A lot of the players you see at the top of their game right now, got there by investing thousands of hours into gaming over 10-15 years of their life.
Some of them probably couldn’t tell you how they got there.
Others might truly think that they got there just by investing more time into practicing their skills or that they are just naturally good at certain games.
While those could all be true… Your goal is to short cut the process to become a player at the top of the field as quickly as possible. We don’t have years to waste catching up.
And in order to do this – you need a plan.
This guide will serve as a roadmap to help you on your journey. Using it will give you the potential to hit your maximum skill level, in the QUICKEST time possible, and reap the rewards you hope to obtain with that.
The Challenge Of Improving In eSports
Since the eSports (or competitive gaming) industry is so new, there isn’t much of an infrastructure for improvement like traditional sports.
And this means that a lot of the time players are left to their own resources to improve.
If this is you, or you have a young one who is interested in developing their skills, there isn’t an obvious plan laid out, which can make the process confusing and extremely frustrating.
It gets amplified by the fact that there’s a larger mix of players who look at games as casual fun, and almost look down on players who take things seriously. While in traditional sports, it’s commonly accepted or even praised when people take training and improvement seriously. Advanced players also have more ways of being “segregated” into more competitive leagues/groups, where everyone around them takes it seriously too.
With eSports, you have to take it upon yourself at times to develop the skills and disciplines needed to grow as a player.
The Skills You Need
Before we get started, it’s important to know that there are two types of skills that you need to develop as a player in order to reach a high level of play.
General Skills that will apply to all or most games, such as handling equipment (controllers, keyboard/mouse), reflexes, mental disciplines, and communication skills (in-game for team based games) to name a few. These skills transfer from game to game and almost set a baseline for playing competitively.
Some games have a much higher requirement than others. But you need these skills to even begin thinking about competing in video games. They are much quicker to pick up and practice, and they are all things that you can learn and develop as you go along.
Game Specific Skills are skills that don’t transfer as easily. These are things like game awareness, positioning skills, game knowledge, timings, mechanics, strategies, etc. Some of these transfer from game to game if they are similar, but it’s very rare for even the top level pro’s of any game to jump into a new game and play at the top level of competition.
Since some of the game selection skills take longer to develop and there’s not a ton of cross over, it brings up a very important topic of game selection. Much like real sports, it’s very rare that you find someone capable of having the natural talent to excel in multiple sports. It’s a much easier path to succeed if you focus your efforts on one game, or one genre of game.
This doesn’t mean you can only play one game – but devoting a portion of your time and focus specifically to the game you want to excel at is important.
For now, it’s best to choose a game you absolutely love, as long as it has a competitive multiplayer scene of some sort. It has to be a game you’d love to play for hours every day to practice and hone your skills, and make it your profession.
Improving Your Skills
Some of the worst advice gets dolled out every day about how to improve. Even sometimes by some exceptional players.
The goal isn’t just to improve.
Your goal should be to improve quickly and efficiently.
There’s a time cap on it right? We don’t have 5-10 years to conquer a game. We need to jump into the competitive scene in a reasonable time if you’re taking this seriously.
From there you need to continue to improve to stay at a competitive level or sit on top of the competitive field.
That’s why, the most common advice you hear “Play More” is absolute garbage.
If that was the key to success you wouldn’t see so many people with thousands of hours invested in a game still sitting at a low to mid level competitive range.
Telling gamers to improve by “playing more” is the LAZY answer.
[bctt tweet=”Telling gamers to improve by “playing more” is the LAZY answer.”]
Using our knowledge from traditional sports, we’ve developed a training regimen that puts you in the driver seat for rapid improvement and eliminates the guess work of what you need to do to improve.
1 – Using Training & Drills The Right Way
It’s not enough to just play.
In a game you face so many unique situations that it’s impossible to truly practice parts of your game from simply playing another game.
Since you face so many dynamic situations in every game, it could take dozens of games until you face a situation similar to one you want to improve from. It could also happen every game, but so sporadically or quickly that you aren’t able to get it down with everything else that you’re managing or thinking about in the moment.
Our brains aren’t wired to improve skills in that way.
For this reason alone, a major portion of your improvement will come from using precise training and drills.
If we take a look at traditional sports we see that they have a long pre-season of practice, where they drill and fine tune their skills. During the season they practice and scrimmage with practice teams between games. They break down different mistakes that were made on a team and player level. And they look for opportunity to capitalize on next games.
