Room for Improvement: Practice Makes Permanent

The Lie

Everyone has heard the phrase: “Practice makes perfect,” commonly understood to mean that consistent practice is the key to perfecting one’s affinity for any given skill. Competitive gaming is no exception to that fallacy. From gamers to martial artists all the way to carpentry and professional sports, athletes and tradesmen have all been victims of the practice makes perfect lie. Practice does not make perfect. Practice makes permanent.

The Truth

Practice makes perfect implies that any amount or kind of practice is the correct path to success. However, what if the wrong skills are being trained? What if the right skills are being trained poorly? Practicing bad habits doesn’t produce positive results; it only seeks to cement poor performance when brought up against opposition.

For example, if a player seeks to improve their accuracy in a game like Fortnite (or any shooter for that matter), simply trying to spend more time placing the reticle on their target (which is the worst way to aim, by the way, but not the focal point of this piece) before firing isn’t going to result in a net positive outcome. In fact, the player may find themselves getting taken out more often before they can pull the trigger. Other things should be considered before deciding to focus on only improving one’s accuracy, such as mouse/joystick sensitivity (which can also be affected by one’s mousepad and whether or not a user aims with their arm or their wrist), playstyle (i.e. assault vs. sniper), even one’s overall health.

The Solution

Practicing the right skills the right way requires some self-awareness, studying, and forethought. Each individual has to analyze their strengths and weaknesses and figure out how to improve upon them. If someone has jerky reflexes and moves their arm or wrist rapidly, a lower mouse/joystick sensitivity may be in order.

Watch pros; record one’s own gameplay and review it; and when using new settings, play a couple matches against the AI (which can be a ghastly suggestion, but there’s nothing wrong with starting from scratch when trying something new in order to incorporate it with preexisting strengths). Keep in mind, however, that the AI is often predictable, while players are not, and training against the AI has a lower skill cap than playing against other people.

Setting up custom game lobbies is another way to improve skills, as gamers can set the rules to be whatever they desire to train specific skills. Need better accuracy? Change kills to headshots only. Need to improve survivability? Play against someone who is better or against the hardest AI difficulty and time how long it takes to die.

A great place to put accuracy, survivability, and other mechanics together is in free-for-all deathmatches. Everyone is out to get everyone, and there can be only one Highlander, because practice makes permanent.

The Right Skills

Knowing what the right skills are is essential to increasing skill in any given game. Knowing the layouts of maps is a must—getting lost and running blindly into dead ends or corners is an astounding way to get trapped and obliterated. Remembering where all the buffs are is also a reason to know the maps. Understanding how to play as part of a team is, more often than not, the difference between victory and defeat. Going Rambo only works in the movies, or in rare scenarios where one person outshines everyone else on both teams. At the highest levels of play, that scenario isn’t even worth considering. The right skills aren’t always mechanical, but all of the aforementioned examples are crucial to maximizing one’s potential performance in competitions.

However, mechanical skills are certainly important. Taking another look at accuracy (aim), understanding the different types of aim are important. For example, flickshots (snapping one’s reticle to the target’s head) require muscle memory. Then there’s leading a target if the weapon someone is using is a projectile weapon, whereas reading the target with “hitscan” requires no target leading at all. Everything from maximum bullet spread to projectile travel times and firing rates are crucial to improving aim.

The Finish Line

Vying for dominance in the competitive esports world is a ripe opportunity to showcase one’s gaming abilities. However, everyone starts somewhere, and while some have a higher base talent than others, everyone has the potential to master their chosen genre of gaming if they put in the time and effort. Conquering the right skills the right way, from knowing the ins and outs of different classes to memorizing map layouts and playing cohesively as a team, is key to realizing the dream of becoming a paragon of competitive play.

So, self-assess, ask for tips from the pros, and put forth the effort to becoming the next big name in esports. Remember, practice doesn’t make perfect. Practice makes permanent.

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