Taking notes can be a hassle, but if you’re serious about improving, not doing so will hinder your growth. Melee is a game almost unmatched in how fast it requires you to make decisions. In the heat of the moment, so many things happen such that it’s impossible to remember everything. If you’re playing consecutive games, being focused and present requires you to discard much of what was in your mind in the previous game. If you want to remember all the ideas you have, taking notes is crucial. Write notes quickly. Don’t wait until after a session. Ideas are fleeting. Keeping things in your short term memory for a little while seldom translates into encoding things into long term memory, even for those who have good memories.
Here’s some tips for what to note:
Answers to situations, bad habits, prospective techniques, macro ideas.
Why you think you’re losing in friendlies, after sets, or when watching matches. This allows you to theorycraft in your downtime and discuss macro problems or challenging situations with other players.
Things you have an intuitive idea about, such as percents. Getting these down on paper will help crystallize it in your mind. After writing it down, you’ll be extra cognizant of the situations and can verify your intuition, letting you turn it from an intuition into factual knowledge.
If you have an epiphany, definitely write it down. For instance, I once realized that you cannot always avoid dangerous situations. Sometimes, you even want to put yourself in dangerous situations. Navigating these situations quickly and intelligently is just as important as avoiding them. Another example could be that you can pressure with movement rather than with attacks.
BE SURE TO WRITE NOTES TO BEAT ICS! These fuckers have so many counterintuitive things and situations that can win or cost you the match. Many of these situations have objectively best responses.
Here’s some tips about how to format your notes:
Organize notes by matchup.
Separate notes for the lab and for going into a match. Don’t be afraid to write a little mantra to keep in your head such as “DON’T SHIELD” vs. Falco, “DON’T PLAY AFRAID” vs ICs, “DON’T OVERCOMMIT,” “DON’T GET SPOTDODGE CHEESED.”
Separate notes about what to do from notes about what not to do. Maybe organize by other things as well, such as punish game vs defensive game.
Have a section for stage specific things.
Write notes about longterm ideas and optimizations on a separate page and discuss these with knowledgeable players. Many ideas require extensive practice to implement and it’s worthwhile to discuss these things with other people before investing your lab time (e.g. trigger optimization).
Make sure your notes aren’t too cluttered. Notes for doubles and secondaries should be separate.
Reformat your notes regularly. If you notetake on paper, this means rewriting pages and ripping out old pages, or buying new notebooks. Some notes will become ingrained such that you no longer need them on paper. Other ones may have been ideas that you ultimately decide were not good or were just wrong.
Keep notes succinct.
Use shorthand. Your notes don’t need to be coherent to anyone but yourself. Having names for techniques (DJ Nintendo shit) can express ideas with fewer words.
As someone who virtually never took notes in academia, I understand reluctance to take notes on Melee. It’s nerdy and feels like work. Much of the time, notes taken get neglected and don’t manifest in actual games. Until recently, most adept Melee players were more about playing on feel than any formulaic approach. This is exceedingly difficult in the meta now. Writing notes buffs the effectiveness of your time in the lab significantly. It facilitates keeping the most important ideas for your gameplan foremost in your thoughts. When there are inadequate setups to warmup, reading your notes will help insure you don’t go into your next set on autopilot. If you’re struggling to improve or ever feel unsure what to practice, notetaking will alleviate these issues.