On Being Competitive: Starting Your Journey
Joseph "WALKMAN" Hamdan
Jan 11, 2018
With the "On Being Competitive" series, I attempt to provide thorough guides to help all types of competitive players improve themselves. From novices to the more experienced, everyone can improve in certain aspects of their play and, with this series, I want to help foster this growth. Some guides in the series will be targeted toward a specific audience, such as this opening piece relating moreso to novices. However, even in this article, there are aspects that can help everyone, especially if you are a player that has not achieved the success you were hoping for. With this guide in particular, I wanted to help answer the commonly asked question of “How do I enter into competitive Splatoon 2?” It has been a question that experienced and novice players alike seem to struggle to answer, so hopefully this guide provides a solution. As this is the first in the series, I want to make sure to state that if you have any questions concerning this guide, future guides, or have ideas about guides that would be helpful to you or others, please let me know in the comment section or on Twitter/Discord direct messages. Thank you and enjoy!
Set Your Goals and Aspirations
If you are reading this, you obviously have some interest in joining the competitive scene, or at least looking to reinvent yourself as a competitive player. If you are going to be successful or have a pleasant time in the competitive scene, you are going to have to decide what you want to get out of it from the very beginning. What do you hope to accomplish by being a competitive player? When asking yourself this question, it is important to be honest and as realistic as possible. Do you have the time to be pouring countless hours into the game? If not, then you may not want to set a goal of being the very best at the game or a particular weapon. Honestly, it is perfectly fine to not want to be the best as only a handful of people can devote their time in such a way. If you simply want to make steady improvements and have a fun time, competitive Splatoon 2 can still be for you. This is something both top players and novices need to understand, just because someone participates in a competitive game or scene it does not mean their end goal is to be the best at it. Some people simply want to become better individual players and play with a team consistently. If this is your goal, embrace it and figure out how to put yourself in the best situation to make it a reality. As long as you are honest with your goals and yourself, you have a strong chance of actually achieving them. If you don’t reach them, it isn’t the end of the world. Consider adjusting them to better fit what you have learned in that time to make them more attainable. Just keep giving your best effort to achieve whatever you set out to and you will draw closer to them, even if you can’t fully achieve them.
Find Your Motivation
One of the biggest aspects of being a competitive player is being dedicated. To remain dedicated you need to have a reason, you need motivation. That motivation can be anything. It could be to see better execution in your gameplay and that provides you with satisfaction, then try to pinpoint the areas you can improve. If your motivation is to have a good time, surround yourself with like-minded individuals who are looking for the same. However, if you want to join in the competitive community to experience the familial feeling that comes with a team and want to have a great time together, keep in mind the toll of entering tournaments. Losses and poor play may take a toll on people’s attitudes and lead to disappointment. If you find that perfect team who won’t be mentally taxed by losing and simply want to enjoy themselves, then go for it. Keep in mind who you are surrounding yourself with and what is driving them to play. You shouldn’t be motivated at the prospect of glory, fame, and money, especially considering the size of the Splatoon 2 scene. It currently isn’t big enough for you to be achieving such goals easily or in a reasonable amount of time. Essentially, you would be trying to motivate yourself based on a goal that is unattainable at the beginning of your journey and unachievable in significant numbers anyway. This is because Splatoon 2 streamers don’t receive a large amount of views at the moment and large prize pools are scarce. Motivating yourself to be a competitive player through lofty goals will only lead to disappointment and a lack of dedication. It is a surefire way to become frustrated in yourself and the game. I recommend your motivation being something you control and can somehow always attain. That is the best chance to consistently stay dedicated to the game and your goals.
Practice Practice Practice!
