Every year, new games are released, and new esports scenes begin to emerge. As this happens, some players just seem to naturally pick up these new games and instantly dominate.
But how do they do it? How is it that highly skilled players like Shroud can seem to dominate every game they play?
Well, it comes down to how they learn the games. Most of us go through a very passive way of learning new games. We pick it up, watch a few basic videos and play it over and over.
But there’s a far better way to learn new games, one that will allow you to improve your skills much easier and quickly become a master at many different games.
So if you want to dominate new games, and become a multi-talented gamer or streamer, then you need to start by rethinking how you improve.
We can treat our skills in a game like stats in an RPG. For example, in this RPG, you might have a stat for strength, agility and intelligence. Our goal for mastery in each game is to improve all 3 of these.
Now the first stat of strength can be translated into your mental strength. If you want to learn a new game quickly, then a proper approach to your improvement is vital. Without the right mindset, you’ll find yourself struggling to improve no matter what you do; you’ll constantly be in a state of low confidence, battling with anxiety under pressure and avoiding the necessary challenges of skill development.
In the book Mindset by Carol Dweck, we get the idea of the fixed and the growth mindset. While there are many aspects of mindset to work on, this is by far the most important.
The fixed mindset is centred around:
- Your inability to change your situation.
- A self-defeating view on your skills, assuming you can’t improve no matter what.
- And deflecting blame, assuming losses are never your fault.
The growth mindset, in contrast, centers around:
- Proactively examining your games, looking for areas to improve.
- Providing a more helpful perspective on your abilities, letting you judge your gameplay correctly.
- Allowing you to remove the barriers of progress through hard work.
So developing a growth mindset is a critical first step to improving faster. Start by writing down rules by which you’ll treat yourself and your improvement. Commit to being forgiving and self-motivating with how you talk to yourself.
And also, commit to being proactive about your improvement, embracing hard challenges, and extracting lessons from even the most painful losses.
Over time as you practice this mindset, your mental strength will slowly improve, like a progress bar in your RPG.
Now the second stat is the intelligence stat. This we can equate to your game-knowledge.
There are a few ways to look at game knowledge, but the most common way to learn EVERYTHING is by study and experience. And yes, you need to do both.
Experience is easy; you need to play more games and learn as you play. Do it enough, and you’ll understand all the game rules and generally know what to do in standard situations. But, a good approach to speeding up the game-knowledge process is through mental representations.
In the research by Anders Ericson and his book Peak(Ericsson and Pool), we get this idea of mental representations. Essentially they’re a convenient way for our mind to remember important concepts, everything from the macro-game and timing to communication and team comps.
For example, when memorizing core team comps, like dive comp, sentry, triple tank, and so on. For each, you’ll understand what they are, how to apply them and when to use them. For communication, mental representations include callouts of specific areas of the map, which allow you to boil down complex descriptions into a single phrase. And for understanding the macro-game, breaking down the phases of the game allows you to focus on different goals during different times.
Ultimately, your mind likes to bundle information together and then compress it like a folder on your computer. This makes it easier to manage and store.
But when we learn the game through pure experience, it’s like collecting a bunch of files and having them scattered on the desktop. When we learn through studying the game like a subject in school, we can suddenly recognize how to bundle and organize that information.
Thus, learning the mental representations for understanding the game and combining the details and complexities into single chunks of information will make it much more manageable as you play. And will enhance your ability to memorize game knowledge and apply it in new games.
Another primary key to enhancing your game knowledge faster is the resistance method.
In the book Thinking, Fast and Slow, Kahneman mentions how one of the easiest things to learn are long-term aversions, habits of “I’m not going to do this because I don’t like it”; (P.237).
For example, if you can’t stand learning and practicing a specific character, matchup or strategy, you’ll naturally avoid it and stick to what you do like. Unfortunately, over time this means you’ll master the aspects of the game you like to work on, but you’ll leave massive gaps of knowledge in the areas you decided not to focus on.
The author Robert Greene highlights the approach of the Resistance Practice in his book Mastery (P.80) – the core is to focus on what you like least in practice.
You set a rule, and you stick to it. Do you have two or three matchups you despise? Find a good player of your least favourite matchup, and practice against it repeatedly. If you’ve only played one role for a long time, decide which position you like the least, diving deep into guides on it and practicing it until you feel comfortable.
Often, when you pay attention to what you’re avoiding in practice or learning, you’ll find the areas that you are least confident in. But embracing this lack of confidence and creating a learning plan to fix it will provide some of the greatest opportunities to improve!
AGILITY (MECHANICAL SKILLS)
This brings us to the third and final aspect of your game mastery. The agility stat of the competitive gamer is mechanics. These are the physical skills you’re going to need under pressure, such as quick movements, precise aim or the execution of your hard-earned knowledge.
We have several videos on improving performance, most notably on the topic of the flow state ((1) The Key to Improve Your Gaming Skills INSANELY Fast – YouTube). Any effort you put in will be way more efficient if you’re doing it in a state of flow. But what about learning exactly how to copy your favourite pro’s moves?
As with most things, the key is deliberate, constant practice. The same as with improving your specific knowledge and learning about matchups, you want to condition your body to keep up with your mind. So you’re going to build up good habits that you’re going to stick to and constantly improve on as you get better.
So start by isolating the mechanical skills of the game that you need to master. Then discover ways to repeatedly practice them each day, like doing reps at a gym.
Now, to make this even more effective, consider the aspects outside the game that will either increase or decrease your improvement rate.
Being in good condition, physically and mentally, is vital. For example, if you’re playing because you’re stressed, you need to manage that stress first, whether that means tackling the problem head-on or doing some breathing exercises to calm the mind.
In fact, research suggests that meditation can actually enhance your motor skill learning, not only by meditating before learning but even afterwards. For example, in one study, participants that meditated for 30 minutes after learning a new motor skill outperformed the control group with a 22.6% faster reaction speed, demonstrating a significant learning advantage.
Another critical factor here is sleep. Tons of research shows how our learning is only cemented into our brains during sleep. And when we cut our sleep short, we drastically reduce our ability to develop new memories and motor skills. So ensure you aren’t sacrificing your quality and length of sleep as you improve your skills.
For more information on improving your mechanical skills faster, be sure to check out some of our other videos on the subject.
So if you want to become a master at many games, to become just like Shroud and other famous players that dominate every scene, then you need a more intelligent way of improving.
Begin by getting your mindset right, focusing on the growth mindset and how you can reapply it repeatedly as you improve. Then work on your game knowledge, developing the mental representations needed to process more information at a time while also seeking the areas of the game you tend to avoid.
And finally, work on your mechanical skills, isolating the key aspects that will make you perform with precision and enhancing your practice with strategic meditation and optimal sleep.
Rapidly learning new games will become far easier as you apply these methods over and over. And eventually, you’ll begin to feel what it’s like to be idolized by other players who can’t seem to figure out how to get good.
The difference between you and them won’t be some genetic gift but a method of improvement that allows you to work smarter rather than harder and quickly accumulate the abilities of a top-tier player.