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An Examination of Skill pt.1

This will be the most ambitious project to date on the Critical-Gaming Network. To put it as simply as possible, I am investigating how an individual player makes decisions and the potential for him/her to act. In other words, I intend to fully understand the range of one's skill and how it applies to one's playstyles and learning styles. By combining game design and neuroscience my logic is that knowledge is power; the power to act. And All of one's actions are made through one's skills. Furthermore, the origin of all skill is the self. So, to examine oneself is the most direct way to understand one's potential ability. 

Throughout the years I've been writing to the Critical-Gaming Blog, I've often referred to 5 types of skill that I believe make up virtually all of one's measurable ability. These types are knowledge, dexterity, timing, reflex, and adaptation. I actually came up with these 5 types a year before I made my first post on this blog back when I saved all of my writing in a single word document. Though this project has been something that I've been researching, developing, and formulating for over 3 years, I hope to investigate and undercover something that has been a driving curiosity of mine for most of my life.

The big question I face (and I assume we all face) is "who am I?" There are many ways to answer this question, but personally I tend to set aside all opinions, adjectives, and quantifiable factors (height, weight, skin color, etc). Instead, I look solely at my abilities and potential to act. In other words I define myself by my skills and what I can to do with them. Perhaps growing up in the modern United States has greatly influenced my attitude. Mix equal parts American Dream with "all men are created equal" and you'll understand where I'm coming from. I don't judge others superficially. Yet, I evaluate each individual as best as I can. Since we all use our own understanding and experiences as a lens through which we view the world, understanding myself is the first and best step in understanding you.


Me staring into the sun. Me in my favorite Kirby Shirt at a Wii launch party. And me in cold weather with a Michael Jackson pixel art shirt.

So I begin An Examination of Skill, an article series in which I will use myself as the primary subject and detail my abilities so we all can established some common ground. The first thing to understand about me is my name. Not my real name, but my online handle: KrazyKirbyKid.

Though I currently play Pit as my main competitive character in Super Smash Brothers Brawl, before I was pretty serious about only playing Kirby. From day 1 playing Smash64 through year 6 playing Melee I rarely played any other character. What's important here is not my diehard allegiance to the little pink puffball, but why I choose him. I had actually made up my mind before Smash64 came out that I would focus on Kirby. After reading through the Smash Bros. section of the latest Nintendo Power (volume 119 which I still have today) for what must have been the 5th time, I narrowed my choice down to 3 characters.

The year was 1999, and it was the year of Pokemon. As much as I loved the game, my main mon was Bulbasaur so I eliminated Pikachu from the running. Though Yoshi had served me well (and still does to this day) in Mario Kart, the fated decision came down to a single descriptive sentence; "He has the ability to swallow his opponents and take their attributes." Kirby had the ability to become like every other character in the game by almost effortlessly stealing their unique abilities. It was this ability of Kirby's that I could relate to the most. It was the ability that I felt reflected me the most because of something my many teachers had told me; that I was fast learner.

At that point in my life, I had participated in a lot of different hobbies. From piano, violin, soccer, baseball, taekwondo, table tennis, reading, writing, drawing, sculpting, a bit of theater, to video gaming, I was frequently being exposed to new activities with new rules, challenges, and skills to learn. Though I couldn't describe it then, I use an intuitive learning style to excel in everything that I did. I remember my first day of piano lessons. After learning a few note names (C-D-E etc.) the teacher sat me down in front of a piano so I could try my hand at reading music and playing a song. As you can imagine, the song was incredibly simple. So I looked at the page, played the song, and flagged the teacher down. I was advised to move on to the next song if I finished. And a few minutes later, I had finished the book. I remember distinctly thinking that so far this "piano" thing was a really easy video game. After all, at this point I had learned the ways of Super Mario Bros 1 & 3, Karate Babies, Mega Man, Tetris, and other games. Needless to say, if I could do well in any of those games, I could certainly blaze right through the beginner level piano music. Even when I got to two handed songs, it was merely like putting both hands on the piano "controller."

The more I did, the more connections I made between one activity and the next. The better I did in one, the better I did in all the others. Video games have always been a crutial part of this positive feedback loop. I got my first video game when I was 3. It was an NES. Though my father thinks and worries that my brother and I spend too much time playing and talking about video games, hopefully this project/examination will prove that without video games I wouldn't be nearly as talented, skillful, or successful in life. I have lived a life from the beginning with video games on equal footing with any other artform or activity. There is no question in my mind of their legitimate teaching, persuasive, emotional, and developmental effects on players.

Now you know why I go by Kirby. Surpingly enough, I never came up with the name "KrazyKirbyKid." It was actually given to me by one of the "elders" or "founding fathers" of the Super Smash Brothers community. After watching me do something particularly crazy in a match, he said something along the lines of ... "man! You're like some crazy.... kirby.... kid!" It helps to note that at that time (2002), I was a freshmen in high school hanging out at a smash fest with seniors and college guys. So comparitvely, I was the kid of the group.

To understand exactly why I'm "Krazy" we'll have to first take a closer look at each type of skill. For each type of skill I will...

  • thoroughly explain the skill type.
  • present my skill level based on what I can do and can't do in various hobbies.
  • explain how I use the skill in competitive Smash Brothers.
  • provide an interactive video game example so you can test everything for yourself.


The first type up for discussion is KNOWLEDGE. Here we go.

« An Examination of Skill pt.2 | Main | Brawl Playstyles & Skills pt.7 »

Reader Comments (2)

This sounds like a very ambitious project. I think that quantifying skill will be the hardest thing of all, so best of luck with that. Your comments on the perception of self and cultural lenses are very interesting (particularly the American dream idea and so forth). I'll see if I can dig up some material which might be of use, if you're interested. Otherwise, we can discuss this issue online sometime. The way (belief) systems influence thought is a super fascinating topic.

March 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel Primed

@ Daniel Primed


Feel free to dig away at interesting supporting material. We might have to talk online about it anyway because I have a lot of interesting observations about how certain cultures/communities think.

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