If you want to be a competitive player, it will require some form of practice. Initially, you may be thinking “Oh yeah, practice! I got to find a team so I can scrim and practice to be the best!” Contrary to popular belief, it’s far from necessary. Of course, a team is required for certain types of practice and development of specific team skills and synergy, but practice and improvement always begins on an individual level. This means going through solo queue hell and not worrying about whether you win or lose, just on your personal skills and gameplay. Once again, be honest with yourself and your performance. You may have gotten 20 kills, but if you were in the enemy spawn, out of position while they were pushing the rainmaker toward your goal, you flat out made a mistake. Admit it, own it, and figure out how to fix it. Everyone makes mistakes, even the best of players, and if you pay attention to your gameplay you can pinpoint any errors to work towards improvement. Don’t be afraid to admit you messed up, and don’t bother putting blame on your teammates because of a loss. Go into the game expecting solo queue teammates to let you down. Focus on what you can do to improve as a player and grinding out those aspects of your gameplay to become better. If you are having trouble figuring out what you are doing wrong, take a recording of a particular play or series of plays in which you were unsure of what you could have done better to try and break it down from beginning to end.
Obviously, solo ranked rewards people who can carry and get kills more than anything, so rather than being satisfied with your gameplay because you won and got lots of kills, always look for how your play can be improved. Actively think about if you could have gotten those kills playing against better players; there is a difference between getting 20 kills against random players in solo queue and in a competitive setting. Furthermore, utilize the training area to build mechanical skills and muscle memory. If you find you are having trouble with a specific situation or shot, try and recreate it to the best of your ability in the training room. Look at the training room as a place to model what you will be doing in game. Create drills based on your needs and what you see as your areas of improvement. It will probably be boring, but set aside time for training room practice during your day and make sure you are consistent with it. Later, when you do find a team, you will focus on team-play and and how to improve together. Before that, you should be focused on bettering yourself, as it will only make you more attractive as a player when trying out for teams. There is no rush to find a group to play with, try to first put yourself in a prime position to join teams by setting your individual play apart from the crowd. The more you stand out, the more you will be recognized and make a name for yourself to ensure that you can reach better and better teams down the road.
Before you start participating as a competitive player, you want to already know who you are/will be as a player. The steps previously discussed have helped you work toward this, but you now need to take it to the next level and decide what type of player you will be and how that player will fit into a team. All those hours you have already put into the game should give you a decent outline of what your strengths and weaknesses are, as well as what type of role you enjoy and excel at. If you don’t have an idea of what role you want to play, how can you expect to have any success with a team? Simply being skilled doesn’t mean you will fit into a team perfectly. This is the time to think about what aspects of the game are the most enjoyable to you and what weapons you perform the best with. Most people are satisfied with getting all the kills and you should keep this in mind if you choose to pursue an aggressive role. If you do decide to, you will see quite a bit of competition from others when trying out for teams and making a name for yourself. It is now that you want to decide if you like playing a supportive, aggressive, anchor (backline/last line of defense) or any other role. This is one of the most crucial parts of your career. You want to pick a role that you enjoy, as you will be grinding and pouring countless hours of your life into improving your performance in said role. If you find yourself forced into a role with a team, you are less likely to be successful as you could be compared to playing the game the way you enjoy it. You want to put yourself in the best position to stand out from the crowd, but also perform well. This does not mean playing a unique or a truly terrible weapon for the sake of being a special snowflake without astounding gameplay to back it up. Setting a good impression of yourself to others will be crucial when looking for a team, and even later as you look to make your mark on the scene. A lot of players get frustrated and teams disband because these first four steps were skipped, but most importantly it is usually this step that is ignored. Players join teams based off of skill and not those that best fit their role by supplementing it with other specified roles. Also if you skip this step, you will be trying to fit yourself into a team but what if that team disbands? Then you have to waste time trying to fit yourself into a new team with new players around you. If you specify what your role is before even attempting to look for a team, you will have a much better chance at finding a team that fits you.
