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 Marcel Burri on Game Psychology – “Non-verbal Communication”

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PostSubject: Marcel Burri on Game Psychology – “Non-verbal Communication”   Thu Mar 12, 2015 10:18 pm

Non-verbal Communication

Hello guys!

YCS Prague is just around the corner. I guess all of you who will attend there have analyzed the current metagame and accordingly prepared their decks. I guess we can agree that this is the most important thing if you want to be successful at a big event. But having the perfect deck alone may not be enough, there are some other elements that can also influence your results. That may be how well you know your own and also all other decks and how to play against them or also the actual card draw during a game. Today I want to talk about something that I would say is for most players a bit under the radar. I honestly don’t think it’s such an important thing and may have little impact, but still, if you want to be best prepared it’s something you should be aware about: Non-verbal communication.

If I play at our local or just with friends, I usually play a lot different than I would do at big major event. Usually the atmosphere is a lot more relaxed. You’re talking with friends and/or your opponent during the game, maybe even discussing with them about the current game (winning seems much less important here than at a big event, it’s more about exercise). If other people are sitting just besides you, there may also be reactions from you or any of them, which can give your opponent a hint on what you just drew, holding in hand or having face down on your field.

During all the years of playing, I saw a lot of different people. It may be really funny to observe them, especially their facial expressions and gestures. Some people don’t move any mine during the whole game, others are just like an open book for you and according to their reactions you can get a lot of information about their cards. I never did that really intense because in general I’m not that motivated to just watch other people play, I prefer to play myself, but I think there are a lot of things you could see and learn from here. I wouldn’t be surprised if it would even be possible to write some kind of book with a title like “Yu-Gi-Oh Psychology” about that.

The whole idea for this article came up at YCS London, when I had to play against my teammate Norman in Round 7. I know I really have to change my playstyle at a YCS because usually I’m not taking the game too serious at local events. I also always thought that I would do that pretty well after all the years of playing.

After I played against Norman, he told me the game seemed pretty easy for him. At a certain point he was pretty sure he would win this, because he observed my gestures and facial expressions. So at some point I was telegraphing something like “I have no real options and can’t do anything from here on”. I think it’s very difficult to describe how exactly he could read that. It’s something you have to find out for yourself by observing your opponent. Because gestures and facial expressions are in no way limited to playing Yu-Gi-Oh but something happening in your everyday life, you can bring up all your experiences which can help you out here.

I was really thinking for a while about that after the game and if it’s something I always do or not. I came to the conclusion it should usually not be like this when I play against an opponent I don’t know. So it was more because I played against a friend what is something I really hate at a big event with 1000+ people. But still, I was some kind wake-up call for me to have an eye on in the future so it wouldn’t happen again.

But there are other non-verbal signals you can send to your opponent during playing that have nothing to do with your body language. It’s more about your play-style itself. It’s something which actually took my attention through another Card Game: Hearthstone. This is actually a bit weird because you only play online and don’t even have an opponent which is sitting adverse to you. So what am I talking about?

Opposite to Yu-Gi-Oh, in Hearthstone you have a limited amount of time for each of your turns, something around 100 seconds (This is by the way something I really like, because there is no real timeout play possible like that and turns cannot take forever. Anyone remember European Championship in Frankfurt when one of the Swiss rounds had more than 70 minutes overtime?). What I realized there better than in Yu-Gi-Oh itself was, that sometimes you telegraph more information to your opponent than you would like to just the way how you play out your cards and how much time you take to make your turn.

Let’s make some example: You have 6 Cards in hand. When your turn start, you more or less immediately play a monster, attack your opponent, set 2 S/T and then pass. At first glance that may look like a normal turn. But as your opponent I could analyze the following: Because you didn’t hesitate at all with playing those 3 cards, I can assume, that your options were really limited here. That means your remaining cards are most probably other Monsters for which you didn’t have a free normal summon/the summoning conditions weren’t met or some kind of reactive cards like Raigeki or Maxx “C”, which couldn’t react to anything at that point.

Another situation: I summon a monster while my opponent has 4 face down S/T. He looks at two of them before responding. Next turn he sets a new one and when I summon my next monster, he only considers the new one and the old one he already did last turn. So if he didn’t pay attention, he just gave me some kind of information, which card can react on a Summon or maybe an effect. If I never attacked or set any backrow those turns, maybe I can make a read on the other cards, which could be a Mirror Force or Mystical Space Typhoon.

Now if I know about such scenarios, what should I do? The second scenario is pretty common but usually something you only see from less experienced players. In general I also think you shouldn’t rely too much on something like that, because there is also the possibility to make bluffs. Maybe your opponent makes some obvious stuff on purpose as a bluff and if you read it wrong, you will just right away fall for it. On the other hand you have the same options as well and you can set up some bluffs yourself, giving your opponent a good poker face. This may also apply in the first scenario: if you have limited options and there is one perfect straight play, you can still take a little time to think about it (or better to look it like you would have to). Or the other way round, if your opponent makes his turn, already think about your next move and do that one very quickly, even if you have different very good options. It can lead him into thinking that your hand is not that great. I think you may expect now some kind of guide what and how you can do such the easiest way, but I think there is no real and easy guideline. Experience will help you the most here and to get that experience you will have to play more.

As I already said, I don’t think non-verbal communication has such a big impact on your game. But still, it may make a difference in 1 of 30 games. That doesn’t seem to be much, but if you look at a big YCS with 11 Swiss Rounds, where all matches take 2-3 games, you realize that it can actually really make a difference. And even if it’s only one single game, maybe it’s the one letting you win a match and advance to the top cut playoff instead of losing.

One last advice: Try to be self-confident and confident of victory during a duel. From my experience, if you signal that confidence to your opponent, he will tend to be under a bigger pressure what can lead to some mistakes. Try to make your game look like you exactly know what you do, don’t get intimidated by your opponent. Even if you make some mistake or get a really bad hand, don’t try to show it to your opponent and play on confidently.

So that’s it for today’s article, I hope you enjoyed it and I will hopefully see you in Prague this Weekend.

About the author: Marcel Burri
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PostSubject: Re: Marcel Burri on Game Psychology – “Non-verbal Communication”   Sat Mar 14, 2015 11:12 am

another nice read
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