By Jason Parker (Ragachak)
This is the first part in a series on eSports coaching, created with the cooperation of Gamer Sensei.
I went into this with a fair amount of skepticism, but not for what you might think.
A bit of background:
Every game I play, I play in whatever competitive mode it offers. Every single one. I can’t help it. I feel like that’s [ideally] where I’ll find the best gameplay, people who want to get better, and compete with one another. Is this what actually happens? Of course not. It’s not so prevalent in games like Street Fighter, Tekken, but you do still get people who will “lame you out.” At the end of the day, there are answers for that style of gameplay, and if you don’t do it, it’s your fault. How do you get better, then? The ultimate goal is to play against people that are better than you, lose to them, and learn from those mistakes. That is a terrific way to get better. It’s the way to get better. But what about when you’re playing with, and against, toxic bags of sweaty assholes that only want to make you feel bad for taking your first breath of the day? Not to mention, these people either play poorly, or are willing to script [modify their game for unrealistic reactions] in order to win? Where do you turn to at that point?
Coaches, like any good sport. I’ve been familiar with the notion of esports coaching; one of the primary channels I follow, Cross Counter TV [ran primarily by Ryan “Gootecks” Gutierrez and Mike “Mike Ross” Ross] offers Fighting Game coaching on their website from a variety of some of the greatest players in the world. I’ve considered spending the money to do it as well, but never pulled the trigger. I’m grateful that I do know some semi-pro players, who are more than willing to put in time to help me get better [Shout out to Takanub and Hollywood2df who are amazing]. So when I found out we were going to work with Gamer Sensei on a piece about esports coaching, I had some questions, some concerns, and they had some for me as well. I worked with one of their best League tutors, Tutor [what an apropo name!] who was an incredibly kind and hard-working fellow who wanted to help me succeed. We worked on League of Legends, and I was admittedly a bit disappointed that they did not cover Smite or Paladins [the games I’m presently working on becoming better at], but I have played Ranked in LoL since Season 2. I never seem to crack past Gold, but it’s not for a lack of trying. I’m a support main, so I wanted some advice on improving my support game.
League of Extraordinarily Noxious Gentlemen
We did a bit of talking before we got into the game proper, introducing ourselves, explaining what I’m looking for, my experience in online games in general. Since I’m in games journalism, and I’ve covered both League and Smite in great detail, I understand how strategy and tactics work, about how to be the better player and not let toxicity rule over my day/game. That and I love strategy games just in general, so I feel like support is the right role for me. I try to look at the game from the terms of win conditions, but there’s more to it than that. Without realizing it, Tutor approached the lesson in a way that appeals to me. Even from the first minion that hits the lane, the support can start analyzing the matchup, and what the suggested method/approach is. He touched on one of the major things I can do to improve games immeasurably, even if the team doesn’t necessarily listen to you [and probably won’t, this is solo/duo queue]. We spent a fair amount of time on the beginning of the game, as it is pretty important to how we approach the rest of the game at large. What my carry is, what I am, versus what the other side is. How is our effective HP versus theirs? That is to say, their HP after shields, heals, CC, buffs, debuffs. Who comes out with the edge here? Ideally, you’ll know this before the match even begins, with knowledge of who can do what. The next thing to consider for me is “Where is the ideal place for the wave?” and that will also ultimately vary. Do we want to let them have level 2, let them push? Or are we immeasurably stronger, and can just go whole hog? Or shall we keep things stuck right in the river, halting the lane so they can do nothing about it?
But one of the things I do not do enough, is talk to the carry, or try to call shots. When is it time to tackle Dragon/Void? Should we call for a gank? Communicate that I want them to ward in a bush without saying “Hey, moron, use your stupid trinket!” and so forth. I do use the ping communications, because they’re important, but I often worry that I’m just going to get shouted down for trying to call shots. I’m not a pro, and I’m all too sure that I’ll hear stuff like that. But it was suggested to me to do just that, even if I get a negative reaction. That’s not always going to happen. This is a team game, and though I try to treat it like one, one of the things I was not doing enough of, was communicating my needs and suggestions to not just my carry, but to the team at large. I need to tell the ADC what I want them to do, and then just hope they do it. Of course, do it politely, but I’m always a polite teammate. I need to be aware of whose jungler is where, when they’re going to go in, and adjust my thinking accordingly. Will this affect our win conditions? There are lots of little ways I can improve my communications. Such as pinging when my enemy use their flash/heal/etc, and keep a timer for this. I can either memorize them, set timers on my PC, or something like that. But keeping our jungler aware of wasted flash in bot lane? That means kills. And you know, a lot of this stuff might sound dumb, or obvious. But it helps to have someone with more skilled than you point it out.
