Ready to take your gaming skills to the next level this year? In this series, we will explore how to improve your game from the inside out - from attitude to training and how to get the most out of the esports team experience.
SteelSeries Academy (#AkademiaSteelSeries) was originally written and posted to our Polish Facebook page. Tips have been reordered for readability and adjusted slightly for an English-speaking audience. You can find the original Polish text here.
Table of Contents
- Eat Healthy to Play Better
- Preparing for the Game/Warming Up
- The Importance of Rest
- Let's Talk about Anger
- Beware of Tilt
- Keeping Emotions in Check
- 8 Tips for Playing on Hot Days
- Relaxation Techniques
- Adopting a Positive Mindset for Ranking Up
- Overtraining and Knowing When to Take a Break
Eat Healthy to Play Better
Esports and traditional sports have a lot in common, in that the basic idea is to improve our skills and results. To become a better player (or athlete), we must take care of both the body and the spirit. We've all had times where we couldn't concentrate or have been so sleepy that our reflexes cease to exist. This can be alleviated by a proper diet and hydration.
Of course, if you are interested in playing at a professional level, the best solution would be to go to a dietitian, but here are some things you can pay attention to and get started at home:
- First of all - healthy snacks. It's always good to have something healthy to eat at your fingertips. Do so in the right quantities, of course, because both hunger and overeating can negatively impact our concentration during the game.
- Secondly, water and hydration. Always keep a bottle of water around your desk. That way, you can drink according to your body's natural rhythm while providing you with the micronutrients your body needs.
- Thirdly, plan your meals. It is not a good idea to eat a big meal right before an important match. It's best to wait 2-3 hours before you can confidently sit down to the computer. It is also worth considering the meal (and time to prepare it) when planning your daily schedule.
Healthy food will not only impact your abilities in-games, but will also improve your well-being and reduce the risk of disease.
Preparing for the Game/Warming Up
Next, we will deal with a fairly broad issue, i.e. preparing for the game. For the purposes of this entry, we'll divide individual elements into "preparing the environment" and "preparing yourself," with the latter further divided into "mind warm-up" and "body warm-up."
Start by creating a routine before each game, with a focus on reducing or eliminating distractions. Performing this routine consistently over time will help you enter the game with a clear head.
Eliminate distractions for a more stress-free and productive gaming session. Source: GIPHY
Example pre-game routine:
Preparing the Environment:
- Use the bathroom. Let your body be as relaxed as possible, avoiding any surprises or interruptions in-game.
- If you haven't eaten for a long time, eat and prepare cool drinking water for the game.
- Turn off or mute your phone, log out of social networks, do not check your mailbox, etc. Give the game your full concentration.
- Darken the room. There's nothing more annoying than reflection on your monitor.
- Adjust the room's temperature so that you're not too hot or cold. A light, cool environment helps keep a cool head.
- Clean up your desk. This will ensure that you don't snag anything during the game, cups don't tip over, and the cat doesn't cover the monitor.
- Make sure your seat is comfortable. Add a blanket or pillow on top if the your armchair or desk chair isn't comfortable enough.
Once you have the room ready, and members of your household know not to disturb you, then it's time to prepare your inner gamer.
First you'll need the right motivation, attitude, and concentration, or what we call a mental warm-up:
- Recall why you play, what you want to achieve, and focus on that goal.
- Write a list of your most common mistakes in the game and focus on correcting them.
- Remember what you've learned so far. This information is already in your subconscious so you don't have to actively think about it too often - but we recomment doing a replay both before and immediately after the game.
Finally, you'll need to prepare your physical body.
- Lightly warm up the whole body. Do several jumping jacks, squats, push-ups, or whatever is best for you. It's important to wake up your whole body before the job at hand.
- Warm your hands. If you've ever played a traditional sport outside, you know how hard it can be to keep those fine motor skills going in low temperatures.
IMPORTANT: Take care of your hands and elbows! You can get injured from repetitive movement just like any other sport. Hands are your most important tool in gaming, so take care of them just like a professional pianist.
Now, it's time to calibrate everything together. We recommend mini games for reflexes and precision (like 3D Aim Trainer), or even better, use training maps in the game itself. If you're playing a MOBA, run a match with bots or a quick unranking ride. This will get your mind in the zone.
