When we see godlike, amazing plays in the pro scene, it leaves us in awe, staring at the screen in disbelief. It plays like these that attract our attention to the game and inspire us to keep getting better.
But these godlike plays are only possible for godlike players, those who have mastered the game and developed their skills to a level that seems impossible. And while watching high-level players motivates us to get better, perhaps this motivation is hopeless. Because achieving a godlike level of skill feels impossible, and the path to get there isn’t very clear.
But in truth, even those god-like players, started as beginners. Even they grinded, gathered experience and developed their skills one step at a time. And by learning how they achieved such a high level of skill, by understanding the process that made them “godlike players”, you’ll be able to see that even you can do the same.
So that’s exactly what I’m going to explore in this video. I’m going to show you how your favorite pro gamers went from zero skill to GODLIKE skill over the course of their careers. And by understanding the process from absolute beginner to complete pro, you’ll be able to understand the difficulties and short-cuts along the way. Allowing you to avoid the obstacles that hold back many skilled gamers, and helping you to rapidly achieve a god-like level of skill.
Stage 1: The Motivated Student
When developing a skill, we tend to follow a specific learning path from absolute beginner to complete pro, or as Stuart Dreyfus would put it, from novice to expert. In his five stage model of skill acquisition, Stuart Dreyfus lays out the process one goes through to master a skill, the same process that your favorite eSports pros went through in their journey to the big stage. And in order to clarify the main ideas of this process, and apply them to your own journey, I’ve simplified his ideas and boiled them down to 4 core stages.
The first stage, and the starting point that even the greatest players begin at, is what I like to call the student stage. A point in which you must learn the absolute basics.
Your first step as a student is to find a good teacher – this “teacher” can be an actual person like an eSports coach, or a friend who’s great at the game, or it can be reliable tutorials and youtube guides. From here you must open yourself up to learning the fundamentals, and motivate yourself to master them.
For many it’s hard to adopt this mindset because they don’t want to let go of their ego, they simply want to pretend they already know what to do in order to not look foolish. But this is a mistake. To learn something new you must let go of everything you think you know, wipe your slate clean and become a student, hungry to learn.
Once you’ve found a teacher and adopted the necessary mindset you’ll begin by learning the basic elements of the game and the proper actions you must take based on these elements.
For example, if you are just picking up a game like League of Legend, you will need to learn the rule of last hitting – you’ll learn to identify the elements of an enemy minion’s health, you’ll then learn that when it’s health is low, to execute the action of attacking it. If you time this well and get the killing blow, you’ll be rewarded with precious gold.
At first, you will need to learn all of these basic elements and rules. Whether it be learning to last-hit, block an attack, or toss a frag. But of course, blindly following basic rules will produce a poor performance when you’re actually in the game.
For example by always going in for the last-hit, just because the minion’s health is low, you are sure to become vulnerable and fall victim to your enemy’s attacks.
So as a student you will not only need to learn the basic rules but also learn the context in which these rules make sense and don’t make sense. This will be dependant on learning important situational elements such as how close your enemy is to you while you’re last-hitting… and based on these situational elements you’ll create memorable maxims to guide your actions.
As an example, you learn to use minions health (non-situational) as well as the enemy’s distance and range (situational) to determine when to last-hit. To remember this you think of the maxim: “last-hit when the enemy is at a safe enough distance”. And since “a safe distance” is dependant on factors like the enemy character’s range, and their playstyle, this and other maxims will be learned alongside specific examples and experience.
As a beginner or a student, your key focus is on learning the fundamental rules and situational maxims to guide your performance. Mastering this stage requires both a strong understanding of these fundamentals and the ability to effectively apply them in game. Only once you’ve mastered the fundamentals and developed a strong knowledge base of the game will you be able to move to the next stage in the process.
Unfortunately, many players hit a major obstacle at this stage that causes them to improve slowly or even burnout. And where most people fail is by losing the motivation to make progress… when beginners realize how many fundamentals they need to learn to get good, the game begins to feel less like a game and more like a job.
And of course, when it begins to feel like labor and stops being fun you’ll quickly burn out and stop making progress. But how do you avoid this? How do you prevent this type of burnout, and progress to the next stage faster?
The answer is in focusing on a few specific fundamentals at a time while keeping things fun, purposeful and competitive. You can do this by entering normal matches and setting personal goals that are focused only on fundamental aspects – like ignoring your KDA and just focusing on your last-hitting in order to learn how to do it safely and effectively. Then to go a step further you can record your CS each game and try to set new personal high scores.
Or consider making a game with a friend where you focus only on one or two fundamental skills – for fighting game players, set up a match against a friend where you can only use a few specific moves.
And as a result of keeping it fun and competitive, you will naturally stay motivated to keep playing, as a bonus you’ll quickly master the game’s fundamentals, without it feeling like a chore.
Stage 2: The Emotional Scientist
After some time as a student, you’ll develop a strong understanding of the game’s many elements and rules. And you’ll do so, to such a point, where you suddenly know just enough about the game to realize how much you really do n’t know. But don’t fear, because this anxiety driven realization will be a sign that you’ve reached the next stage in your skill development. This stage I like to think of as the Scientist stage.
