The Basics of eSports 3: Knowledge Vs Skill(Intuition vs Reaction)

Game Knowledge refers to the mental interactions and experiences between the player and the game. Knowing cooldowns, what items to buy, where to go, your role, what everything does, etc. is game knowledge. Intuition refers to the utilization and practice of game knowledge in gaining an advantage, usually predicting an opponents move, knowing their power spikes and strengths or weaknesses. Intuition allows players to make plays without necessarily having the skill to pull them off by analyzing patterns and coming up with a strategic plan. It might refer to having a point and click(low skill/interaction), but extremely powerful ability that must be timed appropriately in a fight, but otherwise be useless if used incorrectly.

Skill (often called ‘mechanics’) refers to the physical interactions and experiences between the player and the game. Being able to aim correctly, react to/dodge opponents moves, land certain abilities, and quickly outplay opponents are all parts of skill. Reaction refers to the utilization and practice of skill in gaining an advantage, usually out aiming an opponent, dodging their abilities, being able to use mobility moves effectively, or perfectly timing a block or parry in a fighting game. Skill allows players to make plays in the moment, usually with little to no prior thought process, or in the absence of information to react intuitively. It might also refer to aiming skillshots in MOBAs, hitting headshots in shooters, or quickly moving out of the way of an incoming projectile.

These two concepts are often debated by gamers. What determines Knowledge versus skill in a game? What’s important to focus on? Is one better than the other?

The answer is simple: it depends!

For several games, they’ll have one or the other as a focus, however, you should never prioritize either unless that’s the point. Take Tetris as an example. Tetris is a primarily(and some might say purely) skill based game. You see your blocks. You put them in rows. You try to avoid stacking them in unorganized ways. There are a few game knowledge aspects for Tetris, like knowing block fall speeds, what orientations you can put blocks in, knowing what types of blocks there are, but the game play itself is entirely skill based. On the other hand, you could have a game like chess. There’s very little skill based interactions(even with speed chess), however game knowledge is the key to winning. You need to be able to think 5, 10, even 15 steps ahead of your opponent in some cases. All eSports fall between these two extremes. Knowing where your eSport falls will allow you to effectively and efficiently improve, allowing you to become a consistently good player.

In more complex eSports, skill vs knowledge can vary. In League of Legends, with the huge roster of champions they have, some characters are experience based, often relying on a players intuition to play correctly. Others are very skill based, relying on a players reactions and aim to be able to play effectively. Generally speaking, however, League is a very experience based game overall. You need to know what to build/buy, which characters work together, your role in team fights, when to trade objectives (like a tower vs drag), how strong you are compared to the enemy, etc. Only through playing League with these concepts in mind can you improve.

On the other hand, Overwatch is far more skill based. There are, however, some knowledge based characters. Take Reinhardt for example. His primary role is to stand in place holding a shield for his teammates and provide presence. There are a few plays you can make with his hammer or charge/fire strike, but even with his ultimate, the game becomes all about timing, and (usually)faking out the opposing Reinhardt. Genji, on the other hand, is a very mobile character, with a much harder to hit projectile fire. You need to get in close, get your picks, coordinate with the other divers, and get out. With his ultimate, you need to be able to prioritize targets like healers and be able to use your reset on elimination to move to the next target or else you’ll be an easy pick, especially with your much smaller hp pool.

Recognizing what your character/game is focused on between these two concepts will help you determine what to prioritize when learning and improving at a game. In any eSport, being able to synthesize both together in an effective and meaningful way is the key to progressing as a competitive player.

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