Is it the water that they are drinking? Maybe the altitude they live in or some dark ritual their grandparents performed in order to enhance their genetic line’s reflexes and quick thinking abilities? Maybe they sold their souls to become legends in their field? Probably not. Today we are gonna take a look at what separates a legendary esports player from a mediocre one, what habits they practice to be the best of best.
First things first: Let’s get Oleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev’s AWP trick out the way, it doesn’t make him legendary. At least not yet. It makes him a good showman though. And a potential to be the best of best among CS:GO players worldwide.
Jonathan “Fatal1ty” Wendel, a name not heard in daily esports news in 2021, but known to many esports enthusiasts because of his contribution to the esports scene in general. He was one of the first esport stars this world has seen. Wendel held the record for most prize money won in all of esports until he was overtaken by Korean StarCraft player Lee Jaedong in 2013. And he is the reason why so many people started their esport careers back in the day.
What made him a legend? Sure he was very talented, he used to run 2-3 miles a day and then sat down on a training marathon that lasted until 4 AM, slept until noon and repeated this for 30 days straight before his Quake III Arena World Championship.
But the true reason that he’s a legend is that he showed to the world that a career in esports is a viable one back in the days when our parents thought playing video games harmed our brains and made us prone to violence. Even the term “gaming” or “gamer” hadn’t been coined in the first place. Those who were born in the pre-2000 era could surely relate. I’m 27 years old as of writing this piece and still feel weird when someone calls me a gamer. In my mind, I’m still that one guy who escapes real life through video games. How the tables turn.
Let’s get into details:
Pick a game to start playing and master it
Fatal1ty in an interview talks about the importance of sticking to a game and mastering it from the day one release date. He states that it’s possible to make a comeback even if you start playing a game after two years of its release, but it’s a rare occasion. It’s not uncommon for pro players to shift games as games’ popularity shifts. Not that being a demigod in Quake is a thing to be looked down upon today. It’s just not a career-making move. To be a cutting edge player it would be a good idea to start playing from day one. Esports is about being the “best player”, a legendary cyber athlete so to speak and the chances of a player being the best go higher if he/she starts mastering a game from day one and onward.
Practice makes perfect
Being a professional, meaning it’s your profession and you master it. It’s your job. What legendary players share in common is that their job is also their hobby. But they treat it more like a job than a hobby. Lynnie “artStar” Noquez (a CS:GO player playing for Team Dignitas) sums up her work schedule and daily life in an interview:
“I wake up around 11:00 AM and reply to all my work emails. Then I get ready around 12-1 PM, cook lunch with my fiancé, or sometimes go out to eat with his family. My afternoons are spent doing whatever I need to get done that day, whether it's running errands, cleaning the house, prepping dinner, or if I'm lucky and did all that on a different day, I usually spend time with family and friends. I do all of this until around 5:00 PM, and that’s when I start individual Counter-Strike practice. I'll watch a demo, review my nades, play some pugs or stream on Twitch. Around 7:00 PM team practice with Dignitas begins. We take a short break in the middle of practice for a dinner then end practice around 11:00 PM. Right after practice, I usually head straight to bed and repeat the next day for 5 days a week!”
Of course, they all constantly practice, and training hard usually leads to burnouts. What separates a good player from a legend is that the best ones just do not train hard. They train smarter. They reinvent the wheel, they create the meta:
Creating a META
What makes a professional is that they know the game’s mechanics inside out. Thus effectively able to come up with a META (Most Effective Tactics Available). Professionals are the ones who create the META. That is what separates them from extremely good players. A mediocre esports player would stick to an established metagame whilst a legend constantly pushes their abilities to improve their performance even by 0,1 percent.
Rangchu, a Korean Tekken player competing for Donuts USG has used Panda (a low tier character in the eyes of the professional Tekken community) has achieved a Top-8 finish at EVO 2018 and made a name for himself. Is he the best in Tekken esports? No. Has he become a legend? Yes.
All esports competitors have a very good all-round understanding of the game and perform in any and each role in a well above average skill. But the principle of starting a game at day one applies here too. If you want to be the best in something you have to specialize in it.
Cho “BeryL” Geon-hee of Damwon Gaming (DRX as of 2022), for example, is a master of vision control in League of Legends. His 3.22 vision score per minute coupled with one of the highest damage outputs among supports and His 267 GPM during the regular season is on par with junglers.
But is that it?
Constant practice from day one, being born with god-like talents? Incredibly good reflexes? Are these what makes a legendary esports player? Those are just obvious facts when it comes to being a professional.
To be a legendary player requires a bit more. What sets them apart from being a mediocre esports cyber athlete to a legendary one are these little things: Consistency, permanency, ability to get constantly show better and better performance or preserve their performance throughout their entire career, and sometimes it’s all about pioneering new metas (which is essentially what separates a tryhard from a professional) or elevating the esports scene in general. It’s not unusual for cyber athletes to reach a plateau then start to lose their momentum once they hit the peak.
Let’s take Oleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev of CS:GO and Tyson “Tenz” Ngo of Valorant and compare him to Patrik "f0rest" Lindberg and Filip "NEO" Kubski of CS:GO for example. Two of them are a legend, s1mple is about to become one, and Tenz simply just flopped. Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev has broken a record of having most aces at a single CS:GO Tournament. 4 aces in total. But this is not enough to become a legend on its own when it comes to esports.
What sets the other two apart from Kostyliev is that they have proven themselves over and over through a career spanning more than a decade. Always had risen to the occasion, carried their team countless times. From 2005 to 2017 they, not even flopped once. The worst they did at their careers were the 3rd place for NEO, and the 2nd place for f0rest for their team and that’s only for once, and they were still considered S-tier in those tournaments... S1mple seems like he’s following in their footsteps too. But if we take heed of these wise words; his showmanship could betray him any second.
Sure it’s cool to throw away your AWP over the wall to pick it up and spray your enemy's head to the wall the second you leap over to bombsite B at Dust. Or fall over a ledge to no scope two professional players with extreme self-confidence. Five more years in s1mple’s career with the same performance, and surely he’ll be known as the best CS:GO player to date. Potential is there after all. But not a legend. Not yet. Tyson “Tenz” Ngo, competing in Valorant, a Canadian player playing for Sentinels which is believed to become the best of the best and shown as a favourite in Valorant’s competitive scene just flopped at VALORANT Champions 2021 and VCT 2021: Stage 3 Masters – Berlin and dropped from the league.
Simply put, to become a legend: Number one is you have to be consistent. The player him/herself cannot burn out like a supernova. This is not a 50 Cent rap song where you get rich or die trying. Number two is pioneering a new meta for the game you are playing, which in itself brings a fresh perspective and prolongs the life of the game’s esports scene and itself and shows that the player is an outside the box thinker and an innovator. Number three is contributing to the popularity of the esports scene in general. Catapulting this line of work in the eyes of the public, as in the case of Fatal1ty.
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