How ‘Reading’ Works In Smash Bros.

How ‘Reading’ Works In Smash Bros.

“Reading” isn’t just the provenance of drag queens. Not anymore, at least. The partly-psychological, partly-social practice of “reading” another person is an essential piece of playing fighting games like Super Smash Bros. effectively. So how does it work? An excellent new tutorial by Rush Hour Smash spells it out.

Narrator Corey “False” Shin defines reading as: “the psychological strategy used in observing an opponent’s habitual behaviour and patterns, and punishing them.” That’s a fancy way of saying that you can (and should) become familiar with the unique ways that an opposing player behaves with his or her character, and then use that knowledge to your advantage.

On its most basic level, “reading” an opponent means that you can then predict what they’re going to do next, and therefore prepare a devastating counter. Take, for instance, this moment in a match-up between Mega-Man and Diddy Kong when the Mega-Man player perfectly calls out what Diddy is gonna try and do to get back on the stage:

The commentators called it “the hardest read in his life.” Pretty much!

How ‘Reading’ Works In Smash Bros.

“Reading” isn’t unique to Smash Bros., mind you — though not every game calls the practice reading. The early period of any given League of Legends match begins with an impossibly tense few minutes of squaring off with the opponent in your specific lane, each of you trying to get a similar feel for each other before doing anything too risky, like going in for the kill. But since Smash is such an idiosyncratic fighting game, reading in the game works in a special way. Shin demonstrates in the video that expert-level reads have an enormous impact on aerial plays and the ledge game in any give Smash match, to give one example.

Like most advanced tech, “reading” might sound like one of those things that either makes Smash Bros. intangibly complicated or unnecessarily dry and dense, since it’s applying nuanced competitive tactics to what is, ostensibly, meant to be a party game. But I’d argue that reading actually makes the game a lot more fun regardless of your skill or experience level, because it encourages you to personalise your gameplay experience by developing a much more intimate relationship with your opponent. Even if you only play Smash as a party game, you’ve probably “read” an opponent every time you’ve griped about how your brother, sister, or best friend always goes for the cheap shot with Jigglypuff’s rest combo. Or something.


    • i know right. He could’ve just explained that Reading is basically “anticipating an opponents next move and countering it.”…instead of going all Thesaurus on us

      I do like his slow mo scenes with explanation. Those were cool…if only he stopped making things sound more complicated than it is

    • Yeah, now I’m curious about what “reading” is to drag queens, but I’m afraid to google it…

      Edit: Ah, another commenter to the rescue!

      • Lol, strangely enough, I know what ‘reading’ is in relation to the drag scene (being directly related to The Art of War), as my uncle was involved in it for many years… I just kinda figured there’d be more men in dresses during this Smash Bros. discussion….

  • Why is reading the provenance of drag queens? Reading as a technique has been around for centuries. Fortune Tellers and “Psychics” use reading to con you into believing they speak with supernatural entities when really they’re just seeing how you react to certain things and then capitalising on it. Any good strategist uses reading to determine how their opponent will act or react in battle and uses tactics that counter or make use of that predictability. Con men and women also use reading to appeal to you and convince you that you have a need for what they are selling. I’m really not sure how drag queens even feature into that…

    • …….sigh. I’m going to try not to ‘read’ you here, rather just offer up some much-needed education.

      The author is using a bit of humour here, the reading you speak of and the reading which is the ‘provenance’ of drag queens are two different things. Reading is drag slang:

      Read (Reading)- a) verb. To wittily and incisively expose a person’s flaws (i.e. “reading them like a book”), often exaggerating or elaborating on them; an advanced format of the insult. The term is a reference to the film Paris is Burning.

      Paris is Burning was a film that explored the up and coming ballroom culture in late 80’s NY, from which today’s modern drag culture largely evolved (and which through Rupaul’s Drag Race, has now also entered the public lexicon). Reading in this context, is just an established way to throw tongue-in-cheek shade at other people.

      And with that, the library is closed.

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