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SteelSeries Academy Part 4: Improving Your Skills

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.

Welcome back to SteelSeries Academy! In Part One, we covered the importance of mental and physical health for gamers, in Part Two, we went over how to use your gear's settings to your advantage, and in Part Three we offered tips for playing on a team.

Today, we're going to review different ways you can improve your skills for playing on your own as well as in a team environment.

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

  1. What is Skill?
  2. Learning from Replays
  3. Jumping in After a Long Break
  4. Climbing the Ranks
  5. Improving Hand-Eye Coordination
  6. Avoiding Tunnel Vision
  7. Improving Response Time
  8. Improving Accuracy
  9. Six Habits to Dominate Ranked Games
  10. The Most Common Training Mistakes

What is Skill?

To have skill, you must first define skill. Source: GIPHY

What makes you good at games? The answer isn't exactly black and white, but we can break down certain skills you will need that, when used all together, can make you pretty darn effective at any game you set your mind to.

The skills required to win will vary depending on your game of choice and play style. For some, the quintessence of skill is landing headshots, while for others it will be using extensive knowledge and experience to outsmart the opponent. Other others, skills are measured by versatility and the ability to adapt to each team. For players that want to become or remain an esports pro, the real skill is the ability to run the game and be a good captain.

As you can see - "skill" is a very capacious concept, which includes purely mechanical skills (e.g. APM in RTSs), mental qualities (e.g. the ability to cope with stress and keeping cool, or a general attitude to the game) or a strategic sense that allows you to predict your opponent's next move.

The best players have highly developed skills from each of these categories. In addition to physical abilities, they maintain a winning mindset, keep a cool head during the game and make decisions based on experience. At the end of the day, they usually excellent team players that are able to adapt to any strategy chosen by the captain.

The first step to improving skills is to become aware of your own shortcomings. The more critical your approach it, the sooner you can improve.

You can learn alot about yourself through failure. Source: GIPHY

Try this: next time you practice, write the below skills and give them a score between 1-10. This will give you an idea of areas to improve.

☠ accuracy
☠ reflexes
☠ game knowledge
☠ adapting to changes mid-game
☠ ease of communication
☠ ability to keep a cool head
☠ no tilting
☠ leadership skills
☠ strategy

Feel free to add more as you see fit. You can also have a teammate score your abilities to assess your performance after a game. An outside look can give us an honest look at our shortcomings.

If your team lost the game, it means that the opponent was better in some way. Sometimes our opponents appear weak but still manage to win - that could mean that you underestimated their abilities. Perhaps he/she was mechanically weaker but tactically superior? Definitely something to consider when analyzing your losses.

DON'T: Look down on other players while trying to improve your skills. DO: Prove it in-game.

I have a particular set of skills... Source: GIPHY

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Learning from Replays

Source: Tenor

The analysis of one's own mistakes is one of the most important elements of development in every field. Thanks to the digital nature of esports, replays are built right in so we have instant access to a performance review. However - the most important thing to remember is to keep emotion out it - this is purely an analytical look at errors and of course, what you did well, too!

The best matches to review are those in which your opponents were evenly matched. Look for your strengths and weaknesses against those with similar skill levels. This may seem counter-intuitive - after all, shouldn't you aim higher? Improvement takes time and a lot of small steps. Focus on the small things and they will add up to a much larger overall improvement.

Keep a notebook next to you when you play. Every time you die, quickly write down whether it was your fault (you timed your attack too soon, they outsmarted you, etc.) or something having to do with the game, i.e. a bug. Then, review the footage when your match is complete and go over the deaths again. Pay attention to your timing, decision making (did you jump into a fight unprepared or too soon?) Where was your team at the time? Were you following your objective or trying to grab an opportunistic kill that didn't work out?

Watch the replay from both your perspective and that of your teammates and opponents, too. This is a great way to see if you fell victim into an ambush or whether you have ran into crossfire, etc.

Keep a notebook handy to keep track of observations both good and those that can be improved upon. Source: GIPHY

Important: Be honest about your skills. Don't beat yourself up, but don't instantly get mad about the opponent, either.

Here again - the small steps program - for starters, choose the role you want to play in the team (or what aspect of the game you want to improve), find a player who stands out in this respect (or who plays the same role in the team) and start analyzing his/her game.

Note their in-game movements, favorite places on the map, effective farming paths, how they use the cursor, how to join the fight, how to make decisions, etc.

Tip: It's never a bad idea to watch and study professional player tournaments, but they are best-used as inspiration and to help you set specific goals in your career. Comparing yourself to a professional right away can make you feel frustrated.

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Jumping in After a Long Break

Don't assume things are as you left them. Source: GIPHY

For some of us, the holidays meant more time to play, but for others, it meant more time away from the computer or console. If you're coming back to the game after some time away, here are a few tips for shaking off the rust:

  1. Check for patches and news about the game for any changes, new play styles, maps, etc.
  2. Having a hard time getting back into a schedule? Watch replays of great matches from yourself and streamers to fall in love with the game again.
  3. Play on your highest level account (preferrably not smurfs) to attract the best opponents for improvement. Playing to rank is one thing, but if you want to improve, you will need to play at your best against a worthy opponent
  4. Start with unranked matches to warm up - both for your own good but also the good of your teammates.
  5. Start with your best character, role, weapon, etc. so that you are confident and can play your best.
  6. Play some 1v1 matches against friends to loosen up and analyze your gameplay in a low-pressure situation.

