If you follow professional gaming, you probably heard about the DOTA 2 gaming championship where 16 teams of the world’s best DOTA 2 players battle for a share of more than US$2.8 million. The champion, Swedish team, Alliance, takes half of that sum from the 5-day event held in Seattle.
Even before the US (recently) recognized gamers as pro-athletes, there have been many other high-paying tournaments for hardcore players who are into Starcraft 2, Counter Strike and League of Legends (LoL). And age is no limit – big sporting events like these are becoming ever so popular as professional gamers as young as 13 begin competing at a professional level.
For parents who are saying that "you can’t play video games for a living", well, you can thank the people behind the scenes who work so hard for the rest of the world to take pro-gaming more seriously. Apart from the prize money and the fame, internationally recognized players can now gain a US P-1 visa that is usually reserved for sports players. These visa holders can stay and earn a salary while ‘playing’ in the US.
The route to becoming a pro-athlete however takes hundreds of man-hours of practice, skill, determination and teamwork. It is hardly a walk in the park. Here are 10 basic tips to start you off on the path of becoming a pro-gramer.
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1. Know The Jargon
Not necessarily the first thing to do but it is one of the more important ones, know that there is a lot of jargon involved in multiplayer games, and it’s not just limited to Internet speak. Game jargon varies, according to the games you play.
For example in MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) games like DOTA 2, League of Legends or Heroes of Newerth, there are terms like stun, hex/voodoo, disable, lane, neutrals/jungle or ancients.
First person shooter (FPS) players also give unique names to spots or areas on the map. This allows your teammates to know the whereabouts of enemy players. Competitive gaming rely a lot on strategy and fast and effective communication with your team mates.
2. Practice Against AI Or Bots First
Many competitive multiplayer games today let you practice against Artificial Intelligence (AI) or Bots (Robots). If you’re still learning the ins and outs of the game while trying to catch up with everyone else, this is a good place to start.
You will be able to select a difficulty and practice on easier modes before moving on to harder ones. It is also a great place to get the hang of your controls and game user interface without having to think about where everything is. It may feel like a boring task but even the karate kid had slow "wax on, wax off" beginnings. If it helps, think of it as investing time into figuring out how to survive longer on the battlefield.
3. Play And Learn Together
Next up, play with real people. And who better to start storming the battlefield with, than with your friends. That’s the best part about multiplayer games as it pretty much functions as a social gathering of sorts over the Internet every other night.
Playing with friends also means you can quickly learn the game together by giving each other advice or by sharing your experiences. Who knows, this may also be where you form your team of similarly skilled gamers.
(Image Source: Penny Arcade)
Gaming is not always all about fun, it can get intense and include arguments or disagreements, but that is what you have to deal with from knowing your teammates’ playing style inside out. In the long run, it helps to know that you have finally assembled a team who will watch your back when that is quintessential to winning.
4. Watch Professionals Play
You can only get as good as your imagination can let you, so sometimes you need inspiration from the ones who have been there, done that. Watching professionals play lets you learn how the pros do it, how their complex teamwork and strategies work, watch their key twitch and split decision-making in action, tricks, ploys and more lessons that will help make or your break your gameplay.
The good news is, many pro-gamers allow the world to watch how they play live, made possible with live streaming. The number one site to watch these pros in action is on Twitch.tv. However, YouTube is also a good place to learn a game, even more in-depth.
Other times, instead of watching someone play, you can opt for tutorials and guides where YouTubers explain what’s going on. You can also find walkthroughs of single player games on YouTube if you’re stuck at a level.
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5. Do What You Do Best
If you want to be serious, there needs to be specialization of skills. Even though there are a lot of characters, weaponry and classes that are individually unique within a each game, it really depends on what combination you enjoy playing with the most.
This includes gameplay on the field, whether it’s running around the map, jumping headlong into the heat of the action, sitting still to farm gold or being the support member of the team.
(Image Source: HDwallsize)
You can find fun in every aspect of a game but to be a real awesome team player, be really, really good at what you do, especially one you seem to have a knack for, and find other same-spritied players to join you and fortify your team.
6. Get Some "Gaming" Gear
It can be really frustrating to be in the heat of battle only to find yourself losing because of faulty hardware. There is a reason why brands like Razer, SteelSeries, CM Storm and Logitech have gaming gear that can tear a hole in your pocket.
They are built for gameplay: durable, responsive, accurate and overall will enhance your gameplay and improve game performance. That’s definitely worth investing in.
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(Image Source: Razer Ouroboros)
Gaming peripherals have high-quality hardware that also look good. While you may begin with cheaper alternatives, know that gamers swear by their gear, and take it from them that hardware plays a significant role in cutting down errors while in heated battle.
7. Search For Tips, Tricks and Guides
Watching people play means you can closely watch their movements, but this doesn’t give you information about the many other things going on inside their head. Part of understanding the mechanics of the game is to read about it, study it in-depth.
The internet is a great source to find out more in-depth things of just about any game. We’re talking about knowledge on the characters, their skills, their moves with weapons, their armory, the playing field and more. No one said it was going to be easy, but the hard work may be well worth it to win games. Once you learn what each character is capable of doing, you won’t get caught off guard so easily.
8. Learning From hack-Free Experience
No one turns pro overnight, even professional gamers have to practice and train for hours a day – check out their live stream to get a feel of what gaming a whole day feels like. Consistent gameplay and charting your progression in terms of team performance may actually help build towards a gaming career.
Take every win and loss as a challenge to better your gameplay but it’s important to enjoy the game for what it is. If you ever find yourself needing to turn to hacks, don’t. While you may be thinking about using hacks to advance in the game, it isn’t actually a good step, mostly because you’re "not playing" the game anymore.
Pro-gamers are gamers who fully understand the game and exploit its mechanics (without hacks) to their advantage. It’s also the reason why many other fellow gamers respect their determination to climb their way to the top, hack free. Stay away from hacks and play it the right way.
9. Customize Settings For Performance
This is an extension from #6. Games can be very graphically demanding and might require you to have a high-performance computer in order to enjoy its an immersive gameplay. However, it’s ok if you don’t have a beefy computer. All you have to do is lower the graphic settings to ensure you have smoother gameplay during intense clashes.
(Image Source: Starcraft II Benchmark – Low Settings)
Don’t worry of what others might think of the ugly graphics, pro-gamers do it all the time. They need fewer "beautiful" features because they’re not there for that. To them, the correct actions are what matters. Taking the load off the machines means less distractions anyways, and better performance.
10. Be nice to everyone
As competitive as it can get in the gaming arena, everyone’s there to play. Even if it is there to win, everyone is still looking for a good game. Don’t ruin the mood with senseless verbal brutality, particularly if you are new to the game.
Being nice to strangers can get you far, find you a fellow player to brave the tough training sessions ahead and some of them can teach you a thing or two about how to master the game faster and better. Don’t have friends to take into a game? Make some from it.
If you’re playing on a local server, you might have the chance to make new (real life) friends too, because not all people on the Internet are bad and shady – just tread with care when it comes to sharing personal information online. May the best player win!