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Learning at the highest level

Chiu on This
A short and regular opinion blast from Stephen Chiu

‘Chiu on This’ is a short and regular opinion blast

One of the strange things I’ve found about the CS:GO community is that they can stalk the number of hours a player has on CS:GO for any particular week. This means that if a pro isn’t putting in the time and they don’t do well, they get angry about the lack of downtime. The first time I saw this phenomenon was in the early days of StarCraft 2 with Incontrol. There were massive threads flaming Incontrol for saying he played some console game or different video game.

There are two aspects to this. Some fans think that it is unfair that a pro player isn’t ruining his entire life getting better at a game. It comes off as either jealousy or spite. “How dare this person take a break when I take a 9-to-5?” or whatever it is. The job of a pro is incredibly different from a layman’s job and in terms of intensity and pressure it’s incredibly high. For that reason I won’t bother addressing this anymore.

The other reason I can think of is a misunderstanding of hard work. An argument that often comes up is hard work vs. talent and which wins out. In reality, it is rarely the case that you have either extreme. It’s a mix. At the highest level, you can put in an intense amount of hard work, but that will not mean you can become better than the person you are trying to beat. Life and TaeJa from SC2 were known for being some of the biggest slackers in that game. They ended up being two of the greatest to ever touch it and transcended it. What I can say is that hard work is generally better than no work, but this doesn’t take into account of how the brain works.

Generally, the best way to improve at a discipline is to study/practice a lot. Then you take a break doing something else. It could be exercise or a hobby or whatever. The point of this is that the brain needs downtime to process everything you are trying to put into it on a subconscious level. You can’t just force it into your brain for most people.

I generally don’t talk about the psychology of players, but it’s important to mention in this case. There were a few players in SC2 who did do this. They went insane practicing around 12-15 hours a day for multiple years. Snute, a player I rate as the third best foreigner of all time in that game, did this. Despite that great praise, if you asked me why he never won a big one, it has nothing to do with his skill. It was purely psychological because he had practiced so much more even relative to many Korean players that when it came to the big moment he fell to the pressure in his mind.

When a player is in a slump, it isn’t as easy as putting in an insane amount of hours. Sometimes it might be better to take a break from the game and come back fresh. The entire practice of getting better is complicated. SmithZz was bad at the end of his time in G2, but all of the stories I heard said he was practicing an intense amount. These are some things to think about when looking at how top players practice.


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