Because you now have a large enough knowledge base of the game, you realize how complex and unique every situation really is and understand how many important aspects there are for you to constantly focus on. As a result of this overwhelming, you are no longer able to tell which fundamental rules and maxims apply in each scenario.
For example, you learned that you should last-hit only when the enemy is at a safe distance, but the enemy may not be aggressive, and may not attack you, when you’re briefly in-range, meaning that this maxim may cause you to lose opportunities. Or consider if the enemy’s main poke is a skill shot that you can avoid by positioning behind your minions. Or what if you want to bait their attack so your jungler can come gank them?
The bottom line is that at this point there are an exhausting amount elements and combinations of elements to keep track of. As a result, you can no longer rely on fundamental rules and maxims to guide your actions. So to cope with this overwhelm and confusion, you must develop your own rules and maxims for specific situations, and to do so you must learn through trial and error.
To begin, you must learn what aspects to focus on and which to ignore in a given situation. For example, you may be overwhelmed while the last hitting because you’ve learned that it’s important to keep track of the minions’ health, your enemy laner’s range their abilities, your vulnerability to being ganked etc. But having to pay attention to all of these at once just to know when you should last-hit is exhausting. So you devise a plan of focus, to filter the important and unimportant elements. For example, you realize that a major factor is who you’re laning against, both their character’s capabilities and their playstyle. So you start each laning phase by identifying your opponent and then testing them to see what they’re capable of.
Once you’ve identified a reliable plan of focus, you will be able to tell what is important and generally what needs to be done, BUT you won’t know the best way to accomplish it.
After you’ve analyzed your opponent’s poke capabilities, and level of aggression you know that you can bait out their skill shots, or hide behind your minions when last hitting. But you aren’t sure which is more effective to stay safe, and you aren’t sure how to reliably execute either one.
This is where the “scientist” mentality really comes in. Since you will be constantly faced with unique decisions, and won’t know the best possible actions to take, you will have to rely on trial and error to improve. You’ll have to simply make a decision, execute it, and learn from the results.
You’ll have to learn through experience how to handle a full-mana Ezreal who’s one kill ahead of you. Or how to anticipate and tech an aggressive Zangief’s throw. It’s only through trial and error, and unique experience that you’ll learn the opportunities and ideal decisions to make in various situations.
And this process of trial and error is what’s so unique about this stage. Suddenly you are no longer relying on fundamentals, or previously learned lessons to improve. You are now relying on your own decision making, and thus taking on the full emotional burden of every choice.
And of course, this poses an obvious problem. Since at this point we are still in early stages of learning and are so dependant on trial and error, we are prone to make a lot of mistakes. And, naturally, this causes a lot of emotional stress, which is why it is often this stage that holds many back. Players at this stage often get overwhelmed with the emotional burden of choice, causing them to get tilted and throw the game, or just as bad, they cope with it by placing blame on external factors.
To avoid this, one might think the best solution is to detach emotionally and play with a robot-like quality. But in reality the opposite is true. In fact, Nursing educator Patricia Benner has found that unless a trainee stays emotionally involved and accepts the joy of a job well done as well as the remorse of their mistakes, they will stop improving and burnout. And a potential reason for this is that emotions are important for our memory formation and decision making.
For example, you may have heard the saying that people make decisions based emotion then justify it later with logic. And this is often true. In fact on a neurological level, decision making based on emotion is much faster and much more efficient than consciously thinking.
So it makes sense that while learning, we must wire or decision making with a relevant emotional response. That way our decisions in the future can be made easier and faster. This means that it’s important to take responsibility for your successes and failures and embrace the emotion that comes along with them.
In fact, Stuart Dreyfus notes that it’s important at this stage to even brood over your experience, replaying the performance in your head, move by move, while experiencing the emotions of its outcome. The point, however, is not to analyze your mistakes and insights but just to let them sink in. Experience shows that only then will you continue to improve and become an expert.
To recap, the first stage of skill development includes adopting the mindset of the student and learning the rules and maxims of the game. To master these fundamentals quickly while avoiding burnout, practice them in a way that keeps things simple, fun and competitive.
In the second stage, you are forced to start making your own decisions and learning through trial and error. But only by embracing the emotional weight of each decision and brooding over the experience will you allow your brain to effectively learn. By continuing in this way you will build up a strong mental storage of experience, allowing you to quickly progress to the next stage in your skill development. But this next stage will be left to explore in the next video. In part 2 I’ll show you how to continue improving and developing into a high-level player, perhaps a godlike player.
Achieving such a high-level of skill is something we all desire, but for many, this desire feels hopeless. And the reason it feels so hopeless is that the path from beginner to complete expert is commonly shrouded in mystery, hence why we often attribute high skill level to some godlike gift. But I hope this guide has so far demystified this for you. I hope by showing you the first stages of skill development it has illuminated the first steps of your own development. The first steps that you can use to launch yourself into the world of professional gaming.