Many great esports players have been labelled toxic, and no doubt they had their moments, everyone from Doublelift and S1mple to Imperial Hal and even FNS.
If you want to play like this pros then you need to care about the game as much as they do.
In fact we can see a similar level of competitiveness in top sports legends like Michael Jordan who was also known for his intense toxicity towards opponents…
But such toxicity while sometimes being connected to greatness, can also tear teams apart. Teams in both esports and traditional sports can be stacked with tons of individual talent yet completely fall apart due to a toxic team environment.
So is competitiveness a key asset to be nurtured, or is it the very thing holding back most esports players? And if you aspire to play more like Double Lift, S1mple, Imperial Hal or FNS, then what can you learn from both their good side and bad?
- Highlight good players who are toxic –
It’s easy to see a clip of a pro player being toxic and judge them. Of course, they shouldn’t act like that. Of course, they should control their emotions. Of course, it isn’t right to lash out at others.
But if toxicity is such a limiting factor, then how is it that so many great players have a history of being toxic?
And why do we seem to love toxic attitudes?
In Games like LoL, you have beloved streamers who’ve stirred controversy with their toxicity like Tyler1 & LS, and of course, this continues in other games like CSGO with pro players like Niko and S1mple, and traditional sports with Kobe Bryant, Tiger Woods and so on.
The attitude of superiority coupled with a dominant level of skill is infectious and makes one wonder if adopting a Gordan-Ramsey level of intensity is actually necessary to become great.
3) Benefits of competitiveness)
But why is being aggressive so often correlated with success?
Well, think of the opposite. Think of someone who plays games casually. They have a ton of fun while playing, are rarely phased by any losses and don’t care about what rank they can get. Playing casually like this is great. But it’s not conducive to improvement. If you want to get good, you need to do the hard practice, get motivated by your losses and play to win.
And if you want to play at the top, you need to take this to a whole other level. You need to make major sacrifices, push through dark times and keep training when you don’t want to.
In these moments when the good feelings aren’t there to motivate us, it’s the dark ones that we can rely on; the competitiveness, proving others wrong and the obsessive need to win.
In fact, Imperial Hal, as an example, even said that the reason for his heightened emotions is simply his competitiveness. The same competitiveness that drives him to play, day in and day out.
So are toxic pros the anti-heroes of esports? Is toxicity actually their superpower? And if being a bit toxic is what it takes for you to become a master in your game, then wouldn’t it be worth it?
4) When it becomes bad
Well, let’s consider when the toxicity goes wrong.
As I mentioned at the start of the video, toxicity destroys teams.
In order for teams to succeed, they need to have a critical element, a sort of bonding glue called Psychological safety (coined by…). In a nutshell, this is the feeling that you can be open, honest and make mistakes without having to worry about being attacked by others on your team. With psychological safety, teammates can be constructive, offer fresh ideas and learn together without fear.
But with a dominant, toxic personality on the team, this aspect quickly disappears, and the entire team suffers.
Attitude during performance vs outside of performance;
When does competitiveness turn into toxicity?
The caveat, this gets them to a great level of INDIVIDUAL skill, but it won’t make them a pro.
Many succeed in spite of being toxic, not BECAUSE they are toxic – this isn’t a behaviour worth replicating.
Anger, tilt and toxicity can weigh you down a lot.
Well, I want to break down where exactly toxicity comes from, how the psychological factors underneath it can actually help you succeed, and how it has helped and hindered high-level esports players.
The intense emotions that lead to rage compilations and esports drama are really just wasted emotions. And that same emotional power that can ruin reputations could otherwise be harnessed and used to win more games.
You can liken it to Starwars and using the dark side of the force – but when used for good can actually make you unstoppable.
In fact, legendary Basketball trainer, Tim Grover, explains that many of the great players he’s worked with, like Dwayne Wade, Kobe Bryant, and Michael Jordan, were so dominant and competitive at the highest level because they embraced their “Dark Sides”.
But he also explains just how necessary tapping into this dark side can be.
It’s evil if you use it for excuses or to harm others.
How to overcome it
So as a PSA to yourself and the pro players who sometimes waste the power behind their emotions, begin by recognizing that what many label as toxicity comes from a good place, and be the first to admit to yourself that you aren’t always the best at controlling it. Then consider the following three tips to gain greater control over your own mind.
The first tip is to make training plans, not excuses. Unless it’s brutally clear that we messed up, we tend to find external things to blame for our failures; bad luck, terrible weapons, dumb teammates and so on. But as soon as you make excuses, you lose the opportunity to learn. So when things go wrong, catch when you make excuses and dismiss them. Instead, take a hard look at what you could have done differently and start making practical training plans for how you can work on it during your next training session.
The second tip is to take extreme ownership. Now this is a term borrowed from the ex-Navy Seal Jocko Willink that entails taking ownership over absolutely everything; not just your own performance and mistakes but also ownership over your teams mistakes or seemingly unlucky situations. Its too easy to point fingers when your teammates clear did something wrong, but most don’t stop to think if they could have communicated better, prepared their teammates better, or done something different that wouldn’t have led to that seemingly “unlucky” situation. So when things are clearly “not your fault,” take ownership anyways and ask yourself what you can do to better help your team or control the situation next time.
This leads to the last tip. If you want to beat others, you need to focus on beating yourself. If you’re not raising the bar for your own skills, deeply analyzing and training your weaknesses, and objectively measuring your performance for insight, then when the enemy wins it’s your own fault for letting them out-train you.
So is competitiveness a good thing or a bad thing? Are seemingly toxic pros holding back their teams?
The answer to that lies in their own hands. Only their own self awareness can save them from tearing his team apart. And only his own attempts at self improvement can allow him to harness that toxicity and use it to propel his team forward.
As the captain of his team its up to him if he wants to take ownership or make excuses. And the same lessons apply to you. If you want to become great, lean into your competitiveness, but put in the effort to take control of it and use it to get the top!