How To Prepare and Dominate in Video Game Championships

Key Points

  • Consistent practice is the best way to build your skill set for video game championships.

  • Understanding deep game mechanics gives you the edge against more skilled players

  • Mental focus in gaming comes from mental toughness and coachability.

  • Physical health in gaming is an essential component in late bracket play.

There are plenty of clichés when it comes to high-level competition, but one that can't be disproven is preparation. Video game preparation is no different. Mastering game skills is the initial way in, but rising above the opposition in high-pressure gaming situations is just like any other competition — it's a mix of coachability, talent, game sense, and showing up. 

You must employ five principles to rise above your competitors and claim glory on whatever battlefield you choose. Keep reading to learn how to dominate your competitive video game scene.

1. Practice Consistently

If your goal is to rise to the top, you must spend time mastering game skills. Hands-on experience is often the best teacher and the only way to lay a foundation for good habits and game sense. That foundation is what MVP-caliber players fall back on when the pressure mounts. No amount of game plan, fancy movement mechanic, or power weapon guarantees you the win — only fundamental play, developed through long practice sessions, does.

Man celebrating with headphones

You might not consider something like a bot match or an in-game shooting range as beneficial practice, but it warms you up and provides a low-pressure environment to learn mechanics and weapons. It's also an opportunity to practice positioning and map strategies. Set up friendlies against similar skill-level players through social media or Discord to practice and link with a reliable squad. This level of intention paves the path to success.  

2. Learn From the Pros

All the talent in the world can't surmount proper training. You should train on your own, yes, but every student of the game needs their teacher.

There are two avenues to professional gameplay analysis: 

Video gaming on laptop

  • Study pro gameplay: See how the pros do things through platforms like YouTube, Twitch, and Twitter. Watching back professional play is a great way to pick up terminology, strategy, and mechanics to emulate in your own gameplay. Though it sounds cliché, "you are what you surround yourself with" contains a kernel of truth. If you watch the pros, emulate their play, and understand why they use a certain mechanic or not, your play improves. Period. 

  • Submit your clips to coaches for critique: Once you get into the thick of it, there's only so much you can learn on your own. Getting a pair of qualified eyes on your gameplay is an effective method of filling weaknesses, rounding out your playstyle, and stacking up your win column in competitive modes. Consider submitting clips to your favorite players who offer coaching services. 

Celebrating a video game win

Every Luke Skywalker needs their Yoda, and professional gameplay analysis is your Jedi training on Dagobah. A qualified perspective from someone you trust is a great way to plug the holes in your game and help you improve. 

3. Understand the Game Mechanics

While it might seem obvious, game mechanics understanding is an underrated trait in competitive gaming. Some coast on sheer talent alone and double down on their play style. While this approach might grab you some wins, the top players have a nearly encyclopedic understanding of their game's sandbox, map, position, and resource management that flashy gunslingers rarely have.

This builds naturally on the previous principles — when you have hours in the game, you build the skill set for foundational learning and deep game mechanics understanding that every top-level player has. These give you an edge in high-pressure gaming situations, no matter what or whom you play. Utilizing deep game mechanics grants you the upper hand against more skilled players, so give those techniques their dues.

Playing video game on computer

4. Stay Focused and Calm

You've heard the term "mental toughness," and while it's generally understood, the Cleveland Clinic defines it as "how effectively someone deals with challenges, pressures, and stressors they may face."

Mental health in gaming separates low-level players from the best of the best. Knowing how to weather the tough times and when to reevaluate and reset is something a lot of low-level players don't have experience with. Staying calm in gaming is a superpower, but developing that power over time is possible.

The key to staying calm in gaming is to remember it's just a game. Not everybody gets to do it professionally. If you're serious about it, there is a path to success. At the end of the day, however, it's just a game. Competing at the highest level should still be fun more often than not.

Natasha Duke, MA, RP, via the Cleveland Clinic, offers some perspective on when the going gets tough: "Practice talking to yourself, not in a critical way, but in the way that you would talk to someone who you really care about and when they are facing a problem, and extend yourself that same love and compassion."

Your mind is the vessel to greatness, for better or worse. Take care of it, stay calm, and keep focused to dominate the competition.

5. Take Breaks and Rest

After winning three straight NBA championships from '91-'93 for the Chicago Bulls, Michael Jordan retired from the NBA. He decided to play professional baseball for the Chicago White Sox's minor league affiliate, the Birmingham Barons.

Jordan returned to the Bulls near the end of the '94-'95 season. After getting bounced in the second round of the playoffs, his manic work ethic took over. The next season, the Bulls went 72-10, the best record in the regular season ever at the time, and won the championship. Then the next, and then the next.

Girl playing video game with controller

MJ likely wouldn't have won six championships, comprised of two three-peats, if he hadn't stepped away. You might not consider what MJ did as "rest," but the principle remains. Taking gaming breaks means occupying your mind entirely with something else, no matter how much you love the game. This allows you to recalibrate, refocus, and return with a historic vengeance.

You cultivate a healthier lifestyle if you maintain other hobbies outside the game. Physical health in gaming is essential to performance in later bracket play. If you've jacked up your posture by not stretching and getting enough sleep, you might have soreness in your neck in a last-point-wins scenario. Ouch.

Take care of your body and mind by taking gaming breaks and resting. Eat well, sleep well, exercise, and drink a ton of water. These tips apply to any scenario life throws you, especially if you're in deep tournament brackets.

"Wake Me When You Need Me"

Mental health in gaming is an evolving practice, and it's no secret that efficient video game preparation starts with the mind. Mental focus in gaming means dedicating yourself to the preparation process and knowing your game inside and out, down to the mechanics. Learn your limits, strengths and weaknesses, and how to care for your body and mind. Consult trusted resources when necessary.

Multiple video gamers at a competition

If you're serious about winning top-level games and championships, you need a reliable network to fall back on for advice when you hit a skill cap. HaloHype is a one-stop shop for all competitive gaming needs, down to the gear, guides, and products for Halo and the competitive scene. Subscribe for more!

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