Do you remember those days of being yelled at by your parents for playing too much video games? What about those days of being mocked by your classmates, cousins, “friends” and everyone under the sun for playing way too much video games? If you can’t remember those days, then you are probably a lot younger than I am or had the most loving parents and friends this side of a Disney movie. Those days are coming to a close. As for the rest of us who survived the war on games with just our unbridled passion, we gained some social fortitude (always a good thing). The purpose of this blog is to take the experiences from other disciplines in life and apply them religiously to League of Legends, and vice versa. Just like playing sports for your school/college is a boon to your resume; so is competing in video games or any other rigorous and structured mental engagement. After all, the skill sets necessary to improve are similar to any other discipline.
I used to play WOW at a professional level and was a high rated LOL beta player all while studying for my PhD. Ever since getting my PhD, I’ve been on expeditions to Mount Everest and spent time in Air Force bases. Now I am old (relatively!) and my old-man reflexes manage to fail smite most of the time, something no amount of thick skin can save you from. Don’t believe me? Just ask this guy. I don’t have 1/10th the time I used to, and most of my competition has a lot more time than I do. What I do have is a PhD in Physiology and experience researching human performance, and I am going to apply the same level of rigor to dissecting League and helping us improve our performance.
Despite my shitty reflexes and my time consuming career, I have done fairly well for myself in ranked games. I decided I am going to take ranked more seriously this winter and get to Diamond 1, no more excuses. In the meantime, I would like you to join me in exploring the limits of our performance as we climb and learn from those greater than us. Let’s walk through a list of empirically and scientifically backed factors that are critical to peak individual performance, be it in LOL or football.
Everyone starts with one resource that is the same: time. One minute isn’t longer or shorter for a rich guy , Michael Jordan, or for the homeless guy down the road… it might feel longer for the last guy but it’s not. Why is MJ the best basketball player of his time? Did he spend more time practicing than anyone else? Likely, but he probably spent “better” time practicing than everyone else. We can debate the role of genetics another time, but I doubt he was genetically superior to the other great players of his era. Learning to maximize your time is crucial especially considering that not everyone has the same LOL time. To do this you have to understand your time, and to understand your time you have to understand yourself.
Understanding yourself can only come through self-reflection and honest thinking. Like anything else, honest thinking can only come through practice. Cultivating self-awareness and discipline is as much outside the game as in it. You need to draw from your life experiences. If you approach your school/job, relationships, and life with the same attitude you approach your game, then you will foster this trait. Weed out your cowardice and dishonesty and approach your game the way a warrior would approach battle. Good ways to practice this are to put yourself in challenging situations and analyze your reactions afterwards. Hell, we don’t have to put ourselves in challenging situations; shitty situations happen every day. Use them as opportunities not reasons to complain. Practicing yoga, martial arts, and meditation are excellent sources of regular activity to help develop honest thinking. Specific lessons and their overlap with LOL can be fleshed out in another article.
Now you are probably thinking that if you are analytic and honest, you can get the most out of your time. You are only half right. Once you understand your thoughts, you know when to play and when to rest, when to be intense and when to be relaxed. You will waste less time with worthless negative thoughts and emotional refuse. Check out TLO’s blog about scheduling to see what I mean about being efficient. However, to truly maximize your time, you must have a healthy and prepared body. What does a fit body have to do with peak mental performance? Everything… and the upper echelons of the video game community know this. Check out these interviews with Monte Cristo about the Korean gaming style and how managers like Curse’s Liquid112 want to invoke this attitude. People who eat like shit, smoke, drink, and tell you that they feel great are naive. There is a reason why winners in other fiercely competitive disciplines have tightly managed physical and mental schedules. You might already know that a healthy body leads to a healthy mind, but let’s dive into why:
- Your body and mind are one machine. Physical fitness leads to mental stress reduction. This is a scientific fact. Exercise lowers stress levels and helps you reduce the amount of effort your body needs to maintain basal functions. You have a lower resting heart rate, and are more resilient to stressors. Ask any pro gamer, competitive life is stressful, despite it being rewarding and fulfilling. No doubt, you can sense this in a tense ranked game.