Concentration is defined as "intense focus on a selected object, phenomenon or situation." In practice, it translates into the speed of decision making, active participation in the game, and an appropriate response to individual events. Concentration is also cutting off from external factors that are not directly related to the activity performed which could disrupt the course of thought, action, or game.
Don't let distractions hold you back from playing your best. Source: GIPHY
We all know that a lack of concentration translates into sloppiness in the game, a loss of frags, and a loss of key goals in the game (buildings, towers, power-ups, an important area on the map), right? In this section, we will work on training your focus so that your brain lets you squeeze 110% skill from your mice and keyboards.
It is easiest for us to concentrate when we are rested, we have a free head (i.e. there are no duties, problems or unsolved matters hanging over us), we are motivated, and we have a clearly defined action plan.
Let's start with the simplest way to block out external distractions - play with headphones. Next, prepare for your game using our tips above, such as maintaining a clean play area, wearing comfortable clothing, closing the door, etc. We also recommend that you turn off your cell phone, unnecessary messengers, etc. The last external factor is time. Let's make sure you have enough to play the whole game peacefully so you can keep a calm mind.
With practice, you can disconnect yourself from emotional problems, issues at school or work, etc. For this reason, you must maintain a certain level of excitement for the game. If you're bored, your mind will be free to wander. Stay in the moment.
Here are some tips (you're going to see a lot of these repeated throughout SteelSeries Academy):
- Rest, sleep, breaks, drinking water, and light, regular meals will help you get well with your body and prepare it for increased focus over long periods of time.
- Create a day plan with clearly allocated time for game and preparation. During this period, prepareyour gaming area, calm down, motivate yourself and start thinking about matches.
- Analyze what most often distracts you during the game and actively try to eliminate these factors.
- Set the tasks that are crucial to you and try to accomplish them. Don't be distracted by "side quests" IRL. Plan small steps, not huge missions.
- Compose your own playlist to help you stay focused and motivated.
- Practice concentration and memory by training your mind. The web is full of videos, games, and other ways to train your mind. Find the right one for you and - you guessed - train!
- Warm up! Get your body and brain working together with programs like 3D Aim Trainer.
The Importance of Rest
All right, why should we play only when we're rested?
- Firstly, we will be more focused, our reactions will be faster and we make the best decisions possible. In addition - we will be able to maintain concentration for a long time, making our training sessions more productive.
- Secondly - our memory will work better. As a result, we will be able to analyze situations on the map faster and draw the appropriate conclusions. It will also result in better post-match analysis material.
- Third - less frustration means no tilt. We play better, so we have more endorphins and we have more desire to play. We play because we want to!
- Fourth - health. Better rest is good for your overall health. For example - people suffering from lack of adequate amount of sleep suffer from various ailments like obesity or heart disease.
So what happens when you must play when fatigued - such as with a team from a different time zone?
Here are a few tips:
- Get a good night's sleep the night before the match. It will always work. Get as much rest as your heart desires - it's as important in esports as it is traditional sports!
- Take a power nap before the match, for about 20 minutes.
- Shower. It improves blood circulation and puts you back on your feet.
- Physical exercises. A higher heart rate increases endorphins and results in better oxygenation of the body.
- Coffee, energy drinks - these are great short-term solutions for a quick boost. It won't take long before you will lose steam, however, but caffeine can push you through a single match or so.
- Don't dim the light in this instance as, it can make you drowsy.
- Fresh, cool air - play with the window open.
- Drink cool water during the game.
- And most importantly - every now and then, leave the computer for a few minutes. If you can afford it, it is worth going for a short walk, going out with the dog, or taking out the garbage. Clearing your head always helps.
Let's Talk About Anger
Anger is a natural reaction - it's nothing to be ashamed of or suppressed. It is only our behavior and our ability to deal with anger that determines how it affects our environment, us, and of course, our game.
As the saying goes, "Anger is a bad advisor." This is especially true in esports. Simply put, it's easy to react emotionally during a game when we don't play well, which makes us play worse! This is called "tilt."
Before we delve into this issue, however, let's make a conscience check - does the game cause you more negative emotions than postive? If so, it may be time to take a break. Sometimes, it takes a long separation from a particularly beloved game before you can get your head straight, and that's okay.
How do I know if I'm angry?
