- I think people who have never attempted great scores tend to trivialize goes into them. They might think that they are paying the greatest among us, the Japanese superplayers, their due by placing them atop this pedestal built off that vague concept known as "talent," when in fact to do such a thing is an insult. To watch people chalk those many long hours of anguish, frustration, and uncertainty up to the players simply being predisposed to perform well in these games is utterly disgusting to me, but unfortunately something far too common on here, even amongst those who seemingly should know better.
- By the looks of things, this misunderstanding can mainly be blamed on that most people on here fall into 3 groups indicating various degrees of ignorance towards the higher level of play. First, there are the collectors, the personfications of the phrase "You can't suck at a poster." Then there's the hipsters, those only here "for the ride," only posting on here to show how much more "hardcore" they are than the CoD playing masses. If they want to be extra hardcore they might even have a meaningless 1cc list of easy games to brag about. However, their ignorance and failure to achieve worthwhile skill exposes them as just another part of the casual hivemind. Last and most harmful are the pretenders, or, to be more specific, the members of the Touhou is Harder crew and their associated acts. These players, crowned by the former 2 groups as the best on the board have a foolish approach towards shmups, refusing to play a game longer than 2 weeks at a time and treating STGT, an utter bastardization of how shmups are designed to be played as a worthwhile venture.
- Of course, I'm sure there's a few who don't neatly fit into these groups as I have described but the point I am trying to make is that the ignorance which constantly pollutes every aspect of this board can be tied directly into the vast majority simply not understanding how to approach these games. This is not to say members of these groups are inherently bad and hopeless people, but just misguided.
- I began as a collector, was led to shmups for similar reasons to the hipsters and I, too, eventually came to idolize the pretenders. Where I differed from the hipsters was in my genuine desire to become knowledgable and skillful at the games, which allowed me to rise above them and, even if only for a short time, led me to view the genre in similar ways to the pretenders. But as my passion for improving continued to burn I came to disagree with the philosophy of the pretenders and so, they rejected me. It was then, finally facing the comfort of isolation that I became certain of what I had begun to suspect. In order to continue my evolution, I needed to strike out my own path and reject many of the things that those groups had held to be absolute truths. These are games designed for men who wish to decide their own destiny and thus, in this community built on stupidity and which idolizes false prophets, the only way to truly understand the genre is to rebel.
- In order to proceed further, it is crucial to shed the notion that shmups are only a hobby and nothing more. Boxing can merely be a hobby, but to excel in it one must view at as a way of life. When a great boxer begins to take boxing less seriously and treat it like a hobby, their skills will begin to slip. Such is true with shmups as well. Where shmups differ with sports such as boxing is in that shmups represent an entirely different world. The simple act of playing a video game is a rejection of reality, even if only a temporary one. Thus, in order to invest the countless necessary hours to build skill in shmups one must foster a contempt for reality and other virtual worlds.
- To a shmupper the need to exist in the 3D realm is a mere inconvenience. He is a mortal man, however, and he must exist in the 3D world until that day when dies and ceases to exist in it and, more importantly, can no longer play his precious shmups. Until that day the shmupper strikes a compromise: while reluctantly living in the 3D world he carefully calculates every action to help his success in the shmup world. In short, the shmupper is a man who goes full shmup.
- With this out of the way let's next turn our attention to how the shmupper views that world. I think it is pretty generally agreed that at their core shmups are a challenge to the shmupper. What some don't realize is that the challenge is not to 1cc the game or to get a good score. No, those are but the end result; they are the payment for the job, so to speak. The challenge is to learn the game's nuances, it is to spend those longer hours restarting stage 2, it is to come back from the discouragement of having to throw out a run at the final stage. The challenge is to bear the crushing weight of failure for as long as one possibly can. The challenge is, in a word, to endure.
- If someone got 100 mediocre scores across a variety of game styles all that would really indicate is a willingness to spend time. But if someone spent that same time frame playing a single game and got a great score then that would indicate skill. This is why the pretenders, commonly seen as the closest thing on the western side of the world to Japanese super players are actually the antithesis to them. While a superplayer braving the storm in itself illustrates their great skill, the pretender beginning the road towards skill only to walk away as soon the "fun" disappears merely indicates cowardice. There is no getting around it; pain should not be seen as merely an unfortunate side effect of the genre's conventions. Improving at shmups is an inherently painful activity and the sooner this fact is accepted, the better. If one is still at that point of having fun, the real fight has yet to begin. If one desires to excel in this genre there is no choice but to embrace the pain to the point of even taking on a masochistic mindset.
- This leads us to the last and most important piece of bullshit to discredit, that being that "natural talent" is the grand separator between good players and world record holders. If that were so, why aren't the pretenders, who admittedly have done some pretty impressive things in a short amount of time, getting any world records? A fool would quickly argue that the world record holders are somehow even more naturally talented than the pretenders. The thing is if you look at the progression of a world record, the scores that were done in, say, the first 1 or 2 months of a game's release really aren't out of reach for a westerner to do within that same length of time if they focus enough. Rather, as these players keep working on the game and keep doing those improvements they all combine to create a world record worthy of the game. To me, it is that distance between what players were getting in those first few months and the end product after years of torment are what defines a world record.
- To me what these pretenders do, starting a game, learning the basics, getting a decent score, and then quitting when the "fun" ends isn't too far off from what the 1cc list obsessed hipsters do. Yes, the pretenders, those idolized by the hipsters they love to look down upon for their ignorance are, in fact, basically an extension of the group! There is no glory in being a jack of all trades. To paraphrase a user on 2ch, the gap between a 200m and 300m score in DDP is 100 times smaller than what is between a 600m and 700m score. The persistence to keep going is what truly separates the good players from the great ones.
- If we look deeper into this and wonder why it is always Yusemi-SWY, Clover-TAC, ISO, etc. who always manage to find a spot in Arcadia for new games when I'm sure there are many who sink in equally as many hours, I will concede that some sort of natural ability does play a factor, but not what casuals often have in mind. I believe it is creativity that enables great players to hold records. Creativity is what enabled a westerner to achieve the Homura world record. It is why MON deserves to be seen as an all-time great regardless of someone else having beaten Death Label since. And it is why HFD's DOJBL record might soon fall to a Chinese player. While through sheer determination I feel anyone can copy a superplay and get a score close to a world record, to be able to come up with a harder and better strategy then execute it properly is the mark of a special player. Superplays, while a crucial resource, should be seen less as a walkthrough and more a conversation with a very human player.
- Of course all of this is mere talk. Actions do speak louder than words and rather than allowing this essay to merely give the hipsters something more to spout off about we need some sort of test to sort out the true shmuppers. The quality of scores and ambition of their goals, while important, is also too subjective. We need something simpler to come before that when looking at someone. I believe that test should be what do they do when after that point of hundreds of hours of work, they fail a run close to their goal and must make a choice.
- Do you walk away in disgrace or do you fight on?
- In practice that question is often difficult to answer. It easy to try to comfort oneself with lies and excuses such as that run being "good enough" or falling back on that "fun" bullshit. Ultimately, while these things might offer short-term comfort their veil will eventually dissipate to allow that awful sensation that is the realization of failure to poison the player's life. The decision to fight on offers no such comfort, only the hope that there is light at the end of that seemingly endless tunnel.
- To aid the the decision making process let's think of this in different terms. What would one of the greatest of all time, such as SOF-WTN, SPS, HFD, or simply whoever is the current world record holder for that game do after getting such a run?
- I think they would keep playing.
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