Suppose you’ve been in competitive gaming for over 20 years like I have, coaching players as an FPS coach, leading teams, and consistently delivering the highest possible performance as an individual player. In that case, you automatically notice certain patterns in good players. Patterns that have nothing to do with talent but with habits.
There are helpful habits of esports players or outstanding players that are cultivated entirely outside of the actual playing, for example, healthy sleep, and there are habits that take effect before, during, and after playing.
Today, we’ll focus on routines that top players go through immediately before a match to get maximum performance from the start.
Some of it coincides with habits of traditional sports, and others are specific to gaming.
Quick insert: This post is the start of a series. Overall, we’re shedding light on important habits before, during, and after gaming. The other posts will be linked here as soon as they are published.
Note: This article was written in English. Translations into other languages may not provide the same linguistic quality. We apologize for grammatical and semantic errors.
Why Are Habits Important in FPS Gaming?
Our brain is built in such a way that we can learn new things very quickly. Moreover, so that our brain does not have to deal with the learning process over and over again, we store the sequences of the activity as a memory on the one hand, and on the other hand, we can get better and better through repetition.
The improvement comes on the one hand from the fact that we optimize the sequences little by little, but also because all elements of our body (e.g., muscle memory) adjust to these routines.
The goal of the brain is always to have as much capacity as possible available for new learning processes, so as much as possible is stored – in the end, also the exact procedures in the form of habits or automatic routines.
This procedure has brought us advantages in evolution.
For example, we can react more quickly to certain situations. Or because we can perform specific movement sequences, such as climbing, while at the same time already planning the next steps.
In gaming, habits are constantly making themselves noticeable. Rehearsed routines can become powerful weapons in the arsenal of a good player because they also always mean an advantage over players who have not mastered the routine.
A good example is the bunny hop, which allows good players to position themselves faster. Or the automatic “wiggling” in shooters with peeking mechanics. Or the perfect throwing of grenades.
Countless examples of routines make you better when they become habits. You don’t have to think about how something works, and you can move on to other game elements simultaneously.
What Pre-Game Habits Make You a Better Player?
I have compiled my top 5 routines below, which have become my habits to really get the best performance immediately. After going through this routine repeatedly, you will notice that your body is already fully focused at point 1, and everything feels “right.”
At this moment, you know that you are gaming professionally, or your body has internalized the habit sufficiently and now flips a kind of power switch.
Below we’ll go through 5 habits I’ve internalized, and hopefully, they’ll help you as much as they help me. In the end, there is a bonus tip, which is not executed immediately before the game but is very important in preparation.
Calmness and composure are two crucial factors in esports. It’s not about suppressing passion and joy for the game or always running harmoniously across the map as a team.
It’s about rational thinking and how our brain deals with stress and restlessness. You need a clean starting point in your game for full focus from the first second.
You know this from traditional sports like boxing, tennis, sprinting, or track and field, where you pause just before the action starts. Everything else fades out, breathing calms down, and ultimately the whole body is prepared to perform at full capacity. There are many ways to achieve this.
For me personally, short meditations have helped because you can do them while sitting just before the game.
If you play in a team and are just before the start of a match, then make a short announcement to the team members (e.g., “shortly AFK”), take off the headset, close your eyes and meditate for 2-3 minutes is enough. Here is a good example of an exercise:
You will notice that your focus is there immediately afterward.
It always gave me an immediate boost in self-confidence because I knew that my opponents probably didn’t have this high level of focus.
And that brings us to the next point.
Find a Good Mindset
Our brain is a miracle. It can make our dreams come true, solve the most complex problems and react spontaneously to new situations. On the other hand, with the wrong mindset, we can also block ourselves, limit our performance and make ourselves insecure. The mindset in gaming is a factor that most gamers pay almost no attention to, yet it has the most significant impact on in-game performance.
Things like self-awareness, dealing with mistakes, and empathy towards teammates, as well as a hundred other factors, make mindset the deciding factor when two top players meet.
Of course, you create the basis for a good mindset long before the game by dealing with yourself as a personality. Therefore, shortly before the match, you must remind yourself of your values, ambitions, goals, strengths, and weaknesses to benefit directly from these attitudes and experiences in the first match.
In principle, I have gone through these thought processes again and again before almost every match and have made a habit out of it that brings me more self-confidence, attention, and the will to win right from the start.
Practically, it feels like I’m walking through a big house, and in each room, there’s a strength or weakness of mine that I remind myself of so that I can immediately exploit the strengths and avoid the weaknesses in the match. However, as I said, this house must be built beforehand through an examination of yourself before you can use it.
A really valuable exercise that I highly recommend to you.
Here is an in-depth video on the topic:
Find the Correct Position
This point is again another very underestimated factor. Our posture has a direct influence on our psyche. Studies have shown that very good players tend to lean forward, while worse players tend to lean back comfortably.
