You sit down, ready to play, no, ready to practice.
You’ve been on a mission for weeks now, determined to climb to the next rank, and the only thing that’s in your way is a bit of personal improvement.
You start by playing match after match, having good games and bad games, but knowing all the while, that it’s all part of the process.
Then out of a desire for a break, you head over to Twitch where your favorite pro player is live.
You watch him closely and notice the very different strategies and play styles that he uses. It’s entertaining, and a little inspiring.
It’s not long before you’re motivated to hop back into the game yourself.
This motivation carries you on and brings you through a few more hours of gaming before things start to slip. You lose one match, then the next and now you’re feeling frustrated, wondering “what the hell am I doing wrong?”
But you console this frustration by watching more gameplay from high-level players and even skimming through some tips and tricks videos.
You eventually hop back into the game yourself, grind out a few more hours and then finally log off.
And at the end of it all, you look back at it all and tell yourself, that it was a well rounded day of gaining new experiences and learning from the pros.
But despite all this experience and lessons that you gathered throughout the day, you wake up the next day, only to remember one or two small tips. It’s as if your mind was wiped clean and most of your experiences just never happened.
But you don’t think much of it, you enter the next day to do it all over again. And then the cycle continues for weeks while you seem to be stuck at the same skill level.
Eventually, you feel less and less confident. You notice that your friends are getting better, but despite your effort, you feel like you’re almost getting worse…
This is a perfect example of putting in the effort to improve, yet retaining very little.
And what’s so scary about this scenario is that it often happens without us even noticing. We go through a day of intense gaming and gather tons of nuanced lessons and keys for improvement, yet we retain very little.
But imagine if we could just absorb more information and learn at a faster rate. what if you could learn and develop at a faster rate?
If you could retain more information and learn at a faster rate, you would develop a genius level of game-sense and a pro-level of understanding for the game. You would finally be able to out-think nearly any opponent and push through to a higher skill level.
So the only question is, how exactly do we make that happen?
It’s no secret that pro players have some sort of super-human understanding of the game, and this is often referred to as their instinct or game-sense.
This is more or less an abundance of game knowledge, and lessons from past experiences, which are all wrapped into a bundle of information. And that bundle of information it then used to make complex decisions, mental calculations and execute highlight-worthy plays.
Of course, when you backward engineer this, you realize that developing a pro-level game-sense is really just a matter of absorbing all that game knowledge and experience. And in order to do that, all you need to watch guides and tips and tricks videos, study gameplay from pro players and then constantly grind out games to gain your own experience.
But you likely know this already, so you maybe watch pro players, you study the latest strategies and you put in the time needed to improve. But still, you might find yourself making careless mistakes that you know you’ve made before, or completely forgetting most of the game knowledge you’ve learned in the past, and retaining only small bits of information after watching hours of pro footage.
And this leaves the question – Why is it so difficult to retain this information? And is it possible to absorb knowledge easier so that we can improve faster?
Well, to answer these questions we need to first understand how you learn and how your memory works.
The memory is often thought of like a computer that takes in information and then stores it in the long-term memory which is sort of like your database.
But in order for you to gain new knowledge, your brain must go through the steps of absorbing and encoding sensory information, processing it in your working memory, and only then storing it in the long-term memory.
In other words, in order to store that information in your mental database, it needs to be filtered and processed.
The key factor for all of this is your working memory. The working memory is responsible for processing new information, comparing it and mixing it with information that you already know, and then using this cocktail of information to make decisions, recognize patterns and most importantly store the new information in your mental database.
But here’s the issue, your working memory is limited. On average we can only hold 2-4 chunks of information in our working memory at a time. And those 2-4 chunks of information are only held there for about 10 to 20 seconds unless we do something with it, like process it, write it down or apply it to something.
And these limitations create bottlenecks in the learning process – because if we don’t actively rehearse and process new information for an extended amount of time, that information will never get sent to your long -term memory, it will just disappear.
And of course in our day to day lives, and even in our gaming matches, we are bombarded with a downpour of information. And since the working memory can only hold a few slots of information, every time we switch our focus or need to take in new data, the short-term memory basically hits the reset button to make room – meaning that we are deleting the information before it is ever processed or absorbed.
This is why you often feel so limited as a player… You might watch pro players and pro games and feel like you’ve learned something, but then fail to actually make any changes. You might be constantly grinding out games but not learning any clear lessons. You perhaps you’re watching YouTube guides, but then if asked to recite all the tips and tricks the next day you’d probably draw a blank.
And the reason this happens is that your brain couldn’t process the key information quickly or efficiently, and as a result, it was never absorbed.
So your memory is very limited and flawed. But just because of that it doesn’t mean that it’s not powerful.
When your working memory is successful, it effectively organizes tons of information into complex patterns called schemas.
And schemas allow us to learn faster!
When you develop an understanding of something, your brain essentially creates a new network, a new web of information. And the more webs of information we have, the easier it becomes to connect a new network to ones that already exist, thus the more schemas we develop the easier and faster it becomes to develop our game-sense.
