How to become a superhero: 3 big things competitive eSports players are doing that you aren't (but should)
It's no secret that watching professional matches in competitive eSports sometimes feels like you're seeing an entirely different game than the ones we play. From their choices to their mechanics, it can often seem like the best in the business are some kind of superhumans built to play on levels we can only dream of. We've done some digging, though, and we're here with 3 of the tricks and tools straight from the professional eSports playbook that will let you ask even these Men and Women of Steel, "Do you bleed?". "They will" is the answer, as long as you...
Have a Plan
The professionals of Counterstrike: Global Offensive, Hearthstone, Starcraft II, League of Legends, and the like all have something in common - they all practice hard, but mostly they practice smart. While we've covered the diminishing returns of just "jamming games" before, we'll put the short version here: just playing for "practice", rather than mindfully and consciously practicing specifics, won't get you much higher than middle of the pack. The most important part of getting better is having a plan for doing so.
If you're logging games but just jamming buttons, rather than keeping a conscious focus on things you're trying to improve, you're wasting time. It's that simple. Whenever you're practicing, try to keep in mind what it is that you want to learn from this game - whether that's the map layout, the safest route to Point A, the key turns to go on the offensive as Priest, or when you want Qin's Sais over Rage as Apollo. Just logging in and playing a game a thousand times is less effective at making you a better player than only a hundred with conscious focus on what you're actually trying to learn.
Speaking of focus, the second big thing you want to do to improve is...
Focus your energy
Speaking of mental focus, most players on their way up need a lot more of it - not only on the game itself, but on specific aspects in it. Many players trying to get better at a game, whether it's SMITE or Titanfall, are guilty of simply trying to advance their game too much in too many different directions, splitting their focus and their results. If you're trying to learn ADC in League of Legends, for example, do your best to practice only ADC. If you can, practice one specific pick for the role.
Then practice it a lot, then practice it again. Keep practicing that single thing until you know the ins and outs like the back of your hand, the way you breathe, or your favorite movie quotes. Play it until you intuitively know your weak points, your strong points, your good matchups and bad - and what to do in either event. As we said above, be mindful of each and every game while you're doing this -- then never stop doing it.
When you feel like you can do this one specific thing as easy as you can think, feel free to start the process over with something else -- but come back to what you've already practiced regularly to keep sharp, and try to incorporate as much of it as you can into whatever you're doing next.
On the topic of keeping sharp, be sure to...
Take care of your body
While it might seem strange at first, one of the biggest growing trends for professional eSports players is a more dedicated focus on physical fitness. Now, don't get it twisted -- washboard abs aren't going to help you land those AWP shots or up your creepscore, but more and more professional teams are coming to understand that a little physical activity and health consciousness goes a long way when it comes to mental acuity and focus.
Ask any player that's been to tournaments (or even had particularly long ranked games) and they'll tell you -- gaming can be hard. Especially in longer professional sets like CS:GO's nearly 30 rounds or SMITE and League of Legends' "best of 5" brackets, you'll often hear analysts and casters comment on fatigue setting in, and the mistakes and misplays it causes. This can (and will) hit the up and comers playing at home as well.
So it follows that one of the best things you can do to up your professional game is keep your energy levels high. If you're spending half of your game thinking about going back to bed, or about how badly you want something to eat, a coffee, or a cigarette, then you're not 100% focused on the game. This is putting yourself at a huge disadvantage, both in terms of winning the match and learning anything from it.
Stimulants like caffeine can ward off some of the effects of fatigue, but can leave you jittery or crashing when you need to be on point the most. Twitchy responses and caffeine rushes do more harm than good to everything from aim to strategy, so it's probably safe to leave the Red Bull at home (no matter how much they sponsor).
So go on -- eat a little better, cut back on stimulants, get active every once in awhile, and make sure you're getting enough sleep. We're all trying to get better, and handicapping our play with poor personal health isn't doing anything but slowing us down.
With these three practices under your belt (as well as time and dedication), you too can go toe to toe with the seemingly superhuman players of the eSports scene. After all, they're not actually from another planet -- they've just put in the hours and effort to make it look that way.
Now go forth and conquer! And capture points. And call titans. And...well, whatever it is you particularly do in the wide world of gaming. But be sure to come back after you're king of the ring, and tell us your own tips and tricks for matching the professional supermen and superwomen of competitive eSports.