Playing to win?

So recently Sirlin book playing to win has been put online for free. I had already read his articles a long time ago and pretty much agreed on everything he said. However now Ive come to realize that 99% of the sf players are not actually playing to win.

According to sirlin playing to win means doing whatever increases your chances of winning. While this is true I think there are very few players who actually do this . I myself thought that I was playing to win but now I realize that Im not.


3s has been emulated so I have just recently started playing it. Now I know that Ken is considered good( hes top 3 with yun and chun). However the first thing I did was pick Ryu because … I like him and I will probably stick with him. I know that if I pick Ken I have a better chance of winning however I have stubbornly decided to stick with Ryu . So can I really say that Im playing to win. Not according to sirlins statement because i did not increase my chances of winning when I could. I chose to handicap myself by chosing a weaker character.

How many sf player dont play yun chun or ken in 3s or top tier characters in a3 cvs2.
How many sf player can honestly say that they are playing to win.

Are we all scrubs. Yes atleast according to the definition in sirlin article because we all have are own set of rules. And we are fine with that meaning we chose to compete using our own rules/choices/handicaps.

Are we then any different from the scrubs who cry cheap when you throw them 5 times in a row or those who want to remove bugs or gltches from games e.g infintes in a3 roll canceling in cvs2 .
I think the differene between the average srker and thos scrubs is that we impose rules on ourselves but not on others. Almost everything my opponent does is ok with me by which I mean that I wont complain about a tactic , strategy or character my opponent uses.

playing to win is truly
the most important and most widely misunderstood concept in all of competitive games.

I agree with the statement

  • playing to win means doing whatever most increases your chances of winning*

However many of us simply do not do this. I know Valle and daigo play Ryu in a lot of games. However in 3s they choose Ken because it’s what they need to increase their chances of winning. Shouldn’t all Ryu players and people who play non- top tier-characters do the same. Most of us certainly aren’t better than the above mentioned players.

You can still have a playing to win attitude with a mid or low tier character. If you choose the character simply to handicap yourself, then you aren’t playing to win. However, if you choose the character you will enjoy playing as the most, and thus, be able to apply yourself with the most, than I would consider that playing to win. I play Akuma in 3s, and enjoy playing as him much more than any other character in 3s. If I switched to Ken, I just wouldn’t be enjoying the game as much, and probably wouldn’t practice as much. I honestly feel I have the best chance to win in 3s while playing as Akuma.

Sometimes picking a non top-tier char is the best choice. Not everyone has optimal skills. Some people can’t execute well. Some people can’t strategize well. This changes the balance of the characters for them.

The first sort of player- a character that doesn’t have a lot of priority or tactics, but is based around landing one combo that does mad damage- that is not the character for them, even if that char is top tier (they usually are due to the sheer fact that you will get hit eventually)

The second sort of player- needs a scrub-friendly character to go for their strength (execution), so they can make up for the deficiencies in their game by landing a massive combo which they can do easily.

(I’ll openly admit my bias against games designed to reward that style of play)

tiers aren’t that simple, yun is the top character in 3S but that doesn’t mean everyone is going to do better with yun than they would with any other character

id say im a pretty big exponent of “play to win” but ultimately if one character is braindead easy to play and win with but i enjoy playing another character more…im going to play the character i enjoy playing. ultimately having fun is the most important thing, and if winning at all costs is more fun to you than enjoying the actual process of playing your character then that’s fine, but it isn’t for me personally and probably for most other people.

Variety has to come into play eventually. If everyone chose Yun because he’s top tier, someone could win by a blow-out with an anti-Yun character/strategy.

Or, at least that’s how I like to look at things.

I’m sure there’s also people who hope to exploit a strategy NO ONE uses because of 1. difficulty or 2. lack of exposure and could win by the failure of people to recognize efficiency of the strategy/technique/whatever. There are many variables to winning, and always using the best character won’t always be the best path to success because it may also be the character the winner is best at playing against due to that character being overused. Or something.

Well, my favorite teams in MVC2 are Team Scrub and Megaman-Cable-Tron Boone.

Why is that? It’s because I’m not good enough to rush that shit down with Magneto and Storm. Does that mean I’ve never beaten quality players who rush that shit down? Fuck no, I’ve had tons of success with my teams.

Yeah im not a huge fan of sirlin’s theories and I agree, it’s not fun playing the same characters over and over due to everyone thinking it’s the only way to beat opponents, but in the same stance no one is going to handicap themselves to give a fair match because like you said, we dont impose rules on others (mainly because we can’t period unless it’s a tourny but thats aside the point).

Im like you though, I like to use Ryu more than Ken (infact I never use Ken) but I can feel Ryu has more disadvantages than all the other characters (He’s hella slow as shit for one thing, worst recoveries are another). Capcom tries to make up for it with better defense, attack, and stun power but stats really dont mean shit compared to natural character abilities, and Ryu is practically beat by everyone in that department. But even then he’s still on my team because i’ve been with the guy since day one on SF1 (shitty game btw) and even if he NEVER improves, he still has the charm from back in the day. My other characters would be Alex, Yang, and Remy (oddly I do better with faster characters but adore slower characters like Cody from SFA3). Funny, I like more disadvantageous characters than one’s considered “TEH BESTEST EVAR”. And im just fine with that. You dont have to do anything that book tells you to because no one’s really forcing you to. Win however you feel comfortable with.

but having fun is not playing to win.

Well if you like winning, then playing to win = having fun.

I win more matches playing with characters like Urien and Dudley, more than I do with Yun. And I have more fun playing with Urien and Dudley than I do with Yun. Thus I am playing to win by optimizing my chances of winning, by picking characters who I consistently win with. And I’m playing for fun by picking characters who I honestly enjoy.