This probably sounds trivial, but it's worth paying attention to the symptoms so you can better control anger as it happens. For example, if you notice that you have tense muscles, a clenched jaw, a headache, stomach ache, that you've started sweating or shaking excessively, that's a sign that you should stop before you blow up emotionally.
Also think about how you react when someone disturbs you during the game - if the reaction is aggressive, that's a strong sign that gaming - or that particular game - is causing negativity in your life.
What do I do when I get angry?
Walk away. Leave the computer, take a break, put down the controller, and rest. There are many healthy ways to release that bent-up energy. We recommend you use physical activity like walking, push-ups, squats, or pull-ups. A series of deep breaths will also help.
Staying at the computer or console and continuing to play is harmful to your health, your environment and the people who play with you. No player in the world is going to improve his/her skills by raging!
Sometimes, you just gotta walk away. Source: GIPHY
How do I control my anger?
Take a moment to remember why you play games in the first place. If you're currently playing or want to play at a competitive level, your goal is most likely to keep improving your skills. In that case, anger is the sworn enemy of progress! If you play just for fun, anger keeps you from enjoying yourself.
If a player in the game is causing you undue stress, it's really tempting to engage them and feed that anger! Try blocking, muting, or simply quitting the game and save yourself the stress. It's not worth it.
It may not be the game
Anger may be a sign of other problems outside of the game. Source: GIPHY
You should also consider that you keep getting angry during the game, it might be a manifestation of other problems in your life. Perhaps you're not getting along with loved ones, or having problems at work or school. The calmer your head, the more pleasant your gaming sessions will be.
Ask yourself - am I eating a healthy diet? Getting enough rest? Taking care of your body is vital to a healthy mind, as well.
Did you know that people can become addicted to actions - even healthy ones - just like a drug or alcohol? If you can't imagine NOT playing video games but just don't seem to enjoy it anymore, you might be addicted and may need to speak with a specialist.
Here are two resources that can help:
If you find it difficult to control your anger whether you're playing games or not, there's no shame in getting help.
Beware of Tilt
"Tilt" is a mental state in which the player is unable to make reasonable decisions and emotions take over his/her actions.
Stuck in a downward spiral of playing badly? Take a break. Source: HyperRPG
Let's say you lose several games in a row or repeatedly perform worse than you wanted to. Take a break. You probably won't get the results you want right now - especially in a state of frustration - and you don't want to become toxic to other players. Just leave the computer or console for a while, clear your head, and try again.
Keeping Emotions in Check
On the other hand, if you're on a winning streak, it's easy to get swept up in the moment. Don't let your emotions carry you away or you will charge in and make fatal mistakes.
Make sure you maintain your calm and focus, even though you're excited. It's tempting to jump in and get ahead of ourselves. Take the time to think things through - take a few deep breaths - and remember that no one is invincible! Maintain a cool head and analytical approach to the game, while relying on your practice. Emotions are okay - just don't let them control you!
Tips for Playing on Hot Days
Ah, summer. Even on the hottest days, a gamer's gotta game. That just means you should take care of yourself and your gaming equipment.
Keep playing, but keep safe.
Here are 8 tips for gaming in the heat:
- Ventilate your room at night, and keep windows closed and covered during the day. Fresh night air helps keep everything cool, and the less heat we let in during the day, the better. Keep windows tightly covered to help keep temperatures down and reduce glare on your screen.
- Eat a proper diet and keep a bottle of water at the desk/console. Instead of heavy foods, eat fruits and vegetables. Plus, drink lots of water - not only when you're thirsty, but, regularly, every few minutes.
- Turn off unnecessary electronics and light sources, and turn on the fan or air conditioner!
- Wear appropriate clothing for the heat, preferably breathable and sweat-wicking materials. Keep two towels nearby - one to sit on and one to wipe sweat away as needed.
- Equipment suffers in the heat, too! Make sure you have adequate ventilation. Vacuum the inside of your computer or the console to make it more efficient. (Check to make sure this doesn't void your warranty, if applicable.) Move your equipment away from the walls so that air can circulate on all sides, and keep it in a shaded place.
- Never keep your equipment in the sun. Before you leave the room, make sure your gear is in the shade.
- When it's really hot, play light games instead of stressful matches.
- If it's unbearably hot, take a break! Save it for the evening.