- Vigorous physical activity engages a different area of your subconscious. Problems you were wrestling with while at the computer are seen from a different angle when you divert your attention elsewhere. Having trouble with a lane matchup? You might figure it out while lifting weights and running.
- Do you understand the stress sitting on a chair and using a PC 16 hours a day places on your body? THIS IS NOT A SUSTAINABLE MODEL. Do yourself a favor. Take some simple steps to fixing your posture and STRETCH. Yes, do it! Get up in between games and do a series of stretches. Flex your wrists. Listen to your body. Pound out 10 pull-ups or pushups after a loss to dissipate your anger. Just do something. You’ll thank me in 20 years, or you’ll thank someone else. I don’t care.
- Your stamina will improve. You’ll be able to focus for a lot longer at a much higher intensity. Sponsors are going to hate me for saying this, but cut down on the energy drinks. They may give you a high, but you WILL crash soon after, it’s a simple curve that is a function of your body’s up-regulation of sugar and metabolites. Drink the energy drinks when you need them and…
- EAT HEALTHY. I won’t tell you how, but there’s plenty of information out there. I personally enjoy fruits and almonds as constant snacks while playing. Once you get on a healthy diet, you’ll crash less and go for a lot longer. When I say go for a lot longer, I mean play at an optimal level, not fool around in an ARAM with your buddies.
There is no substitute for playing. Just like you can watch and read about perfect form in martial arts/ yoga or read several articles describing detailed scientific experimental protocols, there is NO substitute for doing it. Complex procedures take a lot of repetition to perfect, especially if they appear deceptively simple. Make a commitment to play X games in a fixed period of time and stick to it… no matter how shitty you feel. Bonus points if you are feeling shitty because it will prepare you for awful LAN tournaments with shitty food and conditions.
Get some good life experience outside of LOL. Do interesting things, make interesting friends, and read interesting books/articles. Trust me. It will improve more than just the way you look at LOL. I can (and eventually will) recommend a few good books but if you are reading this and have gotten this far, I would start with David Sirlin’s “Playing to Win”. It’s fairly popular and an easy read.
If you loathe the challenge more than you enjoy it, stop playing, rethink your goals and realize this might not be for you. You could be forcing yourself down this route, and if you relaxed and took a step back you would be able to see what it was you really enjoyed. Maybe its blogging, analyzing, watching, or just a little of everything. Don’t knock yourself for what you truly feel. Embrace it. Remember playing League of Legends all day will not necessarily be the most effective way to be a better player. Look at players like Ocelot, HotshotGG, and Reginald who manage to be successful at more than one venue. I also have been able to apply my experiences in the competitive arena in other venues in life (maybe a story I can share another time).
There are a lot of good writers who discuss LOL strategy, breakdown games, and theory craft builds and I will definitely be referencing them. However, for my first blog I wanted highlight my unique background and experience. Going forward I would like to be able to use that perspective to offer something different. I would actually prefer to write about things you want to hear about. Here are some topics I can present robustly, and I can see you being interested in:
Theoretical and hypothetical point-counter approaches to Jungling using pro-players for analyses : An example of this would be Doran’s Blade start on different champions and what the trade offs are.
Team Strategy and how different styles of coaching and management benefit different types of teams: This would be illustrated through parallels with other disciplines, especially major sports teams.
Applying lessons we learn in LOL to life events and work, and vice versa: This one is a bit more subjective but maybe we can share experiences. I’m sure everyone has them.
Improving performance outside and inside the game: This would talk about exercises and mental activities that can help improve performance, and how we can understand solo-que and use the most efficient tactics to “grind”.
Interesting Events/Articles/Books and How They Apply to LOL: This topic would look at interesting recent article or events and illustrate their application to you. If there are none, then there are plenty of good books that do!
Let me know what you are interested in! If you prefer not to comment, although I strongly encourage it, send me a private message and I’d be happy to discuss specific questions!