When I was in high school, it was cooler to not study. My friends and I would skip classes, go to our usual hangout spot, and get into trouble. My parents always said, “Failure to prepare is preparing to fail”. They were right. This piece of sound, borrowed advice is true in all walks of life, and professional gaming is no exception.
With professionalism in gaming becoming more and more important, the thinking part of the game has become as valuable as raw skill. Astralis has taken this to the extreme, bringing in a fitness coach, a psychological coach, and an analyst, among others. Everyone saw the fruits of that in 2018, with the Danish team cementing their place as the clear best in the world, maybe even of all-time.
They seemed to be one step ahead of most opponents, like they were camped out in the other team’s playbook. It’s no secret that teams use analytics to get an advantage, but just what exactly are they looking for and how do statistics help get wins?
Former HellRaisers coach Ivan “Johnta” Shevtsov had this to say about analyzing the other team before hopping onto the server for a match. “If you know what your opponent does, and know how to recognize their game patterns during a match, it’s easy to read their actions. Here’s an example: As a player, if you’re watching your position as a CT and know how opponent likes to attack your zone, you can dodge flashes and use the right timings to counter them.”
But, many pro players are young and think that their natural ability is enough to get them to the top. It’s up to the IGL’s and coaches of these teams to teach the younger players about being well-rounded. Gaming has traditionally been a hindrance, at worst, and a substitute, at best, to studying, so many players aren’t used to the process.
The real professionals in the organization take on the responsibility of making sure their teams are prepared.
“When we have a bo3 match, I usually know the 3-4 maps that will be in the map pick. If we have enough time, we study all 4 maps that we expect to play. We can watch all the demos from those maps and so we know what to expect. If we don’t have much time, the team analyst prepares each map and gives a brief before the game to remind what our opponents can do,” Johnta said.
If teams really are moving toward a more professional approach, what else could be preventing players from using analytics to improve their games?
One of the issues is price. The companies that are offering the most comprehensive analytics are charging an arm and a leg. Several thousand dollars per month is way too much for the average player looking to improve. But DreamTeam is launching its analytics very soon. And, it’ll be free to everyone.
Another issue is the time required studying to accurately predict what your opponents will do.
Gambit’s coach Andrii “b1ad3” Gorodenskyi said that he studied “flash heatmap spots, nade, smoke, mollys, awp heatmap spots, solo B player heatmap spots, and many other things”.
If you add in the fact that you need a large sample size from the same team over a short period of time and usually have a limited amount of preparation time for upcoming matches, the number of hours that might be put into studying one team could be crammed into just a single evening. There aren’t many pros who are excited to watch 6-8 hours of demos after playing a full day of matches at an event.
The teams and pros that use analytics and understand tendencies are simply better than the ones who don’t.
“90% of teams say to themselves ‘don’t think about their game, think about your own, just do what u did in practice’ and that’s stupid in my opinion.”
The ones who are able to recognize patterns on the fly because they’ve learned how to are the most likely to succeed.
If I could go back in time I’d tell myself this: “There are two options really. You can rely on your natural ability and hope that it’s enough to make it. Or, you can take your skills and supplement them with knowledge. Analytics will be available for those who want to put in the effort. The guide to success is there for everyone to see. So, if you’re willing to put in the work to be different than the majority of players, you can be. If you want to skip class, hang out with your friends, and limit your sacrifices, you’ll be the same as most other players.”
Believe me, smart is the new sexy. Being the best you can be is cool.