Breathing and exercising can help reduce stress and improve your game. Source: GIPHY
Playing a game at the highest level keeps our minds and bodies in constant tension. This causes us to become fatigued at an accelerated pace. You might play very well in the first game but start to see a decline. You might also begin feeling bodily injuries such as shooting pain in the joints, numbness in the hands, aching fingers, or tennis elbow - these are signs that something is wrong. One of Dota 2's most famous players - Fear (winner of The International), had to take a year off because of a repetitive injury in his arm.
After each game, get up from the computer, walk, and drink cool water. Try to relax your eyes by looking away from the monitor. Simple exercise will also help. And most importantly - when you play, be rested and healthy.
There are many effective techniques for controlling stress but for this entry, we'll focus on proper breathing.
Proper breathing is a natural relaxant. When a person takes a deep, diaphragmatic breath, the muscles along the back involuntarily relax as part of movement. Because the shoulder muscles are largely associated with the lumbar muscles of the spine, this effect cascades across the entire upper torso. In addition, the amount of oxygen in the blood increases and the breathing rate slows down, which increases concentration and physical fitness.
Breathing with your diaphragm helps reduce stress. Source: GIPHY
Here's a simple exercise - put one hand on your stomach and one on your chest. If you're breathing from the diaphragm, then only the hand on the stomach moves, while the hand on the chest remains mostly still.
Before a super-important match or after a stressful match, leave the computer, sit comfortably, close your eyes or look at one point and focus on diaphragmatic breathing. Aafter a few moments, it resets the entire system.
Stress is one thing, what about physical exercises? Here's a great video about hand and wrist exercises for gamers:
Adopting a Positive Mindset for Ranking Up
How you approach your victories and defeats has a great impact on your development as a player. In fact, we should realize that playing ranked games is an opportunity, not a threat; i.e. these are the matches where you can learn the most.
We learn as much from our failures as our victories. Source: GIPHY
The key here is to remember that matchmaking is a challenge, not a punishment. These matches will help us learn and apply those lessons in practice. Only a constructive mindset can lead us to the top of the rankings. During the game we must keep an open mind, open ourselves to criticism and be self-critical, as well.
Don't be afraid of failure - losing is the best opportunity to learn and it's important to give 100% in every match. Don't sell yourself short, or you can create a self-fulfilling prophecy. Saying things to yourself like,"I can't shoot with AWP," "I can only win when I play as a carry," etc. creates expectations which are usually very difficult to achieve, and can be demotivating later.
For the purposes of this series, let's assume there are two types of player mentality: "Closed" and "Growth-oriented." Which one are you?
Overtraining and Knowing When to Take a Break☠️
Each of us has heard this many times - if you want to be better at something, you have to work hard. This is of course true, but it's important to keep everything in moderation.
Training is great, but don't overdo it! Source: GIPHY
In every sport - including esports - training makes you stronger only if you follow it up with an appropriate rest period. For example, strength training pushes your muscles beyond their limites and results in less strength. However, after a recovery period, the muscles become stronger and you notice progress.
In front of the computer screen, however, you can tell that you might be overtraining if your skills are starting to decline despite uninterrupted training. In this case, you need a break to rest. Let the body absorb what we have learned and after a recovery period, we will play better.
Importantly, overtraining can refer to both an overall training period (i.e. after a hard workout for a month we need a few days break), as well as to everyday play.
Finally, we present 5 points thanks to help you train more consciously while avoiding overtraining:
👊 Create a weekly training plan that includes both training and rest time.
👊 Rest is both a break between individual matches (very advisable) and a longer period between training cycles. Take the example of NBA basketball players, who often have a strict ban on touching the ball in the off-season.
👊 Observe how long it takes for the quality of your game to decrease. You'll be able to gradually increase your training load while maintaining the quality of the game. It's important to increase the load in small steps.
👊 Small steps are important because overtraining can consolidate bad habits in your game that will be difficult to get rid of later.
👊Overtraining, bad habits, fatigue, and what follows - losses - cause a decrease in well-being, a sense of wasted time, and an unwillingness to continue playing. If you feel that you are getting worse when playing your favorite game, take a long break until the joy of the game returns.
We hope you found this useful! In the SteelSeries Academy Part 2 we take a look at how your gear impacts your playing ability. Stay tuned!