I’ve recently been studying Yomi by reading David Sirlin’s excellent book, Playing to Win: Becoming the Champion ( Game Design, Psychology, Flow, and Mastery - Blog if you want to buy it and read excellent articles). In it, he discusses the Art of Yomi, which I will attempt in this essay to explain in a more easily accessible manner. His explanation might be a bit too technical. So, if you don’t understand Sirlin but would love to understand Yomi, this article is just for you.
Now I know Yomi has been made into something of a joke, but it is a really huge deal in all forms of competitive strategic gaming. Sirlin originally started using the word “yomi” in order to describe and organize the “layers” of a single line of strategy.
It works like this, according to David Sirlin:
You have a move that you really want to do, lets call it “Fireball.” So you start doing Fireball all the fuckin time. This is called Yomi Layer 0.
So your opponent figures out what the fuck is going on and is like “This guy is going to shoot Fireball at me all the time and I don’t know what to do!” So then, your opponent, Diana, starts doing a totally awesome move called “Beam” that beats Fireball and stops you from doing it. This is Yomi Layer 1.
Well, what are you supposed to do now? Now that you can no longer chuck Fireball all day long because of Diana’s Beam, you are going to need something to do. You find out that your “Jump Kick” can completely dominate Diana’s deadly Beam. Now that you have this counter to Diana’s Beam, which is a counter for Fireball, you can shoot Fireball again because Diana will be afraid of Jump Kick. This is Yomi Layer 2.
By now, things are starting to get really complicated. Diana has to defeat Jump Kick or you will be able to chuck Fireball all day long because of the threat of Jump Kick destroying Diana’s Beam. Diana, luckily, as a move called “Uppercut” that completely wrecks Jump Kick. This completely terrifies you because it stops you from countering Diana’s counter to your Fireball. This is Yomi Layer 3.
So, you have one thing you want to do, Fireball, and suddenly shit gets mad complicated. Yomi is really just a word to describe the crazy shit that you have to deal with just to do one fuckin Fireball.
Yomi Layer 4 is actually Yomi Layer 0 because a full loop of Yomi has been completed. In the example above, Diana can effectively neutralize your Fireball with Beam, but Diana’s Beam is neutralized with your Jump Kick, and your Jump Kick is neutralized with Diana’s Uppercut. Now you’d be thinking that it would behoove you to find a counter to Diana’s Uppercut but it isn’t necessary because if Diana is thinking that you are going to counter her counter-move (Uppercut) to your counter-move (Jump Kick) for her counter-move (Beam) for your Fireball, you can just as soon just chuck another Fireball because her mind is completely entrapped in what I like to call the Yomi Zone.
If you manage to get your opponent into the Yomi Zone then the game gets a lot easier for you. Still on the same example, you can now throw Fireball because a full Yomi Layer Loop has been completed. You just have to read the mind of your opponent and figure out what Yomi Layer they are operating on.
I hope this little write-up was helpful. This should greatly increase the level of play for SRK community members!