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Contrary Motion & Ditto Matches

My brother can't stand ditto matches in fighting games. Ditto matches are matches when both players play the same character. Over the years he has described ditto matches as boring and uninteresting. For the longest time I couldn't figure out what irked him so about two players using the same character.

Last year at a local tournament for Super Smash Brothers Brawl, we were watching a tournament match featuring two Ikes clashing swords. One of my friends, who was also watching the match, made a few observations about a behavioral pattern common in ditto matches. My friend described a ditto match as being a battle of "monkey see. monkey do." Because both players are using the same character, when one player attempts something, the other player is highly likely to attempt the same thing. This goes back and forth the whole match with each player trying to out do the other at the thing they're both trying to do. It's a lot like playing a game of HORSE.

This monkey see monkey do behavior pattern is useful for determining who has a better grasp of the character, but the part of ditto matches I think my brothers has an issue with is a matter of contrary motion. When both players choose the same character, their movement, attack, and defensive abilities are pitted against the same abilities. So when one player moves forward at a certain speed the other can move back at that same speed. When one does a special attack. The other can retaliate with the same attack making it somewhat less special. Any unique facets of a characters are in some ways diminished  instead of being accented like when two different characters fight.

Don't take my word for it. See for yourself. Below are links to ditto matches from 5 different fighting games. Even if you don't understand how each game is played on a competitive level, you should be able to clearly see the ebb and flow of the match and how this interplay is affected by the duplicated characters. See if you can point out all the "monkey business."











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Reader Comments (8)

I always call them Mirror Matches, after the original Mortal Kombat used the term.

January 20, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterfeitclub

@ Feitclub


I'm partial to "ditto" because of the Pokemon. Gotta love Pokemon.

Thanks for the mini history lesson.

January 20, 2009 | Registered CommenterRichard Terrell (KirbyKid)

I tend to do better in mirror / ditto matches because the match becomes much simpler.

Spacing doesn't matter as much because it doesn't give either character an advantage.
Also, the number of moves in the match that I need to understand the nuances and priorities of is halved.

Why do people repeat the same move after their opponent? I think its because a lot of moves can counter themselves as long as they get their move out first.

January 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBryan Rosander

This also shows how important it is to establish your rythem in competitive play. If you watch the samus match it was between two finalist but one completely dominates the other. As the winner has already established his rythem he controls not only the pace of the battle, but in the events of dittios, he also controls some of the moves the player will use as well. A man gets kicked in the face and says "That hurts. I'll kick him back!" and he is blocked because he's fallen into the ryhtem.

January 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHGZero

Ditto matches seem kind of boring to watch in one aspect. Seeing the characters be able to equal each other in almost every form of attack or defense makes it a drag to watch. But if you can get past that, it is interesting to see how well the player knows the ins and out of their chosen character. Because the player knows the characters strengths, it also means that they know the characters weaknesses. The player who knows how to defend against their weakness in a match will most likely win, especially in a ditto match.

January 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJRhee

Good comments all around.

I wish I could show you video of my Kirby matches from the last great melee tournament I entered.

Being the KrazyKirbyKid, I had to show them that Kirby has far more weakness than advantages.

Fun times.

January 20, 2009 | Registered CommenterRichard Terrell (KirbyKid)

Do you think that contrary motion could be a sign of characters possesing minimal depth? Say that the character only has one counter to a move, then of course both players will do the same thing. But if their were multiple answers to a problem, with varying risk and reward, then you could see players developing their own styles, even when they have the same character.

I like to think of Chess when talking about depth. There's often more then one right choice when making a move in Chess, and you rarely see players developing their piece structure as mirror images.

January 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRhyfelwyr

@ Rhyfelwyr

I can't think of a competitive video game with such low depth and variation that the "monkey see, monkey do" would be the only option. Even a simple game like paper rock scissors has enough counters to give each player enough possible solutions to keep things interesting.

In each fighter I listed, each player has access to plenty of moves and strategies. Each player has also developed their own has their own style. But some time into the match, the monkey business still occurs.

I think it has more to do with the nature of "play." Imitation is an important/natural part of learning and play. So when we're playing a game where one player's actions basically say "hey look what I can do," often times we're compelled to respond by mimicking the action as if to say "Yeah. I can do it too. AND BETTER!"

Another explanation could be if one player isn't as creative/skilled as the other. When the better player does something cool/good, the weaker player imitates it hoping for good results as well.

You used Chess as an example. I haven't studied famous Chess games and I'm not a part of any Chess community, but I would assume that somewhere there are players who (whether consciously or unconsciously) move in similar ways to their opponent. Even in the videos I linked to, when one player copied the other, they didn't copy them exactly. Rather they mirrored the general move/approach/strategy.

January 26, 2009 | Registered CommenterRichard Terrell (KirbyKid)

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