As with most competitive sports in life the window to compete is finite. Unfortunately even something like gaming, which is known to be mentally arduous, can also be physically taxing as well. Due to that well known fact it is tremendously important to value your time. This seems incredibly obvious, but I’m sure you can recall a moment where you lost all track of time and found yourself hitting “next game” all the way into the morning.
Gaming is peculiar in regards to the time that can be spent playing with relative ease. In traditional sports, more often than not, your body will be the first one to tell you that it’s time to take a break. If you overdo it you run the risk of injury. Based on the severity of that injury, your efficiency can be greatly reduced, even down to zero. The risk of injury is one of the main reasons practice sessions are typically only an hour or two at most. Another reason is because efficient learning is most often done during small incredibly focused activity stretched out over a large period of time.
Our first exposure to gaming plays a large role in how much unconscious time we can spend playing competitively. Think about the games that you played growing up. How did they change as you got older? My first taste of gaming came from games like Dr. Mario, Bubble Bobble, Tetris. Then I moved to Zelda, Metroid, Mario Bros. etc. After that I moved to sports titles, Madden, 2k, and after that, fighters. Our progressions may not be the same, but I’m sure they are similar with a lot of people. At least for the first two genres of games.
Puzzle games are the best at a particular age. They help to teach color matching, dexterity, problem solving. Adventure games are amazing for difficulty scaling, puzzle solving, inventory management. Both of these genres teach progression and give you the gratification that comes along with that progression. For example, getting to the highest level, or obtaining the item you need to kill a boss. Rewards come quickly, challenges are digestible and stories are compelling. The only things stopping us from death gripping the controller are parents and school.
I believe that as we transition into competitive gaming our initial exposure can play a part in preventing improvement. The transition itself feels like our own natural gaming progression. All the similarities support this feeling as well. We still have time constraints, but we are used to long sessions. Gaming is still gaming, which means it can be fun and immersive. Last but not least we still want to be rewarded and feel gratification. So it feels natural to play as we so routinely have.
However the experience has in fact changed. Competitive gaming’s rewards are stretched much farther apart. The path of progression drastically changes and gratification can be restricted by wins and losses. Winning and losing is no longer a battle with yourself or the game at this point either. You’re competing against players who are also trying to win. Often times you play on the same stage, with the same characters or in the same environment. So you even lose the small gratification of change. This sharp increase in difficulty mixed with a decrease in gratification is why valuing your time is so important.
How to value your time
- Don’t allow the belief that the more time spent playing will equate to skill level, and thus bring faster rewards. Playing a lot is required to improve, and you will improve that way. But simply just playing leads to a plateau in skill. The time it takes to make improvements using this method increases every time you reach a new ceiling.
- Be prepared with the best knowledge to succeed before entering a game. Know your match ups, understand your win condition. Take the time to do your research, and apply what you’ve learned while you play.
- Take an hour that would be spent playing and watch one of your replays or vods. You can learn more in a smaller amount of time just by watching and analyzing your own footage. Watch the good games and the bad, identify your strengths and opportunities.
- Set obtainable goals each game for the things you have control of. This will increase your focus while playing and change your motivation from ‘win the game’ to improvement. It’s expected to lose at times, but you want to gain as much as you can out of your valuable time spent.
- Structure in the way you practice and the way you learn is pivotal.
So, next time you sit down for a session. Think about your goals, look at the clock and remember the time. When you finish, reflect on your time spent and ask yourself if you got the most value for your time.