Why do you suck despite tons of effort to get better? Watching guides, watching pros, and playing nearly every day.
Imagine if you could just push through the skill plague that’s holding you back
Imagine being so good that your streams pop-off, that you‘re competing on the biggest stage, signing lucrative sponsorship deals, and winning prize money which will set you up for life.
- well chances are you’re not going to make it. At least not if you keep getting stuck in the same rank for large portions of the season, making such little progress, if any at all.
- If you want to reach the pro stage or at the very least play at a higher rank you have to overcome the curse of skill plateaus. But in order to reverse that curse, you need to understand the dark magic that underlies it.
- Now obviously, the culprit here isn’t really magic. It’s your own mind. Something equally as mysterious but a lot easier to deal with.
Now to fix this problem, you need first to gain a better understanding of your journey of becoming a better gamer and what your unconscious mind does throughout the process.
You Still Suck
So think about it for a moment, back track to the moment you started playing the game. At first you knew nothing, your confidence was at an all time low and admittedly you sucked.
But eventually through experience and learning you got better and better. And naturally your confidence rose with that skill.
But this confidence can be misleading. In fact, let’s simplify this process into four steps:
Step 1: You Suck (and you know it)
Step 2: You’re getting better
Step 3: You Still Suck (but don’t realizing it)
Step 4: you’re actually pretty good
And chances are you think you’re at step 4 but you’re actually at the third step right now. Don’t believe me? Think that its actually your teammates to blame for your ranked problems? Well think about this…
In an attempt to study human bias, researchers at Cornell University assessed the relationships between subject’s competence and confidence with certain skills (1).
Their findings showed that the subjects who scored lowest on logic, grammar, and humour actually rated themselves extremely well in self-measures. In summary, the most inexperienced and unskilled people in the study were surprisingly the most confident in their abilities.
Where does Dunning Kruger come from?
Now why am I trying to convince you that you actually suck at the game? Am I trying to bully you out of playing it? Well with less competing players it’s easier for me to rank up but no
No, its more of a well-needed tough love approach to help you keep making progress…
And here’s why its necessary. Your game of choice likely has an online ranking system which groups you with others at a similar skill level. If you practice a bit more than the average player in this rank or if you have experience in similar games, you’ll likely outplay most others you’re pitted against. As this happens, your confidence should grow, which is great on the surface, but can hurt you if you let it get the better of you. You’ll likely get so good at competing in this rank that you’ll get promoted to the next one, and that, for many of us, is where we’re shocked at what our level actually is.
It’s normal for players to get promoted only to lose game after game to much better players. This is especially devastating if you’re still several ranks away from where you think you can be.
This ties into the research I mentioned earlier. In fact, this graph shows exactly what this process looks like for most of us, a process labelled the Dunning-Kruger Effect.
When you were wiping the floor with low-ranking beginners while you yourself were a rookie, you were most likely here on the graph, which is harshly termed the peak of “Mount Stupid”, right before you were promoted to a higher rank.
It’s at that point when you experienced the “Valley of despair” because you lost game after game against players who, by competitive standards, were average at best.
This seems to happen over and over, every time we rank up. Like a bunch or these charts stuck together for each rank.
- make a visual for this
Getting stuck at a specific rank is largely in part that you’re stuck on mount stupid. Admittedly its quite nice there. Good view, fresh air, and the perception that the next rank is a few days or weeks away, as long as you get decent teammates.
But the problem is that in order to maintain your enjoyable confidence, you have to stay in ignorant bliss. Constantly assuming that you actually deserve to make progress while ignoring the details of why you’re held back.
There is hope though, because over time, with a new approach, you’ll grow in your skills, and as the graph suggests, will grow in confidence. A confidence that is reliable because it’s based in learned experience rather than blissful ignorance. So how do we avoid falling into the Dunning-Kruger confidence trap, and how do we know whether or not our confidence is reliable?
Aspect of Peak Performance
Now sometimes having overly high confidence is your fault. Its easy to assume that you’re a great player when you actually perform like it. For example consider those games where you play your best, you suddenly feel like a genius and mechanical god. You get into the zone or a flow state and dominate.