So, what exactly did we do? The first game [of two] involved me Skype screen-sharing the game as I was playing. He’d ask me questions while I did, talking about the various strategies in the early game, itemization changes/updates [since I missed a patch], things I was doing well, things I missed [like Leona’s E not hitting because it was too far out]. However, this game was picture perfect. Everything basically happened as it should. I didn’t die once in game, and we stomped the entire game. Everyone on my team functioned as they should; we worked as a unit. After that, I sent him the file, and we watched it, and he critiqued my work. The things that weren’t working, and items I could’ve built. This is where we talked about my issues with communication. It’s a big deal, because I kind of have shell shock from lots of negativity in games. I asked Tutor what he thought of toxicity in League, and what the answer should be. This was his response:
“Sure! In general… people are going to be pieces of shit in LoL. My experience with this question is kind of figuring out what area of toxicity bothers the person.
It’s sad it comes down to this due to the community but generally certain types of toxicity bothers people while others don’t.
As an example, using myself… Someone can tell me to drink bleach, call me out on a mistake that I know I did. Sure. However, the MOMENT someone blames me for something that I had no control over. That irks me.
So based on that answer, it’s easier to offer certain types of advice. Since my area is super circumstantial, my answer to myself would be just mute the person instantly and don’t type to them haha.”
The “tl;dr” of this was “Silence the Source.” If people are typing, they aren’t playing. So you stop them from typing, by silencing them. But please, please, please stop telling them you’re going to mute them. Just do it and keep playing. All that does is make the negative people far more toxic. They’ll find new ways to upset you, like throwing the game. I’ve played games where we had pushed every tower, every objective, had an unstoppable win coming. However… we made someone on our team mad; he threw a fight and stopped helping. We lost a 5v4 because he wasn’t being listened to. That aside, next we played as a duo, in ranked [both matches were ranked]. We were in a call, so we could communicate, but I watched as he put his words into action. He communicated effectively, politely, didn’t rise to bait from either team. I communicated in game and out of game, and we won again. This was another basically picturesque game, where everything happened just as they should. Apparently I just have to have someone watching me play and I win. He has some notes that he gave me post lesson, and I do intend on having another session, at least one. We’re trying to set up a match with myself and KingsDecree, where we can see what happens.
What’s the Verdict?
This was a very positive and uplifting experience for me. I’ve sort of fallen off of League of Legends, though I do try to play one or two ranked matches a week to keep fresh, and keep abreast of what’s going on in the Rift. I think the positive nature is what helped me the most. Tutor was honest about what he thought my skill level was. In the notes he said he thinks I play and think at a level higher than Silver V [where I’m at right now] and I have the potential to climb if I pay attention, play smart, and work hard. I have things to work on, but I always knew that. You know why I think this is so important? Someone who plays better than me, is smarter about the game than me, sat down with me, and told me some things I needed to hear. Not to mention some things I wanted to hear! He didn’t bullshit me, lie to me, or tell me “Sure, you can go pro ezpz!” and instead was honest with me. That is what I need.
League of Legends is a very toxic, hateful environment where people only care about themselves. This is not how you get better at a competitive team game. I think anyone who wants to get better should consider esports coaching. At least one session, but likely more than that. Repeated visits I think will net results, if the player actively works at it, and wants to get better. I think simply asking someone who is Diamond, or Platinum, or even Challenger is enough. The person who was coaching me has an education background and is at least a Diamond player in League. He is a positive, forward thinking person who simply wants to help others get better. We win and lose as a team – people don’t seem to realize this. They think only they matter, only they can carry the game. But they aren’t. And even those smurfs, those diamond level smurfs could learn something from an esports coach. They could learn something their parents or loved ones should have taught them: To not be a barrel full of steamed, chocolate covered douchebags. That being good to your team, being positive, communicating without racial slurs can do a lot more than simply being rotten.
If you’re interested in learning more about esports coaching and want to give it a try, be sure to check out Tutor’s page at Gamesensei.