In our last post ‘Enhancing Your eSports Mindset‘, we briefly touched on the topic of practical improvement. In that section we spoke about what we believe to be the major foundation to your performance and improvement. We broke it down into three categories.
One – Technical (Fine Motor Skills, Hands)
Two – Meta (Strategy, Game Knowledge)
Three – Mindset (Emotions, Confidence)
You must have equilibrium with these three things if you want to be successful in eSports. You won’t be able to perform if you don’t know the buttons. There is no way you’ll be optimal if you don’t know the ideal strategy and, the first two will suffer greatly if you aren’t in the proper mindset.
For this post, we are going to hone in on the most important of the three. Technical (Hands, Eyes, Mind)
Right Place, Right Time, Every Time
Have you ever watched a grand finals set in Super Smash Bros. Melee? Watched the stock counts go back and forth so rapidly, with so much precision from both players with both characters. Executing their flow charts and situational kill options without a blink. Thousands of dollars on the line, sponsors that need results, people screaming behind them. Have you ever wondered how they can be so consistent each time?
Or have you ever wondered how the best Battle Royale players can have such higher win percentages in games with so much variance? Able to make incredible shots with all different weapons?
Or how teams like OG, Liquid, and Cloud9 can orchestrate perfect team fights despite the chaos that is team fighting in MOBA’s? Every player positioned properly, while hitting each skill at the right time?
Think about how big of a stage they are on, the pressure they must feel. Yet, they are able to execute at a near flawless rate. Have you ever wondered how they do that?
The answer lies in their Technical Execution. Motions that have been battle tested countless times. Trained over and over again until second hand, like brushing your teeth. Having a mastery over the technical aspects of your game allows those things to fall into your subconscious. Enabling you to combine your technical skill with your game knowledge, and your emotions.
Being able to rely on your technical skill keeps you present and in the moment. It allows you to focus on the task at hand for exactly what it is. Whether that’s making a comeback, or securing a win. Your brain is free to navigate different aspects of performance.
So how did they get to that point, and how can you?
The Heavy Bag
Like a boxer in the gym, learning to fight, they spend time using the bags to hone their craft and prevent injury. The traditional heavy bag is how they practice their power. The speed bag is how they practice their hand eye coordination and balance.
This is where your training starts. Learning how to do the proper movements in a safe environment. Like the boxer’s gym, you will always return to this area and it is where you will fortify your self-trust and ability to execute.
For you, it’s training mode. This is where you will spend a majority of your learning time when getting into a game. Doing repetitions on your characters, or running optimal routes. Learning every aspect of your game. As you progress, training mode will be the place you go to remind yourself of what you’re able to do, as well as prepare yourself for the real practice. It’s where you will warm up, and build anticipation.
The importance of this stage in your practice is to ensure that you can do everything perfectly, multiple times. That you understand the fundamentals required to perform in a real game-time situation. Using your time in the training room to visualize your practice, and set your goals. It is not a time to blank out and just simply get your hands moving. It’s your time to practice creating a calm feeling before entering game situations.
If you’re lucky enough to have a game that let’s you simulate real time situations, then take advantage of it and practice those as well. If you don’t, try to visualize what those moments look like and run simulations in your head. Make notes about what you want to look out for, and how you will manage them.
As stated earlier, you will return to this area often. It is a pivotal portion of improving and maintaining your technical foundation. There have been plenty of examples of players who have pre-practice rituals in training mode, to maintain their proficiency.
Stepping Into The Mental Ring
It would be wonderful if we could master our technical foundation in training mode alone. However, it isn’t that simple. A basketball player can shoot by themselves around the court for 800 hours but it will never truly simulate shooting dynamic while in a game. Specifically, when the stakes are up and you’re being pushed to a different level.
When you really start playing you may be surprised to find out that after your hours of repetitions, and near perfect execution, performing against a living unit can cause you to flub.
In game situations are the bridge between your conscious mind, and your subconscious mind. It’s where they meet and attempt to merge. This is where your previous technical practice will be tested. Now that the target is moving and thinking, it will require you to find opportunities to execute the things that you have practiced.
However, having already put the time into training in a safe environment, the ability to adapt and execute in a tighter more stressful window will be easier. During this stage of your training, you will be learning more from feedback, and decision making. How you adjust to different options, and how you can execute properly on the decision tree.
Through observation and reflection, you can make your way back into the training room, and practice specific things that you have experienced. All the while, going through the exact same physical motions each time. Making the scenario the prime thought in your brain, and the execution second. At this point your brain starts to identify that you can never fully practice and overcome the scenario, if you cannot execute. Pushing you subconsciously to merge the two in a safe environment.
This becomes the evolving cycle and strategy of constant improvement from a technical level. Eventually becoming a subconscious second hand.
Your goal as you improve, and increase your challenges by making it farther in tournament or ranking, is to be able to execute technically, regardless of the stakes.
Just by being able to execute more consistently than your opponents is going to net you incredible results. Effort has the ability to win over talent, or imbalances, especially at lower levels. However, as you improve as a player you will face competition more fierce. These players will boast the same ability to execute as you do. At this point, the second foundation, Meta(Strategy, Game Knowledge), and it’s impact will equal or outweigh that of Technical. Since you and your opponent have the same technical ability, then it becomes more about your game knowledge and situational adaptation.
As your brain is attempting to sift through that information, it must be freed up from focusing on what your hands are doing. Especially while you battle the third foundation, Mindset.
Getting To It
Now that I have given you a conceptual overlook of one portion you need to play at your peak, let’s look at some best practices to improve your Technical Execution.
– No movement is too small to focus on. It sounds silly until the smallest thing stood in the way between you and a victory. Take the time to reassess yourself and practice what you already know.
– Use scenario driven situations to practice. Experiment with potential scenarios or replay ones that you’ve struggled with before. Mix up your options and keep your brain sharp. Look up situations that you’ve never been in and recreate them to create pattern recognition.
– Dedicate time to maintaining your abilities before and after competition. Like everything (even riding a bike) our abilities degrade over time. You want to ensure that your sword is as sharp as possible before and after competing.
– Identify when you’re struggling with the technical and develop a plan to overcome it. As frustrated as we may become with ourselves, it’s vital for us to execute. Take the time to forgive yourself, and enjoy the learning process. You may end up playing a different game in the future, or explore different variances in your title. So don’t beat yourself up too hard over struggling, just learn the way you normally would.
– Incorporate focus into your practice, even if it’s solo. Most Fine Motor Skill activities, such as playing the guitar, have large ranges of recommended practice times. I suggest a maximum of 1 Hour in a days time.
– Create a routine for your practice. Take it as seriously as an actual game and use the time to mentally prime yourself.
Improving technical skill by truly analyzing each movement and situation is not something that we normally do in gaming. This form of learning is tried and true. Tested in every other aspect of life. However, it is heavily overlooked in gaming. Here are a few reasons why I think that is.
-We hardly see how the professional players truly developed over the years. Barring a few, and more that are starting to come out.-
-It’s an unfamiliar way to look at gaming. Most people just play and learn on the fly.-
-It is looked at as not being enjoyable.-
This is just one aspect of reaching consistent peak performance. Incorporated by every great, in every sport. By taking a closer look into how greatness is achieved, we bring ourselves one step closer. Even in eSports.