Fans often complain about a player’s lack of improvement in an area that is a significant weakness and appears to hold the player back from being one of the world’s best. However, what appears to be an easy problem to fix like simply playing more deathmatch to improve their aim is not always so simple. Fans often cite a lack of effort or drive on the behalf of the player, but that is not always the case, and some of the other reasons are not so obvious.

The first reason and potentially the biggest one is a lack of time, which is often just seen as an excuse for a player who is not playing all day every day in an attempt to improve. However, if you consider a professional player to have a job like any other, there is a set amount of time that they spend at work, and anything that cannot be completed in that time is only completed in the employee’s own time in rare cases of extremely committed individuals. Naturally, if the the amount of work or its level is unsatisfactory then the employee must be replaced, but they are not expected to simply increase their working hours. If a pro player is attending practice and playing the same number of hours outside of that as the rest of the team, there is no reasonable way to expect them to play any more than they are even if they are underperforming. Players have different talent levels and expecting them to just put in time until they reach a certain level is unreasonable.

Under the assumption that a player has a set time they wish to spend practicing, any time spent on one skill, be that deathmatching, watching demos, playing scrims or anything else, is time spent and hence cannot be used elsewhere. For example, a player who feels his aim needs work could spend all his time outside of scrims deathmatching, but even if an improvement is seen, it means he cannot improve through studying his own performance in demos or preparing for an opponent. This mirrors Thorin’s beliefs about a team’s map pool, with maps being equivalent to skills in this analogy, as spending time improving one map leads to an inevitable dip on other maps if they are not maintained. Spending all your practice on your weakest map may lead to some improvement, but it may lead to your best map no longer being a force to be reckoned with. In terms of a player, improving their gamesense for clutch situations by studying other players decision-making, at the detriment of their aim may be an overall loss in ability, as their aim would be good enough to win clutches by taking duels, and their gamesense may never catch up to be an improvement over just relying on their aim. This kind of reworking of how a player approaches the game may be beneficial long term, but may lead to a short term dip as they adjust. Taking that kind of a risk requires trust in teammates not to remove them due to a dip in form, and they may still never see any overall improvement to their game.

This leads on to the consideration that there is no guarantee that practice will pay off. Even with efficient practice where time is not wasted, there are a plethora of reasons why it may not show up in-game. One is that the game is played 5v5 meaning a player can only control so much of what happens. If a teammate has a loss of form for any reason it will naturally effect the cohesion of the team and while a player might have improved, compensating for their teammate may mean the improvement does not show. Opponents can also have a significant effect on the fruits of your labour. As shox showed Cloud9 in the decider match at DreamHack Austin, whatever improvements you might have made in your aim or your setup to defend the site, if a player walks through a Molotov and headshots all three players those improvements are never seen. Finally as pronax once showed seang@res, preparing for an opponent can leave you confused as they do the opposite to what you expect leaving you questioning why you bothered watching a demo, when you could have played deathmatch instead and maybe you could just spray down three people as they come into a site rather than trying to predict which site they would come to.

Other than preparing for an opponent, practicing in other areas can also have a negative impact in an unforeseen manner. For example, if you make a change to how you defend a site on CT side, something that appears objectively better may reduce your team chemistry as your reactions to certain grenades thrown by the T side change and this dysfunction leads to a worse performance overall. Likewise, changing the in-game leader may lead to an improvement in strategy, but could hamper the star player from just hard-carrying the game.

Finally, any attempts at improvement a player makes are liable to have unforeseen consequences they did not predict. For those who are secure in their place on a team that pays them well, rocking the boat in an effort to improve could be the move that causes their removal from the team. Not all players are driven to be the best, some are just really good at Counter-Strike.

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