I’ve watched my fair share of competitive matches, and there’s something different about players at that level.
No, I’m not talking about their attitude toward new players. Our Grand Sheik WiNGSPANTT already touched on that. What I’m talking about is confidence under pressure. It happens in every game, be it TF2, Call of Duty, Battlefield or Starcraft. You are the last man standing, you are low on minerals, you have less than thirty seconds to pull out a win, whatever it may be. The classic public player chokes and gives up the loss. The competitive player has a 50% chance of getting that win, by rook or by crook. The question I had for a while is, how? I’ve come to this conclusion: they have the confidence in their skill that they can do it. They convince themselves that until shown otherwise, they will win. I don’t think it’s something that can be taught, only learned. That isn’t going to stop me from trying here.
There are three major hurdles to jump before gaining the ability to clutch a round, and the first is not the largest.
Hurdle One: Get on their level
The first thing is entering the competitive arena. It’s fairly easy, but it isn’t for everyone. I won’t lie, you have to be pretty damned good at the game to even consider playing competitively. For TF2, this means regularly taking the top of the leaderboard in most gametypes. Battlefield takes understanding the various glitches in the game and exploiting them, being able to get the Ace pin without medic whoring and movement efficiency. For Call of Duty it means exceedingly fast reflexes and a powerful set of eyes. For all of it, you need map knowledge, gun skill and sometimes a little bit of luck. If you have this, find a group of plyaers who have it too and form bonds of in-game companionship with them. When you feel ready, enter the ring and test yourself. Be ready to fail and fail hard. Practice often and ask for help when your competitors are willing to give it. After a time period that depends on your team, expect to win and expect to be asked questions from the new guys. Be nice about it. You were in their shoes once too.
Hurdle Two: The clutch round
Now I can’t speak for Starcraft, though WiNG can if he feels like it, but I know for competitive TF2, Battlefield and Call of Duty, there are times when a game is determined by one player’s actions. The medic with the just-in-time Uber, the assault with the back-cap that throws off the opponent’s momentum, the 1v4 clutch on S&D. This hurdle is not something anyone wishes on themselves, but it’s something you will face at some point. Again, expect to fail. However, do not do so during the game. When you are the last man standing, tell yourself “I will win.” Even if you don’t, this is the attitude required to get good at the nail-biter moments. Only before and after the game should you expect, at first, to fail. Even then, do not constantly put yourself in that failure mode. Know that there will be times when the game truly is unwinnable, despite your best efforts. Take that information and file it away. Put it under advisement and when you do clutch the round, that’s one tick on your way to being a truly competitive player.
Hurdle Three: The will to win
This is something of an expansion on Hurdle Two, but it is the largest of the three. This may seem like a silly concept, but it’s surprising how many top level players don’t win tournaments because they don’t feel they deserve it. They would, of course, never say that out loud, but deep down there’s something in them that doesn’t want to win. The reasons for this are many. They might think their opponent is the better person/player, they might think their reputation isn’t conducive to winning. They might see the crowds around them and choke. What you have to come to terms with as a player in the competitive arena is that there will be more than just you rooting for you. You will face foes with records going back years, tournaments won in landslides and scores of people who want you to fail. The team you’ve assembled to this point is probably the underdog in the matchup. Do not let this faze you. Again, convince yourself and your team that no matter who the enemy is, victory is assured. Reputation means nothing during the match. Relationships mean next to nothing. If you’re facing your brother, spouse, mother or dog, show them no mercy. I guarantee they will show none.
Bonus Tip: Don’t get cocky
Obvious, right? No. It doesn’t matter how far ahead you are or how much of an advantage you think you might have. In the competitive setting, tides turn at the drop of a hat. Do not think giving ground is ever a good idea. If the gametype is objective based, hold or take all of them. If it’s deathmatch, smash them. If it’s free for all, take them down. Arrogance breeds both indecisiveness and laziness. These things create losses. And I can assure you that if your opponents sense any wavering in your push against them, they will come back with a vengeance and destroy you.