Actively Join the Community/Seek Help
This is another vital part to your journey. Countless times, I have seen people ask a top player “How do I join the competitive community?” The most common answer I have seen is providing a few popular discord servers to join and while this is a necessary part of the journey, just joining a discord server with 1000+ players is not going to help you. As an example, The Inkademy Discord server currently has the most people dedicated to competitive Splatoon 2 in one place, and in it you are going to find quite a few varying opinions and discussion. As a newer player, if you were just told check out this server, you would not know where to begin and would become overwhelmed by the amount of discussion throughout various channels. If you tried to talk in the server, don’t be surprised if your comments are disregarded or attacked for being incorrect. It is the very nature of being new at something, sometimes those who have played the game longer will believe they have a better understanding of the game (which isn’t necessarily incorrect). However, it is important that when entering bigger discord servers like The Inkademy, you don’t become discouraged because your opinion is disregarded. Take the time to think about why people think its wrong and keep an open mind. You are new and have so much to learn, so ask questions, actually take into account their opinions, and then analyze the situation. If you don’t agree with what others have to say that’s fine, however, remember that they probably have some type of experience that you don’t and what they are saying may or may not be true. These servers also have channels to look and search for recruiting teams and players which will eventually be of use to you.
A huge, and often undervalued, part of actively joining the community is to watch those top player streams who have the experience and knowledge that you can use to your advantage. You should be asking these players questions about the game and anything you are having trouble with, if they know the answer they will help you. Watch how they scrim, practice, brush off a tough loss, bounce back, analyze the game, etc. One of the best tools at your disposal is competitive players' streams, by looking at their play you will be able to distinguish what separates your play from theirs. Look for players that excel at weapons or roles you are interested in, but also watch players with high game knowledge no matter if you like their personality, weapon choice, team, etc. Not watching and learning from these players is only a detriment to yourself and your progression. By asking questions and engaging in more discussion, you will be making connections and gaining extremely useful tips and insight. Furthermore, don't be afraid to copy their playstyle, it is working for a reason and is probably a better way to play the game than that of those who aren't seeing as much success.
Find the Right Team For Yours Goals
You’ve put hours into practicing, you’ve learned about the game through actively engaging, and you found yourself and the role you want focus on, you’re now ready to find a team. This is a huge ‘make it or break it’ point for new and old players alike. Not finding the right team can sour your view on competitive gaming and the entire community. This is why I encourage this process to be slow, you don’t need to join the first team available. You are going to be playing and interacting with these people every day for some time and therefore you want to look for a team that best suits your goals, motivations/dedication, schedule, and role. Conflict between team members in any of these are the leading causes of members leaving the team and teams disbanding. This is why you want to look for a team that has the same desires as you. If you want to be the best and have a lot of time to devote to the game, why would you join a team that can only play 3 times a week? If your goal is to perform well in tournaments and improve, make sure to examine the team size. Larger teams of say 8 or so people are not suitable for this. It will lead to inconsistent practice as team composition and lineups will be changing frequently. You and the team will only end up making excuses, blaming losses on your best team composition not being available. If you truly want to be the best, you should be looking for a team with 4-6 members max. It is possible with more members, but they will act as an extra hurdle in the end. If you are looking for a family-like team to have fun with, a big team with 8 or so members will better suit your needs.
One of the most important things to remember, if you are trying to succeed and become a top player on a top team, is that sometimes you need to be selfish. You don’t need to be on a team with your friends if they can only play two times a week while you can play 5. Do what is best for your career and your aspirations. Simply because you aren’t on the same team does not mean you can’t be friends. At the same time, I’m not saying join a team with people you absolutely despise. Rather, you don’t have to be best friends with your team if you are a competitive player seeking to be the best. Also, look for players that complement your playstyle so you don’t have two chargers on the team or three support players, etc. Each player on the team should have a distinct role so that no one steps on each other’s toes and it will contribute to overall team growth.