The degree to which you are physically involved is also immediately reflected in-game.
Those who have fully involved play more attentively, communicate better and react faster. On the other hand, whoever sits loosely and laxly in the chair will also act more comfortably in the game, i.e., will not call up their full potential.
You can find the relevant study here if you want to dig deeper into the topic.
As mentioned at the beginning, the brain tries to store and automate processes that we repeat more often to concentrate on other new things. So, for example, even your sitting position, i.e., posture and distance of the eyes from the screen, as well as the hand position and the angle of the arm, all this and more is stored as a standard posture for certain routines.
Especially for aiming, it is therefore important to always adopt this standard posture as precisely as possible so that the automatisms always work.
Here is a helpful related video:
Practical tip: If you have found a perfect sitting, body, and arm position for yourself, then use simple tape to mark the contact points. The next time you play, you can adopt exactly this posture before the first match to get the maximum performance.
Warm-up for the body in esports? Huh? Yes! You’re using muscles and tendons even with a keyboard, mouse, and controller. Apart from the long-term effects, you can get a little reaction boost with the targeted movement of muscles.
I know this is not an exciting topic, but it’s the result that counts 😉
Here’s a good example of warm-up exercises. Pick partial exercises relevant to your game and do something good for your muscles and joints. For the upcoming match, but also for the general physical wear and tear, you do everything right.
Bonus tip: So that you don’t let the warmed-up muscles cool down again during breaks in the game, you can play with Armsleeves. For exactly the same reasons, traditional sports such as basketball are played with Armsleeves. Cheap Armsleeves are available, for example, here on Amazon. Qualitatively, there are hardly any differences between the various manufacturers.
When choosing my Armsleeves, the design was always more important to me, in contrast to the rest of my equipment 😛
Game Mechanics Warm-up
There are games with action from the first second, and there are games like Battle Royale games where you have no action for 20 minutes and have to function immediately.
Even if it’s not immediately noticeable in the first category, because you can compensate for the disadvantage of a cold start in the game faster, the following sentence applies to all FPS games.
In the first match, you will only perform at your best immediately if you have warmed up yourself.
It’s about acclimatizing with the graphics and movement, but most of all with the core mechanics like aiming, recoil, or something simple like the duration of a heal.
There are rare game sessions where you’ll have great matches even without warming up. Still, the probability that you’ll make idiotic mistakes in the first match because your head isn’t adjusted to certain routines is relatively high.
Make it a habit to go into a training mode or play a short deathmatch at least 5 minutes before the first match to activate all automatism.
This can make the difference between winning and losing, especially in the first match. And, of course, the first match may influence all the following matches in a session.
In my active time, I left nothing to chance at this point and always warmed up beforehand. 5 minutes are usually enough.
Here is a good example of a routine for warming up:
Alternatively, professionals often use Aimtrainers to get ready. In my experience, training levels, shooting ranges, or deathmatch modes in the corresponding game are much more effective than abstract objects in an aim trainer.
Bonus: Special Nutrition
Nutrition. Boring. Really? Then why are there nutrition specialists on the big teams now? You are what you eat.
Heavy food before a match makes you sluggish in physical reactions and also in your head. On the other hand, no food or drink at all before a match can affect you negatively, especially if a match series lasts for several hours.
Get to know your body a little better on this topic and boost your performance with the proper nutrition.
I’m not so much talking about healthy or unhealthy, but the timing of food and drink alone influences your game. But, of course, it is undisputed that a healthier diet (and sport) positively affects the body and mind.
This video shows a few in-depth insights into the topic:
We know it all. It is the first match of the day with our team, but somehow not everyone is awake and fully involved.
Stupid mistakes happen, things that have been rehearsed a hundred times suddenly don’t work out, and on top, the communication gets edgy.
The outcome is stress, a bad start, and not a good basis for further matches.
Does it have to be like that? No! With top players and top teams, certain habits or routines take hold, which each time lead to the players starting the first match in the best possible way. It is not difficult to establish these habits.
You may think that your personal preparation won’t help if the rest of your team doesn’t as well, but that’s not true.
You positively influence your teammates by acting like a professional player and then gradually proving that your routines are paying off.
Practical tip: Write a list of points you want to go through before a match and copy this list about 30 times. For the next 30 days, when you play, run through this checklist before your first match. After your session, write down a short note for the day about how much the preparation has helped you.
You will notice that after a few days, you will be able to do this as a matter of routine, and your positive evaluations will motivate you to stick to this routine every day.
Don’t be afraid to customize the routine in detail because every player is different, and especially without a coach, you’ll just have to try out what works best for you.
Masakari out – moep, moep!
Former pro gamer Andreas "Masakari" Mamerow has been an active gamer for over 35 years, more than 20 of them in the competitive scene (Esports). In CS 1.5/1.6, PUBG and Valorant, he has led and coached teams at the highest level. Old dogs bite better...