I wrote a review attempt a month ago at the premium forum, and maybe this can motivate people to read the book, buy it, or at least know a little more about its contents. There it is:
I read Sirlin’s book last night and it was a pleasant experience. He goes into much more detail than at his articles, although they can give you a pretty good idea of what you are going to find in the book.
I’ll try and do a quick review for whoever may be interested (LONG POST COMING?)
He has a beginner’s guide at first that probably can’t teach much for srk members, but it is an enjoyable reading and may even help you in explaining some aspects of hardcore gaming to other people.
The intermediate’s guide is in many ways closely related to his articles. He first writes about scrub mentality, which is an article with many parts in common with the original ?Playing to Win?. Then he develops a little more about the attitudes most people have about losing. Here, if you agree with his points, which I usually do, you start getting many nice quotes for future discussions on fighting games overall.
Here’s a little excerpt:
? I lost to a scrub!?
This is the most entertaining complaint of the bunch. When this player loses to someone he considers a weaker player, the ?I lost to a scrub!? line is sometimes used as an excuse. This player is saying that he is very good at the game, and losing to such a poor player doesn’t prove anything. (?) If the other player relies on only one tactic, and you can’t beat it, then what does that say about you??
Sirlin writes a few pages about banning and gaming ethics or so to speak. Here he has much more stuff than in his articles. He makes a strong case to avoid arguments against what he and most of our community believes: You should use any ?tournament legal? means to win. And you don’t have to be a bad sportsman to do it either.
After the Intermediate’s Guide Sirlin writes several chapters making comparisons with Sun Tzu’s Art of War. I must admit that I thought this was kind of a silly idea. I don’t like how people twist Sun Tzu’s book in a hundred ways to make it fit some idea of their own. I’ve read only one business book that did it well (I believe its called marketing Warfare in the US, by Al Ries and Jack Trout). However, Sirlin does a pretty good job at it. What I think he does is just writing a lot of good, solid gaming content and using some passages from Art of War to give it a little twist. Unlike many books, however, the advice is solid and filled with examples that most gamers can recognize.
One thing that should be mentioned is that this not a fighting game book, although almost the whole book and many of its examples can be applied for fighting games. It’s a gaming book. Sirlin gathers examples from Chess, Magic, Starcraft, Counter Strike and, of course, fighting games. And although I don’t play most of the games above, I can appreciate how he describes the mental strategies in the examples from each one of them.
The Art of War section has around 50 pages length. If you’ve read all of Sirlin’s and Seth’s articles, you probably know most of what its directly applied to fighting games. Yet, its enjoyable to read it. Most of it its written in a different manner, with different examples, and there’s something special about reading a real book with all the comfort that brings in, instead of looking more and more at my computer screen. If you like to play games competitively and have not read Sirlin’s or Seth’s articles, you will probably find this part to be pure gold, the best thing you’ve read in the book or maybe SRK so far. Some subjects include, but are not limited to, Yomi, Critical Points, Mental Toughness, and many more.
The next section is called Play Styles. If you like long articles and/or like to learn a little more about the best players or on how they play, this will be an enjoyable read as well. He goes on writing about styles like Turtle, Aggressive and others, with examples both from chess and fighting games. You have Daigo, Valle, Choi and others being described here.
The Advanced Player’s Guide has mostly new material, and maybe the most interesting stuff in the book. He has a section on tournaments, and another one where he explains the benefits of playing to learn instead of playing to win. One actually may help the other. What Makes the Best Player is his appraisal of the qualities that distinguish a great player from a good one. If you read Good to Great or Built to Last, you’re familiar with the idea. Sirlin’s approach is not scientific, but is directly applied to competitive games, and its pretty interesting. It may be the most valuable part of the book, although short, so I’ll not be giving too much of it away.
The Elite Player’s Guide is for when you’re already in a winning position. Here, amongst other things, he discusses the approaches of teaching others vs always playing at your best.
Well, I think you can have a pretty good idea of what is covered there by this post. If you like playing games competitively and like to read, I think you will love the book. It’s a great source of information, many times for yourself, and other times for teaching the ones around you (it may be a good gift for someone starting in competitive games, maybe).
If you’re not so much in competitive gaming, there are still some joy to be taken from the book. Sirlin describes in detail how he won ECC, or how Valle vs Choi played Alpha 2 when the ?Valle CC? was shown for the first time, and some things you may not know. Did you know that Akuma is allowed in japanese ST tournaments? Did you know that Sagat is ?soft-banned? overthere? If you’re looking for fighting game content, even thought the book is not about fighting games per se, I think its much more refreshing to read Sirlin?s material than to look around for random tidbits of solid and/or well-written information in Fighting Game Discussion or the Internet in general.
If you don’t like the idea of putting much effort into winning in games, you may dislike the whole idea from the start. But you can still get a view of how many top players think.
Of course I liked the book. Maybe somebody who did not like it can make a post to show both sides to everybody.
And as I’m sure you noticed my English needs some work. This long post is also practice for me, so I hope you can forgive any mistakes.
Edit: As Matt K. pointed out, I meant Alpha 2 on the paragraph about Sirlin winning ECC and the “Valle CC”. I corrected it now.