It seems to me that Americans like to think too highly of themselves a bit too often. Not only is this evident from an objective look at how our country manages foreign affairs, but also in the conduct and attitude of individual citizens as well. In America, it wouldn’t be surprising to find a student who thinks he’s better than a teacher, an employee who thinks he is better than his boss, a child who thinks he is better than his parent, and (in the context of this article) a video gamer who thinks he is better than a pro player. This is in many ways unique to the good ole U.S. of A.
To clarify, when I say “Americans like to think too highly of themselves,” I don’t mean it in an offensive way or as a judgment on American society and culture. I also don’t mean to imply that every American has this type of attitude. Some do and some don’t; some do it often while others not much at all. I only aim to point out something that is clearly noticeable to other people in the world. Americans put a lot of stake in their pride, particularly in being known as the best at something. And while there is nothing wrong with the goal of wanting to be the best, how a person goes about becoming the best is difficult and certainly not a given.
Professional American gamers seem to carry a chip on their shoulder when it comes to competing worldwide. Whether it is League of Legends, Warcraft, Starcraft, Counter Strike, Super Smash Bros, or any other game, Americans seem to have a difficult time winning against their foreign counterparts. It’s not because they aren’t good enough to play other pro players. They are no doubt at the top of the North American ladders (high scores). However, when they face competition from outside the North American circuit, they seemingly crumble against superior play and tactical decision making.
North America (NA for short) carries a somewhat negative connotation in the competitive gaming scene. While being composed of one of the largest player bases, NA has come to be associated with lower quality play. Again, this isn’t to say that players at the top of the region aren’t good; they are. However, outside of NA, they are sometimes barely able to hold their own in tournaments and definitely long shots to win championships. When we look at other prominent gaming regions in the world, NA gamers recognize good play, but they fail to understand what makes those other regions better than NA.
Excellence in gaming has little to do with being from a particular region of the world. In fact, it has a lot more to do with work ethic and mindset. If you play and practice a game 1000 more hours a year than another player, chances are you will be better than that other player. Likewise, if you are open-minded to learning from every match, challenging yourself, and having a winning attitude versus a player with the mindset of not listening to advice, playing equal or lesser competition rather than harder competition, and having a selfish attitude, chances are you will be better than that player. These things have nothing to do with inherent skill. In simple terms, it has to do with playing games more seriously.
Secondly, upbringing has a large impact on the type of person who succeeds at competitive video gaming. This is especially important when it comes to the culture and society a person is grows up in. Some cultures and societies put a higher emphasis on hard work, education, and success than others. Arguably, no continent does this better than Asia. In the three most competitive gaming scenes in the world (China, Japan, and South Korea), gaming isn’t just about having fun. It is a part of an individual’s life, as central to their life as a job or religion. Unlike here in the U.S. where gaming is much more casual, Asian gaming is very serious, fast-paced, and heavily mechanical. In a couple words, it is brutally efficient. It is not enough to play well and beat most of your opponents on your skill level. You must strive to beat ALL opponents, even those that may be better than you. While this is an unfeasible ambition, it nevertheless sets a high standard that is unparalleled elsewhere in the world gaming scene, including the U.S.
Setting a high standard also means carrying out that high standard. It means challenging yourself each and every day, for countless hours on end, until you are the best of the best. It means trying new and different strategies, taking more risks, improving communication, and learning from mistakes. By setting and following a high standard to meet every day, you will improve. That much is a given. Whether or not you can surpass the thousands of other players with the same goal of reaching the top is entirely dependent on you and how much you care about meeting that goal. The more you care and work hard, the better your results.
What I’m getting at with all of this is that there’s a difference between wanting to be the best or the best of a specific group (American gaming) and doing what it takes to be the best of the whole group (Worldwide gaming). Every individual has their own unique talents and skills, but when it comes to gaming, it’s not about talent. Even with talent, very few people can play a game without practicing for hours on end and still be better than the top players. There’s no actual reason an American can’t beat a South Korean at a game of League of Legends or Starcraft 2 other than one works harder to be better. Hard work and continued self-improvement beforehand along with the mindset to perform to the best of your ability is all it takes.
It’s not impossible for NA teams or players to beat Asian teams or players or any other region in the world as well (Europe, South America, Russia, etc.). However, to make that dream a reality, American players need to embrace the idea that gaming is more than just pixels on a screen meant for entertainment. It’s more than just winning and losing. It’s an identity and a way of life. To be a professional gamer, you must treat gaming like a profession, working hard tirelessly and endlessly to improve yourself, challenge yourself, and at the end of the day be better than the other guy who is working just as hard as you to be the best as well. When American competitive gamers start doing that, then they will start achieving top finishes and world championships on the world stage.