Yeah… personally, Im not a big fan of “playing to win” either.
I know that if you play mid or low tier characters youll be going uphill all the time, but being a top tier whore is pretty lame.
I like to try out every character in the game and stick with the ones I like; sometimes they happen to be really good (Gato in Garou, Makoto in 3S) and sometimes they fucking suck (Nakoruru, Haohmaru, Maki, Vice in CvS 2, R. Mika in Alpha 3, etc.)

Watching Japanese players like Kuroda and YSB effectively playing their characters and overcoming their weaknesses is a lot more exciting to me than watching Ken-Chun-Yun players who have everything going for them.

Of course, this is just my opinion. I know I would have a hard time getting competitive players to agree with me, but I dont think they should agree with me.
Its just… an opinion.

A quick multiple choice question: do you have more fun when you…

A. win, or at least lose when you know you tried your hardest to win?

B. lose for stupid reasons, like easily avoidable mistakes, or win in spite of the fact that you didn’t work to deserve it?

If your answer is A, then there is no reason to disagree with Sirlin’s philosophy.

If your answer is B, you’re not even playing the game. You might as well stick to mine sweeper.

Playing top tier isn’t necessary playing to win. Last tournament I went to I got rocked while playing with Ken. Granted I suck but basically since my opponents had seen and re-seen everything ken can try off, everything I tried to pull was punished. Hence why I switched to Yang. He’s not top tier, but most people I’ve played since aren’t as prepared against characters used less often (Granted I have absolutely no clue if this applies to high level play)

You are essentialy saying that you are playing for fun and not to win because you did not try to increase your chances of winning. Imo there is nothing wrong with that.

I remember people saying that they played for fun getting flamed on these forums but alot of us simply don’t do everything to win.

For ryu players switching to ken isn’t a huge step most of their moves are the same. I’m not a 3s expert but I think Ken just has more options . If you are truly playing to win you must ! pick him However for whatever reason I stick to ryu because I like denjin setups or shin shoryuken.

I’m not really playing to win am I . I’m playing for fun and winning is my goal but not more important than having fun.

But what about chun or ken. I’m new to this game so I’m not sure but Yun’s genei jin seems harder than combos other chars have. But there still is chun or ken. Are Are they really that hard to play ? If for whatever reason I can’t master genei jin than picking yun won’t increase my chances of winning . So then I should move on two number two or three.

People don’t always pick non top tier chars because they can’t execute their combos but for silly reasons like me ( I’ve sold my soul to ryu lol)

I agree with this but playing to win and playing for fun often just don’t go hand in hand so ultimately we aren’t playing to win because we don’t increase our chances. In fact you could even say some might actually decrease their chances of winning on purpose to have more fun.

I suppose this is true in a game with chars



A > B C D E F G

H might actually beat A

but there isn’t always an anti-top tier strategy. Alot more chars should be excluded from high level play where people" play to win" because they simply can’t hang with the top tier or upper mid.

I can’t say either but top tier chars usually have so much going for them that even when your opponents knows what they can do they still get hit.

In A3 everyone knows about akuma’s unblockable vc but people still get hit by it. Because it is simply too good. Picking a weaker charcater might have a surprise effect yes but in the long run I think your chances of winning are greater with a top tier char.

Agreed this is taboo on srk if you say you are playing to win by your own rules you are labeled as a scrub. However the people who say are probably not doing everything to win either.

there are two groups

1 a very very smal group (people who really do everything to win )
2 a huge group who handicaps themselves and who play for fun

The writer of the article Sirlin might very well be part of this last group.

Isn’t this because you are better at urien and dudley and you’ve mastered them completely or do you think they are better than Yun ? be honest… don’t you think that if you would have put the same effort in learning yun’s moves and matchup you would win more matches? ofcourse learning a char takes time but if you knew this from the beginning which char had a better chance of winning most matches would you still have picked urien and dudley ?

Everybody wants to win just not at all cost. Playing to win is too extreme for 99% of the sf gamers.

For example playing to win in ST would simply mean picking akuma. There’s no way around it. Sirlin admits it himself by saying " this is the grayest area"

Imo it isn’t grey at all But either black or white. If everyone would play to win in super turbo everyone needs to play akuma because he simply beats all the other charcaters.

This means that the entire ST community is not playing to win.

Also, one other factor- tiers move over time. There’s always the possibility if the game is fairly new that a certain character can move up. This isn’t true for older games like ST or 98, but for newer games- it can happen. (But 98 you don’t need Iori+ 2 upper mids to win- there are very few chars not used in tournies- I’ve even seen Lucky used by top placers)

I think you missed my point.

I think some of you guys are confusing top tier with playing to win. Playing top tier does not automatically mean playing to win and vice versa. For example, JWong won FRX with Elena. Now she’s not top tier, but he used her strategically to throw off the opponent by switching from Chun to Elena. Just because he switched to low tier, doesn’t mean he wasn’t playing to win. Quite the contrary. I love my low tier characters, but I am specifically learning high tiers for tournaments. Why? Because sticking to low tier feels like bringing a knife to a gun fight. There is always time to fuck around in casuals at a tournament or in casual play. But in a tourney match you should bring the best you can. Especially in the US tourney scene where we have to spend money to travel etc.

Akuma is banned in all ST tournies. And for good reason.

I agree with much of this thread. Playing to win and picking top tier to win are different things that are not necessarily linked positively or negatively. If you have no desire to play a character, then your desire to practice/STEP UP YO GAME/win is lessened. Arstal made a good point about lack of ability on a player-by-player basis changing up personal tiers. I simply don’t have the execution for many top tier characters in 3s, though I know what I’m supposed to be doing with them/tiers/whatever.

Nevertheless, I go for the V, and defy the P. As my good friend Dave has expressed on many an occasion:

Alex ish brohken.