Home Strategy Get Good: An introduction to high level, competitive play

One of the hallmarks of both the T3 community and its writers is our skill in our chosen games. WiNG for example, destroys at Magic the Gathering, Assassin’s Creed, Splinter Cell, and Team Fortress 2. I’m not half bad at Battlefield or Splinter Cell, and Toraka would probably whip my ass in Assassin’s Creed. I think you get the idea. However, as competitive gaming becomes more an more prevalent, to both developers and gamers alike, the best among us need to learn an important lesson: we aren’t alone. Despite what all the terrible players in public servers will show you, good players are everywhere. Here are my tips for succeeding when you go up against players of your level or even higher.

They think as you think

Good players tend to forget that there are others like them who have an in-depth knowledge of a game’s mechanics, maps, and metagame. Before progressing to a higher level of play, competitive or otherwise, forget the thousands of idiots you played with in those public lobbies. You know the ones, the spinners, griefers, stoners, squeakers; the guy who sat in the back of the map and looked at the sky; even the player who did okay but you know was only average. You will not find these people playing a top tier game. Instead, much as you do, those you’ll be playing against will know the basic strategies. They’ll know the maps, which setups to use, which routes to take. 

Your job is to think outside the box with your strategies. If your opponent thinks you plan to jump, run. If you think he plans to run, wait. I’ve said it in articles before, but it always, always bears repeating: be unpredictable. The best players know how they would act in any given situation, and they immediately assume players of their level think the same. What both of you will try to do will be in contrast to the expected. Therefore, you must expect to not expect the unexpected. In other words, sometimes the unpredictable thing is not the best move. If it sounds contradictory, that’s because it is. Whichever player contradicts their opponent’s expectations more effectively will win.

To put it a little more simply, use the context of your movements to inform your decision making. At the highest levels, context is everything. It determines who wins and who loses, and sometimes a single contextual misread throws the whole match or tournament out the window.

Rely on your teammates

I find free-for-all gametypes perhaps the most fun, when you have no one to count on, or blame, besides yourself. Wanted, Assassinate, Deathmatch, Free-for-All, lone wolfing in a team mode – these can be the most rewarding experiences in competitive multiplayer games. That said, if you want to put your money where your mouth is, you’ll be playing mostly team games, hopefully with friends your respect both as players and people. You’ll need that respect if you want to succeed, because if you don’t have it, the hours spent yelling at each other over the mic will be long ones indeed.

The core of it is this: no matter how well planned your moves, how coordinated your team, it often comes down to a single moment from a single player. You have to know implicitly that your teammate will win the gunfight when it matters. He’ll be in the right spot at the right time with the right shots/stabs/captures. And you have to know that your other teammates are willing and able to step in if you or anyone else fails at their job. Know that they will want the same of you.

Of course, don’t rely on them to fix your mistakes for you. Don’t use them like cruise control and coast, but don’t try to do everything yourself. There will be games where you can’t do anything, despite all your efforts. There’ll be games where you feel like an invincible god, but your buddies are having a hell of a time just spawning in. You have to take everything in stride, with the understanding that everything is possible, and no eventuality is ever out of the question.

Stay positive

Competitive multiplayer games are filled with bullshit. Bad hit detection, incorrect animations, glitches, exploits, cheats, and plain old bad luck. Watch any top tier player, and you’ll notice that, while they do show signs of frustration at their and their team’s failures, these annoyances pass without much effect on them. Getting angry is natural, staying so is counterproductive. If you play public matches with friends to warm up, or because those are your thing, give the following exercise a try.

Place yourself in as many bad positions and bullshitty situations as you can and watch how they play out. Keep track of what frustrates you and what doesn’t, then focus in on dealing with what gets to you. Just play for fun and try to shrug off your worst annoyances. They will crop up no matter how pared down the competitive game is. If you learn to let them go, you will succeed in the long run.

Most importantly, though, is the way you treat your teammates and opponents. A little smack talk is okay, even beneficial in some cases. But when your teammates do something well, no matter how small, congratulate them. A simple “Good job,” or “Nice kill” or “Well played” can do wonders for morale. If you’re the only one doing it, don’t worry. One level head can hold a team together, and the cooler you seem, the cooler your friends will become. And at the end of a match, give credit where it’s due. If somebody on the opposite team plowed your face in but lost in the long run, mention that moment, if only in jest. If a time comes where you have to find another team, or even another group of gaming buddies, being known as a cool person to hang around certainly helps you find that new niche.

2 replies to this post
  1. Since this article mentions me by name, my ego is so high I feel obligated to give an interview-like “pro” view. Hell, we could spend an hour or so talking about the subject. You know, if such a meeting didn’t have to occur at three in the morning for me, three hours before I have to go to university.

    Anyhow. I dislike team modes since my friend setup doesn’t include enough people to fill up a team in any given game at one set time without including the guys who behave like it’s their first game and rage on about how much worse the game is than a copy of a ten year old WC3 map. Thus, it’s always down to random players. I could describe all of their paint-tasting window-licking oxygen-thieving glory, but I won’t for the sake of brevity and not driving you into suicide due to crushed faith in mankind.

    Assuming that you have halfway competent teammates, think like this: You and they are on the exact same ability level. Hell, you all and your enemies are on the same level. Don’t expect to be able to take down three enemies on your own, then you won’t have to get mad at your team for not salvaging the situation (without you) once it inevitably goes wrong.
    (And if you’re playing Smite in a lobby with me and instalock Zeus Anhur duo lane thinking it’s justified because you duoqueued, you better go 20-0 or I will push your whatever I can find in when you feed horribly like everybody else.)

    As mentioned before, don’t think your enemies to be practically inferior or superior to you. Rather, think the game to be filled with 8-10 copies of yourself. If you saw… yourself approaching your blend group from that angle, would YOU run, fight, wait? Knowing that expected behaviour, how would you prepare and/or spot it? Then how would you act differently to avoid the proper reaction?
    Think this through one layer further until you find it to work. Seems silly, but it does work.

    Also, most importantly for literally any game, just ignore what happened prior. Sure you might have come out of those first three minutes with only 1000 points, but gloating about it will only reduce your concentration and ensure you continue as badly as you started. Leave it behind, vent your head of OP thoughts, and focus on what you specifically need to do to get back in. Do be critical on your mistakes however.

    Fully agree with the point of praising your teammates. It’s called the DST for *Words Wing probably won’t let me say on the site* Theory, and it’s proven to raise sucess rates. Keep your team’s minds and your own on what you’re doing good, and you all will stay in that air of light focus that is the optimal winning setup. Don’t forget, Teamwork OP http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ugXC7g3p0JU

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