It’s a yin-yang approach to splitting game time and practice time to fuel performance in each.
So how can this translate to an up-and-coming gamer?
You should divide your time between “game time” and “practice time”. Play games at the highest competitive level that you can in order to find weaknesses or holes in your game. Then you’ll fine tune these areas of improvement during practice time.
But how do you find those weaknesses? How do you know what to improve?
These next couple sections will help you do just that…
2 – Analyze Your Own Play
It’s important to know WHAT to improve if you’re going to take the time to practice. It’s impossible to fix a mistake that you don’t know you’re making.
Ideally, you want to find the biggest areas for improvement and work on those.
But that can be very hard since there’s so many things happening throughout a game, so many surprises, and so many thoughts that run through your head.
It’s hard to keep track of all the tiny mistakes you make. It’s hard to even notice them at time. That’s why you should record your own play, in any way possible.
If you haven’t watched yourself play you’re missing out on such a HUGE opportunity for improvement.
When you do it for the first time, you’re going to notice things that are so obvious that you can fix immediately. You’ll probably feel a little bit silly for making those mistakes and not even realizing it. But it’s okay. This happens to everyone.
In sports, when you have a coach, they’re able to point out what you’re doing wrong.
But nothing beats video.
There’s been many times in my sports life that I tried doing what my coaches instructed me to do, and they’d keep insisting that I was doing it still. I had NO idea I was still making the mistakes. In fact, I tricked myself into thinking I fixed it.
When you’re able to watch yourself on video, the proof is right in front of you. You can see exactly what you’re doing wrong, and you can see how to tweak it and improve it.
The same applies to gaming.
Start recording AND analyzing your game play. There are free and cheap ways to accomplish this, and some of them are even built into the games and system you play.
3 – Analyze Other Successful Players
While you’ll learn a lot about your own game from watching yourself. You can find areas for improvement by watching other successful players.
You can start easily by watching high level gamers on Twitch.tv. It’s easy to find pro’s and observe how they play.
There’s a big difference between analyzing someone’s play and watching them casually for enjoyment. Dissect what they are doing and try to get in their mind.
The most important question you can ask is “Why?”. Ask “Why?” if they do something different than you, or they don’t do something at all. If they call something out, if they are playing aggressive or passive. If they take an objective or head for another. When you’re inquisitive like this and you try to come up with reasons for their play, you’ll often times uncover more nuances about the game and play styles that you can add to your own play.
You can also learn directly from your opponents.
- What do they do that frustrates you?
- Made your game difficult?
- How did they beat you?
You can think about these things after a game, or better yet – while you’re analyzing your own play you can observe your opponents there too.
It’s important when doing this to remain objective. Don’t scrutinize or criticize the play.
This is KEY.
Don’t think about what you can do better. Or what they are doing wrong.
Try and find out what they are doing that you can start doing to become a better player.
Chances are good that if they are a better player than you, that they are doing a lot of things that you should be doing. Too often, players watch streams or videos and are quick to criticize mistakes or belittle their competition instead of actually learning what they can from the other players.
4 – Join Tournaments & Competitive Ladders
You have to get out there and play. To get better you have to play against better competition.
If you play slow pitch baseball for your entire life, you’ll never know what it’s like to swing at a fastball. It might be scary stepping into the batter’s box and having a fastball thrown at you, but in order to play at a competitive level, you have to get over that initial fear. The quicker you get yourself on that level, the more accustomed you’ll be to playing at that level.
It can be intimidating playing on a competitive/ranked league for the first time. It can be daunting going to your first tournament. You might think you’re not ready for it. You might not want to stain your record or have a losing record with bad stats.
But it’s all part of the process.
Losing is a very important part of the process. Remember, this is exposing areas in your game you need to improve. Giving you more opportunity to practice and become a better player.
You’ll learn much quicker than playing against more casual opponents.
5 – Network To Find Better Players
This is similar to the previous step. You should always be on the look out for players of similar skill level or better. It’s a huge plus if they take improvement seriously like you do.
By just being around players who are better than you’ll begin to think about the game differently and notice things that are possible. You’ll learn more about what you’re doing wrong and start to model your game play after theirs.
Playing against harder competition will refine your skills quicker. It doesn’t give you the option to be lazy like you could against someone of lesser skill.
After finding these players, the goal is to play with them more often, play against them, and discuss the game/strategies that you’re thinking about or having difficulties with.
Since there aren’t advanced/competitive leagues like there might be in sports, you have to take it upon yourself to build your network to create your own network of players to compete with and against. Surround yourself with these players if you want to improve.
