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How does one become “good” at a game?

Content of the article: "How does one become “good” at a game?"

I'm fascinated by the meta of learning. That is to say, how we as humans learn and gain knowledge in order to gain an edge over our opponents. After playing so many different kinds of games and seeing the people at the top, it always makes me wonder exactly how they got there. Is the secret sauce just to play a ton and think about the game? Did they receive coaching in any form and is coaching even effective? I'd like to explore these questions in this post.

Is the secret sauce just to play a ton and think about the game?

The common factor I've observed among all top players in their respective games is that they have spent an enormous amount of time playing. I think this goes without saying. In order to become good at something one needs to put in a lot of volume. But surely this cannot be the only factor as there are plenty of people who pour hours into a game and remain below the elite few at the top. I'm hesitant to say that you must have "talent," as I feel like the term is used when one cannot explain why someone has reached a high level of ability.

This is why I include "and think about the game." In other words, you need to play the game and put conscious effort to think about it to fix your mistakes and explore how you can better gain an edge. After talking to many people who achieved a high level at a given game, a majority of them said they did not receive any coaching in any way–they just played a lot and tried to improve. Granted, this is small sample, and I could be completely missing the mark. This segue's to my next question…

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Is coaching even effective?

In a given game, there are countless things to learn. You could have someone try to teach you all of the different ways you can lose but with the amount of depth in most modern games, it doesn't seem realistic for a coach to be able to effectively teach you everything. At some level you're going to have to learn on your own. And if you can learn on your own, why would one consider even getting coaching? Sure a coach can help you with a few points here and there, but when there are countless things to learn, are you really expediting the process that much?

I have received coaching in several games I've played and while it was helpful, it felt like a majority of what I learned was through experience. I feel like the most effective form of coaching would be coaching a player on how to learn the game and how to improve. In other words, teaching a man how to fish instead of just giving him a few fish out of the thousands he'll need to catch in order to improve. The coaching I received was more of the latter (i.e. pointing out mistakes and how to fix them) but as with any game, you will continue to be exposed to new things that will cause you to lose. It doesn't seem realistic to always go to a coach to give you these answers.

While it's true that coaches can expose flaws that you are unaware of, you would eventually become aware of these flaws as you played the game (at least in theory). I guess it becomes a matter of time efficiency: is it better to spend hours figuring something out or just have someone tell you the answer.

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So my position is: "in order to become good at a game, all you need to do is just play a lot and think about how you can improve. If you trust this process, you can be highly-skilled at any game." I'm curious to hear what you guys think about this.


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