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Climbing the Ranks

Leveling up is hard work, but worth the effort. Source: GIPHY

Do you feel like you're always lower in the rankings than you should be and that your skills are much higher than your position, rank, Elo or MMR? The hard truth is that in 99% of cases we are exactly where we should be - and that's not a bad thing!

How often do you play? By playing dozens (or more) matches a month, our skills are pretty well established one way or the other. If you play slightly better than your ranking, then that rank will slowly grow, or vice versa.

Why bother saying all this? Because it is extremely important to know exactly where you are on the ladder before you can change it. We must all accept our level before we can objectively and critically approach our own game to start learning. It's a great start.

Of course - we know how it is. There's always a quitter, feeder, flamer, problems with the connection, someone who bought an account, and so on, but keep your head up. It's been suggested that out of 10 matches, 4 matches are unwinnable, 4 matches are unbeatable, and there are two matches in which the quality of your game and behavior will determine the result. If that's true, you never know which two matches will give you the opportunity to win so always give 100%.

You can do it! Source: Tenor

Here are some things to keep in mind as you try to level up:

💀 Take the time to warm up. Jumping into an unranked game before ranks always helps.

💀 Divide your games into those in which you want to win (ranked) and those in which you want to train (unranked). In the former, choose your strongest role, weapon, champion, etc. For practice, feel free to work on practice on roles, etc. that you want to improve.

💀 Trust your teammates. With very few acceptions, everyone wants to win. You can do so much more as a team!

💀 Keep a positive attitude. It's not always easy, we know. But try to support your colleagues and motivate them to do their best.

💀 Keep your criticisms objective about wins and losses.

💀 Analyze your losses and adjust your strategy. Did you choose a weaker hero? Or use an old play style that gamers are ready for?

💀 Be on your best behavior. We say this a lot in SteelSeries Academy because it is so important. Not only are your representing yourself, your team, and gaming as a whole, but most games have an unofficial ranking system that assesses players by behavior. The higher rank you are, the better you need to act - be a good example!

Don't try to assess your growth too soon - only by playing for several months or an entire season will give you an accurate picture of growth or stagnation.

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Improving Hand-Eye Coordination

Hands, why u no do what I want? Source: Tenor

Eye-hand coordination is the ability to synchronize movements with what we see with our eyes. This is one of the first (and most important) skills we acquire in life. Improving this skill starts at birth and video games allow us to develop it to an amazing level.

Want to perform flick shots, that amazing last hit, or some other crazy feat in-game? Take care of your eyes!

Tips for keeping those eyeballs in shape:

Central and peripheral vision: this is how far you can see to the front and side without moving your eyes. By improving the peripheral field of view it will be much harder to surprise us and our reflexes will improve significantly.

Practice exercises are based on various games that use balls. We actually recommend learning how to juggle! It sounds a bit absurd, but believe us - this is one exercise that will provide you with excellent motor coordination and excellent improvement of the peripheral vision field. You can learn to juggle three things in no time. Check YouTube for tutorials like this one:

Adjusting focus from close to far away: this is the closest our eyes get to zooming in and out, and is an important skill to have for gaming as you quickly adjust to events and movement.

You can find a lot of exercises for changing your sight concentration online. One simple exercise is to take two similar objects and place them at different distances from your body. Holding still, focus your eyes on one object, then another and repeat, trying to see as much detail as possible. This particular test also helps prevent eye strain if you're looking at a computer monitor for long periods of time.

You can also check your hand-eye coordination online or alternate hand-eye coordination link.

Great hand-eye coordination is a talent you can be born with, but also a skill that you can simply train.

If you haven't tried it yet, check out our 3D AIm Trainer to help improve your aim!

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Avoiding Tunnel Vision

It's easy to do. Source: GIPHY

We've covered concentration quite a bit in this series. While it's important to concentrate on the game, make sure you're concentrating on the right things.

The term "tunnel vision" comes from the world of medicine. It literally means that your field of view narrows, especially during a fight or flight response, so that you can look straight ahead and focus. However, this limits our ability to see what's around us - a vital skill needed for gaming.

Want to see it in action? Look at this image. Close your left eye and concentrate on the cross. Watch the dot disappear! Now move your head forward and back to watch it reappear and disappear again on cue. Aren't the eyes amazing?


Source: Thrillist

In a shooter game, tunnel vision might be looking at the crosshair without seeing what's going on around you or focusing on your opponent and not using the crosshair to aim effectively. In a MOBA, it can be tempting to focus on your hits but lose sight of what is happening on the map on a global scale. Another example might be losing sight of what's happening and walk right into a battle in progress.

