

Anyway. You’re Zangief.

You look at the other half of the screen, it’s Dhalsim. Who’s sharing the machine with you? You see hands at the joystick and follow the arms back. And back. And back. It’s also Dhalsim, playing as Dhalsim.

You start wrapping your head around this but the cabinet starts yelling, “…nd one. FIGHT!”

Talent is Overrated describes three modes of practice: music, chess, and sports mode. Artifacts relating to each of these are sheet music, chess position strategy books, sweat, and Gatorade.

In the classical tradition, a musician knows what he or she is going to play; the music is written down. What separates the greats from the rest is how well they perform that music.

You felt good seeing the Street Fighter II machine assuming you’d be able to play as Ryu. You did your music mode practice growing up. Through every game in the series you practiced combos. First in magazines, then in strategy guides, then on GameFAQs, then the games started putting in training modes that rewarded you for completing combos.

Your sheet music looks joystick positions and buttons. Timing is something you learn from trial and error.

You did none of this with Zangief.

Maybe another mode of practice might have helped you up to now. What about chess mode?

The practice routine is to study a particular position and choose the move you would make, then compare it with the move chosen by the master; if they’re different, figure out why and which is better.

Oh yeah! You’ve looked through enough resources and strategy guides through the years. You can close the space with that green hand thing. And the input for that was…

You look up at the machine marquee again. Unfortunately the marquee ends at “II” and doesn’t start with “Super”.

You’re down to your last mode of practice: sports mode.

The other category of practice is working on specific critical skills—batting a baseball, throwing a football, hitting a golf ball out of the sand. A characteristic that many of these skills share is that they must be performed differently every time because the situations in which they’re encountered are never the same.

Zangief is in excellent physical shape.

With sports mode you’ll be able to just practice the combo in the situation with a friend who is countering you as dhalsim.

Luck is still a force in the world. Dhalsim the arcade entity is not great at playing as Dhalsim the character. Or great at playing at all, really. He’s standing 40 feet away from the machine, seemingly as amused by his arms as you are. You spam lariats and dispatch him.

Next up, a kid picks Ryu and does that jumping roundhouse trick that works against the CPU. That kid did his chess mode practice. It also works on you. Zangief’s lifeless corpse is floating horizontally.

At least you beat Dhalsim. On to the next room. Looks like some people are playing Starcraft. What’s the approach now…?