Now if only you could repeat that every game you would easily be a full rank higher. The hard truth is that your peak performance is not reliable, its simply your peak. Your average is much more indicative of what rank you deserve to be at. And if you want to reach a higher rank you need to do three things; first admit to yourself that you don’t yet deserve that next rank and its not your teammates fault. Second, recognize that your average skill level is far below your peak. And third, start to build a plan of action to start improving, so that both your average and peak get higher.
The Aspect of Luck (Never Trust Success)
Now, we have to address the elephant in the room. Obviously, I believe that you can’t blame all of your ranked losses on bad luck, and should focus on raising your skill. But of course luck does exist. And its worth addressing.
Success at any game is always going to be a combination of skill and luck. Of course, the more skilled you are at your game, the less you have to rely on luck.
Now, how much of your success comes down to your skills, and how much of it has been luck? Is it 80% you and 20% luck? Unless you have a team of game analysts and statisticians on staff, then its very difficult to tell. What you must never do, though, is assume that luck has nothing to do with your success. And I say success very specifically. We often assume a lot of our losses come down to bad luck, but rarely attribute our wins to good luck. And this is another trap.
You can’t trust success or wins, you have to look deeper. Wins are a voice from the game, telling you that you’re good. But unfortunately that voice sometimes lies. And you have to know when its lying if you actually want to improve.
Practical Tip: Focus on Stats
For example, let’s pretend that you’re a rookie Rocket League player – I know we have players from many games but bear with me – and you’ve just won three 1v1 ranked matches in a row, but your shot stats, save stats, and Goal-Shot ratio were well below the average numbers of players in your rank. If you’ve achieved this, you’ve only proved one thing and that is that you were much luckier than your peers.
This means that you, number 1, can’t really take much credit for those wins, and, number 2, that your wins are unsustainable. It’s extremely unlikely that you’ll achieve three wins in a row again unless you improve on your shots, saves, and other actions that lead to wins.
of course, it’s no coincidence that the best players in any game also have the best stats. So, working on as many skills as possible, as well as frequently measuring those skills is a great way of understanding how much of your success is down to you and how much of it is because you’re lucky.
Knowing this information about yourself will not only help you to base your confidence on true metrics but will also help you to zoom in on the skills you need to work on to become a better player. Not many players will be adopting such nuance to their training, so getting nerdy about stats can give you a significant advantage over the competition.
Great examples of this are Pro Esports organizations like Evil Geniuses that use statistics to assist coaches in correcting League of Legends players and helping them to make the best decisions possible so they can win more often (4). Teams of professionals analyse players’ effectiveness according to a number of measures including Average gold, gold difference, Damage healed per minute, Damage to Champion per minute, as well as many others (5).
Now, it’s understandable that you may not have the resources to hire analysts like the ones Evil Geniuses use, but it is still possible to give yourself the edge using stats so that you can see just how good you are, how much of your success is down to luck, and exactly what to work on.
Depending on the game you play, you should be able to access or measure your performance down to some simple stats leveraging free tools like Mobalytics, Leetify & Tracker Network.
As soon as you start to track more advanced metrics over time, and compare them against others within your rank, it will help dissolve the ego of thinking you’re better than you are, and help give you a direction for what to improve. Its also worth noting that this kind of stat tracking won’t give the full picture of what you need to improve. Its key that you combine it with daily vod reviewing and periodically getting a friend or coach to check out your games for feedback.
Confidence and humility
Finally consider your mindset…
Confidence is good in performance but not in training.
Fear is the enemy when in a pivotal match or round; confidence is what breaks that! But fear of not being good enough outside that game is key to motivating you to improve.
You have to always assume that you’ve never “made it”!
Of course, you think you’re humble about your skills, but are you? Do you fall into the trap of feeling entitled?
That feeling that you’re entitled to better results, that you’re already “good enough” to achieve them, is what causes you to lower your guard, stop looking for ways to improve and thus stop improving.
So if you wish to overcome skill plateaus, improve faster and get closer to your gaming goals, then put the following lessons into action;
Eliminate the mindset that you’re already good enough. Stop blaming eternal factors for your losses. Recognize the difference between your peak performance and average performance, recognize when luck is tricking you into thinking you’re good and start using data & feedback to gain an objective understanding of your skills and where you need to improve.
As soon as you apply each of these, you’ll be able to climb down from that skill plateau, bravely embrace the difficulties of hard training, and emerge from the other side with far more confidence and far more skill!