In a FPS you can limit tunnel vision in the settings by improving the visibility of the viewfinder or changing its color or thickness. Some games also allow you to change the appearance of the cursor, which can help.

Tunnel vision weakens your reaction time, so it's worth addressing the issue. The best way is to create good habits in the game, train, and constantly increase your knowledge. Pay attention to the graphic effects of objects, for example, so that you know all spells and effects like the back of your hand. The same goes for maps.

Be aware of when you are starting to get tunnel vision - for example, if you are waiting with the crosshair by the wall, and waiting for someone to show themselves - learn to look at the wide view every now and then, and not at the crosshair itself. This will help you stay focused over a larger area and help prevent surprises!

Never underestimate situational awareness! Source: GIPHY

In MOBAS, look at the mini map from time to time, or even better, all the time - look away from it to finish off the creep/AI or fight the opposite team. Check the map every now and then, and click opponents to know what items they already have. Control the entire map. Not just your hero.

In MMO games, it is often helpful to simply zoom out of the camera, especially if you play supports.

In FPS, walk around the maps calmly, look at all the nooks and code them in your memory for later - your eyes will start to observe them subconsciously.

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Improving Response Time

Quickness is nothing without precision. Source: Tenor

Each of us has an impact on how quickly we react to stimuli. In other words, you can train your reflexes. How, you ask? Here are 5 tips to help you improve your response time.

  1. Spend between 15-30 minutes on reflex training at full concentration. We recommend using a site like Human Benchmark or special maps for CS.
  2. Reflexes are impacted by our overhealth health. That is why it is worth getting a good night's sleep, rest, diet, hydration, and physical activity.
  3. Play it loose. Tense muscles act as a brake for our movements, thus delaying the reaction time.
  4. The more your know: familiarize yourself with the in-game surroundings, i.e. don't let yourself get surprised or distracted by irrelevant map elements or some graphic elements.
  5. Play on the right equipment. Start by cleaning the pad and checking that your mouse can handle even the fastest moves.

Remember that we must be quick - but we also cannot forget about precision. This is important when planning a training plan. You can measure your progress on Human Benchmark and save your score. Try again after using the aforementioned tips and see how they improve!

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Improving Accuracy

BOOM! Headshot! Source: GIPHY

Ah, accuracy! The holy grail of the FPS. While this is one of the most basic skills, it is also one of the most complex. Let's take a look at how to increase accuracy when shooting.

Let's start with factors outside the game itself. Mouse sensitivity must provide ease of movement, looking, and quick response times.

Each weapon has a strategy: There are at least 3 different types of weapons and ways of shooting them in FPS - a weapon that shoots bullets that must fly to the place where we aim (all Rocket Launchers), a weapon that hits instantly where we aim (sniper rifle), and a weapon that we need to follow the opponent's moves to hit a continuous series (e.g. Lightning gun from Quake).

The basic rules are simple. For weapons that require advance aiming, set the crosshair where the enemy will be soon (as if we were piloting a fighter jet). For instant hit weapons like sniper rifles, pre-aim, i.e. set the crosshair in the place where the opponent will be and a quick click of the mouth will do the trick. For weapons that track an opponent, aim with the movement arrows (WSAD), and support aiming with just your wrist.

The best learning method is of course the game itself, but don't be afraid to use training maps in your favorite game.

Pace yourself when training. It's better to play less over the span of a few days in a row than to spend several hours on one day. In general - choose your favorite type of weapon and try to master it using the simple tips above.

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Six Habits to Dominate Ranked Games

Don't you love it when a plan comes together? Source: GIPHY

  1. Prepare your approach: Set a few small goals that will help you plan, such as the time and CS you want to get, where will you put wards etc. In FPS, decide what role you want to take, what position on the map to take, the style of play you will use, etc. When you reach the first goal go to the second, then the third, etc.
  2. Don't be a lone wolf: Do your best to get along with the team - determine who is responsible for what, who plays what role, etc. Someone pick the hero or role you wanted? We often have to be flexible so that the team functions properly. Put the good of the team above your own.
  3. Keep emotions in check: Do not let the behavior of others affect your game. This is one of the most important things to remember when playing at a high level.
  4. Clear your mind after each game: Forget about the last game, regardless of its result. Create a habit of approaching every single game the same way. Take a short break after each match for some physical activity, then you are ready to play!
  5. Analyzing your game: Review your positive contribitutions as well as what you could have improved to prevent a loss. As always, do this without emotion - this is purely a logical process.
  6. Know your limit:: None of us can play 15 matches in a row, even at the highest level. At some point, our efficiency and quality of the game decreases. Learn to recognize the symptoms of your fatigue and call it quits for the day.

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The Most Common Training Mistakes

When training, here are some no-no's:

💪 Start training without preparation.

💪 A lack of clear goals.

💪 Lack of pragmatism. Our goals must be real and achievable.

💪 Doing everything yourself. Get feedback from teammates and support your team.

💪 No testing of training effectiveness. Know where you stand before trying to improve.

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We hope you found this useful! Is there a topic we didn't cover that you'd like use to write about? Let us know on Twitter!

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