How to find and network with other players:
- You can find forums or subreddits dedicated to your game. If people are interested in discussing the game, they are more likely to be a higher caliber of player.
- Look for clans or teams with high level players.
- Message players you’ve played with or against and ask them to play with you some more.
It’s important to play with people a few times before you really gauge their skills. Anyone can have a good game or two, but that doesn’t make them a good player.
6 – Find Guides And Coaching
You might not be able to solve your own problems just by analyzing your own play or analyzing other players. It’s easy to get stuck and not know what mistakes you’re making, how to correct them, or what to practice next.
Sometimes might be able to identify them, but that doesn’t mean you can fix them.
If you can identify mistakes that you’re making you can do one of four things:
- Discuss the challenge with your network of friends you’re building. This is the reason why you’re building this network of skilled players. Often times they can help come up with a solution that you can use to improve your play.
- Find a guide or strategy online. This can be difficult since there’s usually a ton of old or low quality content being spewed out every day. However with a little bit of searching you can find strategy, training, or drills, that you can use.
- Post your questions to relevant forums or communities. This won’t always work, because the quality of response depends on who is around at any given time, but you can sometimes get a great response and also meet new players. Just make sure you do your best to make your post NOT sound like you’re complaining or whining about the game or game mechanic.
- Find a coach or mentor. They can look over your shoulder and through their experience they can guide you to fix what you’re having trouble with now, and point out other areas of opportunity. Sometimes hiring a coach for even just an hour or two can completely change your outlook on a game.
Depending on what game you play and what type of coach you’re looking for, both of those sources can usually point you in the right direction. You can also try and contact streamers directly, but unless they offer it directly, chances are low that they’ll be willing to offer coaching.
If you’re feeling frustrated with where you’re at, definitely invest in yourself and have someone outside of your circle of friends take a look at your challenge, or even have them analyze a game or two of yours. A fresh perspective can always give you a different outlook that you will never see on your own.
Even professional athletes that are considered the best in the world… Michael Jordan, Lebron James, Tom Brady, Floyd Mayweather, Tiger Woods, they all rely heavily on coaching and advice from outside sources to fine tune their game.
You’d be a fool if you think you’re beyond it.
7 – Set Goals and Track Your Progress
I left the most important one for last.
Through out this entire process whether you’re playing games, analyzing your games, or discussing things with friends, make sure you keep a log of all the things you want to improve.
This can just simply be a piece of paper or a notepad file on your computer.
Highlight only a couple of them to focus on and practice on them until you can cross them off the list. Trying to improve at everything at once will slow you down and you’ll only see minor improvements across the board.
Focusing on just a few will allow you to set up drills and training that help you pinpoint the mistakes you’re making them, fix them, and build the muscle memory in order to build a habit that comes out naturally during a game.
It’s not enough to just keep a log of all the things you want to improve.
Write down your goals of what you want to fix, along with a strategy on how to fix it. Have a plan in place that you can follow.
A good goal is something that is:
- Specific – So you know exactly what you want to accomplish
- Ability to track progress – to keep you working towards the goal.
- Must have a built in solution.
Here’s an example of a bad goal:
“I want to get better at aiming.”
It’s not specific enough. There’s no solution, there’s no way to track progress, and there’s no solution. It’s no wonder that when people have goals like this, they don’t see much improvement.
Changing that goal to something like this:
“I want to improve my aim by practicing 20 minutes a day doing headshot only drills until I can hit 25 of headshots in a game.”
With this goal it’s very specific that you want to improve your aim and headshots. You’ll do it by practicing 20 minutes a day doing drills, and you can track it based on your performance with the drills OR that you’ve actually accomplished your training each day.
Lastly, track your progress so you can see how far you’ve come. You can do this by having a large goal of reaching a specific competitive level and tracking your progress towards that goal, or simply just keeping a list of all the improvements that you’ve completed over time.
This will help encourage you to take the next step and continue fine tuning your game.
Now take some action.
The goal of this article is to give you a few tools that you can use to build a regimen to improve your skills.
By no means is this the ONLY way to improve. But it beats the common advice of “play more”.
The most important thing is that you start taking action. Build your own regimen using some or all of these steps. But start practicing and start fine tuning your play with a methodical approach instead of random improvements you MIGHT get just from playing.
Find and log mistakes. Focus on goals to fix them. Track your progress. Rinse and repeat.
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