The Basics of eSports 4: Efficient Practice

When it comes to any sort of competitive hobby, it’s not enough to just grind out games through quantity. You NEED to practice effectively, or you won’t make any progress at all. If you have no idea what to work on, there’s no way to improve. This fact is true of any and every eSport, and this conversation happens at every level of gameplay. 

Take Elon Musks 1v1 DoTA 2 bot, for example. Pro players took maybe one game off the AI before it crushed them. Granted, this was in a very isolated setting, with limited item buys, and character selection, however; it did show pro players what they could do to improve in this particular situation, which they took note of. Just as teams develop and adapt to their opponents in traditional supports, so too do teams in eSports, however; eSports teams must learn at an accelerated rate due to the frequent changes to their game. Nerfs, buffs, or outright changes and reworks happen all the time for eSports. Often it’s an arms race to see who can figure out the new “overpowered” (op) strategy, character, item build, skill path, etcetera–what’s called the “meta”. Meta’s change by countering or just outclassing the previous meta, and those meta’s get countered by the next meta, and so on and so forth. In the world of eSports, keeping up with meta shifts and practicing them before, or better than others gets you advantages, which gets you wins, which gets you prestige.

Many rising stars in newer eSports like Overwatch’s Seagull have years of prior experience from similar games, like TF2. The advantage newer players have, however, is that these older players have paved the way to getting better at their respective games, thus allowing newer members of the community to practice quicker, and more efficiently. Even in some of the oldest eSports, namely Counter Strike, younger pros are able to keep up as it’s a mostly mechanical game. Often the older players game knowledge/game sense, and experience keep them ahead, but newer players tend to be far quicker and aim better as long as they put in the practice. League of Legends’ preseason changes drastically change the game, despite the champions remaining relatively the same. New build paths open up, new characters come out on top, and younger players learn the game differently than older ones. Newer players don’t need to fight off bad habits from previous meta shifts, or get rid of useless knowledge (I can still remember the old jungle routes and timers but they aren’t relevant anymore!). Obviously there are exceptions to this rule.

Take Faker, for example. Faker has been widely regarded as the single best player of League of Legends for over 5 years. He’s always able to adapt and stay on top of the meta. Sure he has slumps, but when it matters, he’s always there and ready to go. Of course, he also plays up to 13 hours a day in his gaming house with his team, and most of us don’t have that luxury, but most of us aren’t aiming for the #1 spot either! Back when I played league, and currently when I’m playing Overwatch, it only takes a few hours a day of practice a year to stay in the top 5%(diamond IV/Master 3750 respectively) as long as you know what to practice, and you can practice it efficiently. Quantity does not equal quality in any complex eSport. Getting to the point where you can play for around two hours a day and still maintain your top 5~% rank by efficiently and effectively practicing instead of mindlessly playing will allow you to make the decision of whether you want to pursue said eSport further by spending more time on it, or move on without wasting too much of your time(this’ll get you around 900~ hours in a year of game time!).

When it comes to practice, watch the pros and copy what they do, and look up expert training exercises in your respective game. Stick to one of them at a time. If one concept is practicing your flick shots because you want to play McCree in Overwatch, that should be your daily, or even weekly goal. If another concept is CSing in League of Legends, you should stick to that for a week, or even a month, as it’s a fundamental concept of League’s gameplay. Certain concepts are more important to study/practice and it’s up to you to figure that out using the resources available.

Many of you might be asking when do you practicing aiming, but the answer is you don’t. Aim will come naturally, and can be implemented into any practice regimen(Strafing > practice shooting bots during it. Movement > keep crosshair on a single target). Since aim is a fundamental aspect in games like Overwatch and CS:GO–even League with skill-shots–you’ll naturally pick it up, so focus on more obscure topics that impact gameplay.

Prioritizing and focusing your practice schedule will allow you to greatly improve, and help you determine if you want to pursue an eSport further(which I’ll cover in an advanced post later).

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