With all of this in mind, make a checklist of what you are looking for in a team. Then, use those discord servers with ‘looking for team or player’ channels to search for those that meet your criteria. Tryout for all teams that fit your checklist. I recommend trying out for as many teams as possible and holding your own tryout for which team fits you the best. Don’t simply join a team because you passed a tryout phase, ask yourself if this will be a team that will lead you to accomplishing your goals. If not, kindly reject their offer and keep looking. Again, there is no rush to find a team. This remains true if a team you are on disbands or you decide to leave, take your time and look for a team that better fits you. Clearly, something with that past team did not work so look for a fix to that problem in your next team. One more thing that is crucial to your competitive journey is to keep in mind your goal. If that is to win tournaments and be the best, sometimes you will have to leave a team to look for a new one even if you love the people on the team. If you truly feel like you can have more success with another team and that it would be better for you, don’t hold yourself back from reaching your true potential. Treat your team search like you would a job, you wouldn’t stay at a job where you make half the money because you like the people. Potentially, if you went to a new job and you actually hated everyone, you can leave that one for lesser pay. However, generally you want to be moving up in your career. Mirror your competitive career after what you would do in a professional career and it will pay off.
Enter Tournaments and Climb the Ranks
Now that you have a team, you’re ready to try playing in tournaments and the most important things to keep in mind is that you will lose, you will be disappointed, and you will be frustrated. It is only natural, you are new to competitive play and the chances are your teammates are too. The very nature of tournaments means your team will be seeded low, and therefore, you’ll likely play against a strong team first round. You will lose horribly, but it doesn’t matter. Keep entering as many tournaments as possible and try and learn anything you can from these loses. Play tournaments of all sizes and formats even “major” events. You will no doubt perform poorly, but it will be a valuable experience. Playing in larger tournaments are helpful as they often have a different atmosphere to them. You want your first experience with a “major” or big event to be as soon as possible, so that you can knock out those nerves early in your career. That way, when you have a shot at actually winning sets, you aren’t thinking about how nervous you are. While you are facing stiff competition in these events, also play in tournaments like Young Ink which only newer and lesser experienced teams are allowed to enter. Doing so will give you more practice against players of all skill levels, especially your own. Simultaneously play in as many scrims as you can for further practice, and over time you will make strides toward winning those sets. The key point is to continue playing in competitive settings. The best method to improving as a competitive player is the continuous effort. Don’t get discouraged by tough losses, it is a necessary part of your growth as a competitor and most people have started in a similar position to you.
While you are playing in tournaments and scrims, you’ll be making connections and getting to know players outside of your team. It is important that you use these connections to your advantage. If your team is not available to play in tournaments or scrims when you are, this does not mean you don’t play at all. Ask these players that you’ve met if they want to form a pickup and play. Even if it is not your team, you will learn a lot. Participating with different players exposes you to new ways of playing the game, ways that you and your team may not have thought of. For some reason, many players have a vendetta against playing in pickups (some of whom may be your teammates), but playing more will only help you in the long run. If your teammates have a problem with you playing with other players often, then they need to be more active and not place the blame on you. If your team is available to play and you are needed, you should always play with them if you will be actually playing. If they want you around to just warm the bench during an event or scrim, then it’s fine to go seeking other players to play with because it is for your personal growth. Put yourself in a position to get as much competitive experience as possible and work your way up the competitive scene.
Continue to Learn and Keep an Open Mind
You’ve followed all these steps and regardless of whether you are seeing success or not, keep at it and continue to learn. No matter your skill level or success, there is always more to learn about any game. Remember this as you start to move up the ranks of the competitive scene, you are never too good to learn more, ask for help/advice, or practice. Also, keep an open mind to criticism, no matter how good you think you are getting you are not perfect and there will be things to improve. If someone is giving you criticism, especially a teammate listen and think about what you can do to improve in the criticized aspect. You have to continue to implement what has gotten you to the point you are now and stay dedicated if you plan on improving further and reaching your goals. If things aren’t working out for you, review steps 1-7 and look for any area in which you can make a change. It’s alright to change roles, teams, or anything else if you don’t think it’s in your best interest. Things will get easier the more dedicated you are to the community and yourself. As people will start to recognize you, getting onto teams and playing with more skilled players will be easier. The more time you put in and effective methods you implement, the more you will get out of it. Stay true to yourself and your training methods throughout your journey, never let up, and congratulate yourself as you are now closer to reaching your competitive goals.
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