So if we can effectively improve our working memory and our ability to get information into the long-term memory, we will improve our knowledge and skill at an increasing velocity.
So how do we unlock our brain’s ability to learn at such a fast rate? How do we nurture the information in our working memory so that it can be processed and encoded into the long-term memory?
While there are many advanced learning techniques that are out there, I’ve taken some of the easiest, yet most powerful ones and created a 5 step process:
1. Address the Limitations
The first step is to address the limitations of the working memory
Since the working memory is limited in capacity, we need to slow things down.
The surplus of information that we need to process during any game is just too much, it makes it difficult to take away any clear lessons.
This is why professional players review their matches. When you are reviewing your match you are able to slow down the game, highlight key plays, and actively gather key lessons at a pace that your brain can learn.
Similarly, if you’re trying to gain new information while watching a guide on YouTube or watching a pro stream, actively pause the video when you discover something important. Slow it down, give yourself time to ponder one or two pieces of information at a time.
By giving yourself this extra time to stop and think, your brain won’t actively delete the information like it would otherwise, you’ll finally have the opportunity to store it in your long-term memory.
2. Write it Down
But once you’ve slowed things down and cultivated a focus on one or two core ideas, you must actively process and record the information.
Since the working memory only tends to store information for about 10-20 seconds, you must start by mentally rehearsing the information that you’re trying to commit to memory. The most effective way to do this is to start writing down while you’re learning them.
When you actively write something down you are forcing yourself to mentally rehearse it at a slower pace – stretching out the time that you’re pondering the subject and making it more likely to stick in your long-term memory.
So as you watch a tips and tricks video, review a match, or watch a pro player, take notes on each key lesson until you’ve collected a handful of important ideas.
3. Deeper Processing
But as I mentioned earlier the brain learns new things by creating mental webs of knowledge, where each piece of information is connected to other pieces. And the more connections that we make to an idea, the more that idea will stick.
So take these core lesson or ideas that you wrote down, and think about the details of what they really mean and how they really apply to what you already know – consider how they add to your existing knowledge or how they completely change it. Then consider what context this information or these lessons will matter most, and why exactly they’re so important to remember.
Then of course, once you’ve given these ideas context and meaning, be sure to write that down with your notes.
4. Recall – Commit 2x as much information to memory!
Then once you’ve recorded the key lessons, and their significance, it’s time to commit them all to memory using a powerful technique called recall.
Now, recall is really just the process of looking away from the material and seeing what you can remember, simply based on memory – think of preparing for a test using cue cards.
In one experiment students who studied a text and then practiced it by recalling as much information as they could and repeated that process learned far more than their peers who either went on to something else or reread the text over and over again.
In fact, the recall students learned about 80% of the key facts while the non-recall students only learned about 34% – meaning that by simply using the method of recall, the students were able to learn over twice as much information!
So attempt to recall the information that you wrote down, without looking at the material, and only look back at it when you can’t recall it. Then repeat this process until you can mentally recite each core idea and the context, just based off memory.
5. Applying the lesson
And finally, it’s time to apply these learned lessons.
If it’s a strategy you just learned about, then hop into a game and practice it. If it’s a key tip for improving your accuracy then hop into a game and practice it, if it’s a breakthrough on a new mindset that you want to have during ranked games, then hop into a game and practice it.
By immediately putting the lessons into action, you’re not only remembering it easier, but you’ll start to turn the knowledge into a subconscious habit, or instinct.
But of course, if your key lesson is something that requires a very specific situation to apply it, then use visualization.
For example, if you learned something new about map control against a very specific enemy, in a very specific situation, then it may not be easy to replicate right away – but you can still use visualization to trick your mind into thinking that you’re in that situation.
Picture yourself in a scenario where the key lesson comes into play, then slow it down in your mind, see yourself making the decision and taking the necessary action. Feel what it’s like to make that decision and see what the result would be.
And so this is the process: start by slowing things down and cultivating your focus, then writing down the key lessons that you want to remember, processing these lessons deeply, using recall to make sure the information sticks, and finally applying it so it becomes an instinct.
And consider the implication of this process. By even just writing down key lessons that you want to remember, then looking away and using recall, you’ll at least double your learning ability!
But of course, implementing an aspect of taking notes and studying your material might seem a little weird when it comes to your gaming sessions.
We usually just play one match after the next, or watch a video and then move on right away.
But by taking the time to review your matches, write down and ponder important ideas and actively commit them to your long-term memory, you’ll surpass the limitations of the mind, and vastly improve the rate at which you develop as a player.
So get yourself a notebook that you can dedicate to recording your gaming lessons. And start implementing this process today.
Of course, you don’t need aggressively take notes on everything, and memorize every piece of information you can.
But, by actively learning a few major lessons every day, you’ll be able to improve at a faster and faster rate, absorbing more and more game knowledge, and developing the game-sense and instinct of a pro player!