"If you can't accept losing, you can't win" – Vince Lombardi

Have you ever wondered why some players seem so unbelievably good at a certain game? Every time their username joins, the game lobby shakes with fear. Hardly anyone wants to play against them, yet everyone wants them on their team. Hopefully by the end of this article we will have solved the mystery of why these players are so good and how anyone can start on their journey to become one of these players.

Before we start, I would like for people to know where I stand in the world of competitive gaming. I am not 'MLG', I have never had an 'Esports' team, and I definitely do not play in million dollar tournaments. I have really only found myself at the top of the leaderboards and competition in lesser known games, but I have found a simple formula that can kick start anyone on their road to competitive gaming in whichever game they play. This formula is something you will see repeated in every competitive community ranging from small to professional (and even professional sports). And while this article will not make you a professional Esports player overnight, as it usually takes years of hard work to achieve this status, if you are not already playing games at any competitive level then this will help get you started the fastest.

To begin I think it is important to state the difference between playing games at a competitive level, and being a competitive person playing games. When I think of competitive people playing games I think of the phrase "PTFO", or Play the 'Friggin' Objective. Competitive people do not like to lose. If you combine these people in a game session with casual players, 'kill whores', and the children who are more concerned with screaming at other players through their mic than playing the game, then you can clearly see where the 'F' in PTFO comes from.

But competitive gaming is not just about wanting to win against players of various skill levels, that would be just a competitive person wanting to win. After all what does a win like that really mean? You may have just beaten a team comprised of eight-year-olds and players racking up kills with no intent of winning. Competitive gaming is striving to be the best player out of all the players, and this starts with playing the best way the game is meant to be played.


A Method in the Madness

As soon as a game is released, the players seeking out to be the best at the game first get involved with something I call 'The Arms Race'. As the name suggests, The Arms Race is when players are searching for the best weapons, upgrades, and techniques to use, and then the best ways to counter them. If you are the first to learn that a certain fighting 'combo move' is the best, then you will probably be the first to learn the best counter for it. Once you learn the best counter for it then you can learn how to avoid or improve upon that counter. The faster you learn the more space you put between you and everyone else. For the purposes of this article we are going to assume that the initial Arms Race is over and we have discovered the majority of optimal techniques/weapons/characters.

There is a really simple way of finding out what the strongest weapons and characters to use are: We just watch what the best players are doing. If you are a fan of watching competitive fighting games, you have probably noticed that the better players have a select few characters that they choose from. The reasoning behind this is that some characters can inflict more damage, possess a higher speed/agility rating, or have some other useful attribute. The more you can rely on the game to do damage for you, the less actual fighting you will have to do. Likewise, shooter games such as Call of Duty and Battlefield feature more than just one weapon per class, yet the more skilled players tend to stick to one or two weapons per class.


Imagine playing a shooter game against someone with similar skill to you: They have a weapon that does 3 damage every shot while yours does 10 damage, who is probably going to win? The answer is obvious. Something as simple as choosing a better weapon can instantly increase your odds at winning, while choosing not to will only make things harder for you.

Being on the other end of a skilled player's gun is not always enough to understand their mindset. Sometimes you need to see why the player goes a certain route or when they follow certain 'build order' in strategy games. That is when YouTube is your best friend. Whenever you are about to start playing a new game, try using specific search terms along with the game's title to find gameplay footage from skilled players. The more you can learn without ever starting up the game, the better noob you will be (and who is not impressed with the level 1 player that can come in first?) Of course it is never too late to search for YouTube videos if you are a few months or even a year into playing the game. (I was on my 7th Call of Duty game before I finally learned these tricks and saw a huge boost in my skill level.)


But entering the competitive scene is not just about catching up to speed, instead most of it is learning how make yourself a force to be reckoned with on the battlefield.

(to be continued...)