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For most gamers, sitting down with a controller means escapism and relaxation. There are others, however, who enjoy games for the competition they provide. A great game can offer an adrenaline rush unlike anything most people experience in day-to-day life.
Of course, that rush can turn to despair when you’re repeatedly stomped. Losing a game time and time again isn’t fun, and isn’t instructive. The only way to solve the problem is to improve gaming skills and dominate what once defeated you. But how?
Knowledge Is Power
There’s a difference between experience and knowledge. You’ll never become an amazing League Of Legends or Starcraft 2 player by just reading articles or watching Day9. Yet reading about strategies can boost your confidence and competency, and is often the first step towards becoming a better player.
By reading about a game, or watching instructive videos, you can learn core concepts that are important and not immediately obvious. You can learn what weapons or abilities are favored in certain situations, understand how different builds work, and learn more about different control schemes.
This information will remove knowledge barriers between you and your opponent, which means you won’t lose because you had no idea what to do. That’s important – losing without knowing why has caused many a rage-quit.
Where do you go to learn about your favorite game? That varies, of course, but there are some common resources. YouTube is a great place to find instructive videos and may lead you to additional reading. Noxxic is a solid source for builds in today’s top MMOs. And game forums are a must-visit, as others will link to top guides or post their own.
Learn From Losing
If you play a game, you’ll lose. No one is perfect and everyone is, at some point, a newbie. The difference between those who become great and those who quit is in how players lose.
Every loss happens because another player did something that you didn’t anticipate or correctly counter. Even if you’ve followed the first tip, and thus know what to do, you may not know how to do it, or when. Only experience can teach you this, and those who beat you can become your best instructors.
When you lose, your goal should be to find out why you lost, and rage-quitting runs directly against that goal. You also can’t learn if your response is to immediately throw out your strategy, pick another class, or declare a unit worthless. To learn from losing you must pick a path, commit to it for a time, and then think about the results. Most of all, you must be willing to accept that you lost because you did something wrong.
Technology can help, too. Replays can help pinpoint problems, but only a few games offer a replay feature. Recording software like FRAPS or WeGame will let you analyze your loss and see details that weren’t apparent in-game. And if you win, you can boast about your mad skillz on YouTube!
Enjoy The Game With Others
Enjoyment can be easy to forget when trying to improve your skill. The game itself begins to fade away, replaced instead by competition, a constant and tiresome struggle against strangers you’ll probably never play twice. This can take its toll – many people trying to ace a game have quit because of burnout.
Gaming with a core group of online friends is an excellent way to solve this problem. These people can see flaws in your strategy that you missed, provide encouragement when you lose, and offer the social outlet many people need to thrive in the face of adversity.
About 10,000 hours stand between you and mastery of a skill. That works out to 416 days. Not 416 days in which you practice some, but 416 straight days of non-stop practice. For most people, spending this much time in a game is absurd, and that’s okay. The basic concept remains intact. The more you practice, the better you’ll be.
Practicing is not the same as playing the game. Practice means pushing your abilities through repetition, challenge, or both. You can’t practice a game based on a competitive 1-on-1 ladder by joining team games, nor can you practice for coordinated team deathmatch by playing capture-the-flag with strangers
As a result, you need to schedule practice aside from time spent playing, even if you do both in the same game. You can have fun in a public match, or mess around with your guildmates in non-competitive play, but when it comes time to practice – practice.
Bring The Right Tools
The quality of a hammer doesn’t determine the skill of the carpenter. But experienced carpenters tend not to work with hammers bought at the dollar store.
Gaming is no different. Keyboards and mice don’t make you more skilled, but they may decrease the possibility of an accidental screw-up costing you a game, and they’re more pleasing to use. I grew up gaming on mice with physical trackballs and I’d never, ever go back. Today’s high-resolution laser mice are smoother, more comfortable and customizable in ways I could only dream of as a teenager.
Should you be tight on cash, and you’re not sure which peripheral to go for, I recommend upgrading your mouse first. A solid gaming mouse can improve accuracy and comfort. After that, grab a keyboard – unless you play or want to play a team game, in which case a headset is a must.
While most games sold today are easy to start playing, many are extremely difficult to master. The gamers who earn world-first heroic raid kills in World Of Warcraft are playing the same game as those who sit in a capital and emote hugs for hours on end. They’re just playing the game on a different level.
Before you really digest any of these tips, you may want to ask yourself if you care. Unless you become a professional, the time you spent mastering a game will bring you no money and little glory. Mastery must come not out of a desire for tangible benefits, but instead a desire of mastery of mastery’s sake.
Image Credit: Vincent Samaco