Sparring is, as it sounds, practicing any game against an opponent. I think it's important that the match is competitive, or else it should be more accurately classified as "dicking around". Sparring is when we ask our friends to help us try out that new strategy, or perhaps to have a mock tornament best-of-5 match of some sort. This is when we're playing to learn.
This definition has some pretty profound consequences. I run into many gamers in multitudes of games who perform the same techniques/strategies over and over again and stunt their own learning. We tend to brand these people with the pejorative term 'scrubs', but ultimately a scrub is only someone as above who also thinks they are competitive. Let's leave those fun-loving gamers alone and not brand them with mean names!
An extreme example of Pikaaa (Red) and myself (Green) playing to learn in an experimental fashion.
Playing To Learn
When we play to learn, we experiment with new techniques and play styles that we might not have otherwise discovered. An excellent example is the following: two friends play against each other regularly. Because neither of them can figure out shoot, they declare, "Circulate is better than Shoot." If either of them would take the time to learn the physics - and through that the true potential - of the power, they would drastically increase their skill level. Indeed, if either of them were to play a higher-level player on the ladder, they would be outmatched (to put it lightly).
Examples of more successful (and more interesting) plays, especially by Red (Pikaaa).
In actual fact, the first video contains some samples of the outcome of myself telling Pikaaa that we are going to play experimentally. When then played as we normally do, and all kinds of experimentation still occurred! The purpose of this experimentation is to find new techniques that we can perfect and use as standard moves on the ladder. Leaving at that would be selling it short, however; discovering and trying new risky plays can leave your opponent guessing, especially at the vital beginning of each game.
I therefore finish this post with two recommendations:
1. Watch your replays! Often I feel as though I played a game to the best of my abilities and saw no fault in my play. Yet, when I watch replays, I see all kinds of room for improvement, especially on the tactical/strategic side. Watching replays is useful and important in any strategy game.
2. Try new things on a regular basis to prevent falling into a rut. Find what works, add it to your routine, and continue playing like Pandora on both Playful and Strong!
Unfortunately we are getting very little interest in a Swarm tournament, but I have thus far only advertised on this website. If you have any interest whatsoever in playing, please vote Yes, and let's have a fun tournament! I'll be taking Steam IDs on both this site and the official Steam forum within the next few days.