Super Smash Bros.: For fun or for glory?

I bet you didn't see the joke the first time you looked at it!

More than anything else in the new Super Smash Bros., I am most looking forward to the newly implemented For Fun or For Glory Multiplayer. I can’t say Nintendo has been entirely loyal to their hardcore fanbase in recent years, but I must say they’ve really hit the nail on the head with this idea. The moment my roommate Andrew told me about its inclusion, I knew I was pumped for this game, and I finally put down my reservation for it today (now to just pick up that 3DS…).

Here’s why I think the multiplayer split was a great idea: My gaming friends are divided into two groups when it comes to Super Smash Bros. –  the no items, Final Destination only group, and the all items (minus Smash Ball), any stage group. We have constant arguments over which mode to put it on, and almost always wind up switching our game settings in between matches when the controllers trade hands. Oftentimes it’s a compromise between the two play styles, but this inevitably leads to some friction between players when someone feels they’ve been cheated from a fair fight. Super Smash Bros. has it’s classic holy wars: Up vs. y-button. Time vs. Stock. Brawl vs. Melee. But the iconic Glory vs. Fun debate is a particularly prickly issue – one that divides people on how the game as a whole should actually be played.

In my opinion, there’s nothing wrong with either doctrine. In fact, someone’s play style reveals a lot about why they play games and what motivates them to win. The former group, whom I’ll call the Glory players, enjoy the thrill of the win. They get satisfaction from besting their opponents and knowing that they played well enough to beat everyone else. The Fun players enjoy the  thrill of the game itself – the spectacle of seeing how a game plays out and the split second decisions that can make or break a game. Winning is merely the goal, but the real pursuit comes from enjoying the fight.

I am firmly entrenched within the latter group, so it should come as no surprise that I’m thrilled I’ll be able to enjoy Smash games as my entertaining, albeit less-powerful favorite characters in the For Fun multiplayer. Whenever I play Smash with Andrew and Tim (my second roommate), I find it frustrating that the rules must always be fixed to no-items, Final Destination (with some leeway given for The Great Fox or perhaps Zelda’s Temple). Perhaps they might begrudgingly agree to a Fun match, but as far as I can tell, they certainly won’t have as good a time of it. And if they’re killed by an item like a Bomb-omb or a Hammer, they’ll definitely contest the win. Or heaven forbid they trip in the middle of a match and die because of it. I’ll never hear the end of it.

Believe it or not, these two personality types were recognized by the Magic: The Gathering designers and are included amongst their psychographic profiles of Magic players. So distinct are the play styles, in fact, that the MTG designers often design their card sets around them. The two profiles were nicknamed “Spike” and “Johnny”, respectively (no, the names don’t mean anything). Spikes are the tournaments players and are defined by their competitive nature. Spike likes to win. He/she enjoys the rush of winning. In Smash, they play the best characters with the best move sets. Spike will watch competitive Twitch matches. Spike will learn the best combos from other players. Spike feels cheated when something like a Landmine ruins a game. To quote Mark Rosewater of MTG, “To Spike, the thrill of Magic is the adrenalin rush of competition. Spike enjoys the stimulation of outplaying the opponent and the glory of victory.”

To Johnny’s, on the other hand, playing a game – any game – is about self-expression. It is a chance to show off how clever they are with their play styles. In Magic, they build complex decks that yields incredible combos if pulled off right. They enjoy the flashiness of pulling of impressive moves. Likewise, in Smash, Johnny enjoys the ‘Aha!’ moments that make the game exciting to watch. They like showing off their prowess with underrated or almost entirely unplayed  characters. They want to use items in clever combinations with their move set and the environment.

Winning is important for Johnny, but only if it’s done using the strategy he wanted to use. According once more to Mark Rosewater, “Johnny cares more about the quality of his wins than the quantity. For example, let’s say Johnny builds a new deck that has a neat but difficult way to win. He plays ten games and manages to get his deck to do its thing… once. Johnny walks away happy. Johnny likes to win, but he wants to win with style. It’s very important to Johnny that he win on his own terms.”

I know I’m a Johhny because of that quote. Like any gamer, I love playing games of all types. Board games, video games, card games. That being said, I don’t win very many of them. I’m perfectly okay with this. If I lose a game by a narrow margin, I feel just as good about it as if I had won. I don’t feel any more of a sense of satisfaction winning a game of Smash than I do merely playing it the way I wanted to. The winning was secondary to the thrill of the game itself.

And since this is a personal blog of mine, let me take this chance to harp on about Johnnies just a bit more. According to Rosewater, “Johnny likes a challenge. Johnny enjoys winning with cards that no one else wants to use. He likes making decks that win in innovative ways. What sets Johnny apart from the other profiles is that Johnny enjoys deckbuilding as much as (or more than) he enjoys playing. Johnny loves the cool interactions of the cards. He loves combo decks. Johnny is happiest when he’s exploring uncharted territory.”

And there it is. In Smash I like playing random characters and using the items and the environment in novel ways. In board games, I usually never pick the same strategy twice, even if I know that strategy has worked flawlessly for me in the past. In card games I prefer the outlandish cards that give me the unexpected Hail Mary win. It’s the thrill of trying something new and seeing it work that makes me excited to play a game.

So, how does this all relate back to Super Smash Bros.? Well, like I said before, it all has to do with how you enjoy a game. If your more like a Spike, you enjoy the competitive aspect of it. Winning is fun. You’re more likely to play the For Glory mode of multiplayer.

But if you’re a Johnny, you revel in the chaos of all-items, all stages. You become bored by no items and plain environments. There are simply no chances to express your play style, and worse, if you’re like me you probably simply wind up losing to more competitive players. You’re more likely to play For Fun.

To be clear, I do not think that Glory players are “fun haters” that simply can’t sit down to enjoy the thrill of the game. I don’t think they need to win to have fun. Hell, when it comes to StarCraft II online matches, I’m a Glory player one-hundred percent of the way. But it goes without saying that I’ll probably be spending a lot of my online Super Smash time in For Fun mode, hashing it out with other creative-minded players (though also possibly the eight year-olds who haven’t quite gotten the hang of the game yet). It’s a service that caters to my style of play without compromising how other people might also want to play their game. And that is why I love the multiplayer split so much.

The truth is, though, I’ll probably be spending plenty of time in For Glory mode as well, seeking to actually best my fellow gamers. And who knows, I might just develop a competitive side to myself. Quite frankly, I’m happy for the inclusion of both modes, and the fact that Nintendo is able to cater to both side’s of it’s fan base.

Super Smash Bros. for the 3DS will drop in North America on October 3, 2014. The Wii U version will be released in Q4 2014, finally giving gamers a reason to actually turn on their Wii U’s.

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3 Responses to Super Smash Bros.: For fun or for glory?

  1. Dennis Stewart says:

    I’m more of a “For Fun” player myself. I enjoy the unpredictability provided by items and stage hazards and find that more fun than doing the same thing over and over again on a flat stage. A shame my main (Snake) isn’t going to show up 🙁

    • neutybooty says:

      Agreed on the items. A lot of my friends don’t understand when I tell them that items keep the game interesting. I can flat stages as long as there is a small amount of variation. Platforms and such.

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