Being a competitive gamer requires players to constantly and consistently hone their skills in order to reach the top of the ladder and growing eSports arena. Continuous play and practice will inevitably improve a gamer's abilities, but to truly become great one needs to make a plan for his or her development.
Since competitive gaming is relatively new, we must draw our basis for how to effectively practice from other fields like athletic training and habits of elite performers. We've taken some of the best gaming-related advice out there, and simplified it into 5 Rules you can easily follow.
Rule #1: Make a Plan
In order to get better at anything, you need to clearly define goals in order to progress in the right direction. If you're serious about your gaming session, decide what your goal is for this particular practice so you can focus on what to improve. A game like Overwatch has 24 characters to choose from, within 4 different classes. It's ineffective time management to think you can improve all those combinations within one session, but if you focus on just your best position you'll make consistent progress.
Professional Dota 2 player, Daniel “Dendi” Ishutin, says when learning a new hero he plays them for 25 games straight. This allows him to see all the potential situations a single character falls into, so he can make better decisions. Not only do you improve your mental dexterity for that hero, but you're also training your muscle memory to be quick and instant in your reflexes.
Once you've chosen which character, class, or position you want to improve, you can get even more precise by choosing skills to practice. For instance, say you've decided to work on your Magnus in the mid position – now let's focus our minds even more and say we want to master his Skewer skill-shot. Having this intention will create the mental trigger to constantly think about your Skewers, and you'll clearly notice when this skill has its highest success rates.
Make a plan for your practice session, and stay focused.
Rule #2: Play with Better Opponents
This rule has been adapted from an old Chess axiom – “You can only get smarter by playing a smarter opponent.” This one is very simple, playing a better opponent will allow you to see much more about the game and will accelerate your progress.
If you play Ping Pong with a 7-year old, they'll most likely be terrible. They'll never be able to return your best serves, create intense volleys, or be very creative in their play. However, if you play a professional, they'll force you to elevate your game and show you more of the possibilites achievable in the game. They'll make you break your skill ceiling.
Find the best practice partners you can, and openly listen to their critiques on your play; if their obviously better than you, take their advice seriously.
Rule #3: Focus on your Strengths
Although gaming should always be fun, when you make the decision to become the best your priority becomes winning. Everyone who watches football grows up wanting to be a quarterback – you're the leader, you always get a chance with the ball, and you get all the glory when your team wins. However, not everyone is built to be a quarterback. You might be a 300 pound brute force gorilla, in which case you're better suited for other roles. Discovering what your strengths are and leveraging those talents to your advantage will always be more successful and time-efficient than trying to fix your weaknesses.
Rule #4: Review and Reflect on your Matches
“Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” The definition of tinkering is making mistakes to make improvements. Mistakes are part of learning. However, we become stuck in our progress when we continue making the same mistakes, without trying adjustments. One of the great features of modern games is the ability to save replays. When you've had a bad loss, shrug it off emotionally, and watch the replay. Take note of aspects in the game that went wrong:
Did you miss a critical timing window?
Was the communication between your teammates poor?
Did you scout the map and have proper intel on your opponent?
Were you being a team player?
Rule #5: Increase your Knowledge of the Game
In order to prime your brain for maximum creativity when playing, your brain has to have all the necessary information to know its boundaries. A golfer has many clubs in his bag for a reason, if he's in the bunker he uses his sandwedge, because he knows that club's angle is most effective for this shot. Modern videogames have just as many scenarios, with just as many possibilities, with each one having a best plan of attack. Being an expert in ability requires an expert level of knowledge.