It’s time to Get Good with Tyler Blevins, a.k.a. Ninja, one of the most famous and highest-paid e-sports athletes around. That’s the title of his new book — subtitled My Ultimate Guide to Gaming — which promises to divulge Ninja’s “secrets to become unstoppable.”
Unlike typical celebrity hardbacks, Blevins’ book is light on drama and full of practical advice. Ninja walks readers through the ins and outs of building a video game streaming career (starting with buying the right equipment) and ending with how to manage the stress that comes with having millions of fans.
Not everyone can be Ninja. Game streaming stardom will allude most of us, but Get Good is still full of practical advice that’s perfect for video game newcomers, jaded gamers like myself, and everyone in between. Whether you’re looking to become the next streaming star or just want to stop getting your butt kicked by 12-year-olds all the time, Get Good has you covered.
Here are some of Ninja’s best tips for video game mastery.
Get the right gear
Ninja opens the book with a frank discussion of competitive players’ needs, with a focus on PC gamers. “Mice, keyboards, and headsets should feel like a natural part of your body, so that you can trust your tools,” he writes.
One of the first mistakes gamers make is using the wrong keyboard, he says. “If you want to get serious about playing well, then it’s time to get a mechanical keyboard,” Ninja says. Typical keyboards have a thin input membrane and it’s easy to mistype, especially in a panicked gaming situation. Mechanical keyboards are precision instruments. It’s harder to mistype, and the feedback lets you know you’ve pushed the button you meant to press.
Mice, too, are a big deal. And one of the mistakes Ninja sees gamers making is using a wireless model. “Wireless mice have input lags of anywhere from eight to sixteen miliseconds — and while that might not sound like much, it can make a difference at very high levels of play, especially in games where reaction time is crucial,” he says.
Input lag is the time it takes for the computer to take action after a player has pushed a button. When you press the fire button on a wireless mouse, it takes longer for your weapon to fire in the game than it would with a wired version. Wired mice also tend to be cheaper, and never run out of batteries.
Another piece of equipment people don’t think about is the mousepad. “Because they’re so simple … mouse pads often get overlooked,” Ninja says. “But they’re a crucial part of your setup because they bring out the best in your mouse, letting you make more accurate and smoother movements.”
When it comes to mouse pads, Ninja says bigger is often better. Make sure the pad is smooth and nothing obstructs the path of the mouse. If you’re constantly picking up the mouse because you’ve hit the edge, then you need a bigger pad.
Practice makes perfect
If you want to dominate the top of the charts in a shooter, then you have to learn to flick aim. Most of the time when I play a shooter, I stop moving, take the time to line up my shot, then aim when I’m ready. According to Ninja, this is all wrong. I should be flick aiming.
To flick aim, be a little looser with your hand on the mouse and react to enemies. Instead of focusing on them, flick your crosshair towards the enemy and fire. It’s pure reaction, and it’ll take time to get used to. “Since it’s a reaction, or even a reflex, flick aim isn’t something you think about so much as it’s something you just do,” Ninja writes. “That means you have to train your muscle memory until your flick shots are almost subconscious.”
Another mistake Ninja sees players make is that they’re not preshooting correctly, or they’re not aiming in the right place. You always want to aim at where the enemies might be, or where they might appear. For example: while going over a hill, Ninja writes, most players will aim upwards as they move, then pull the mouse down to aim down the hill. “Try to get in the habit of aiming downward right before you go over the top of a hill, rather than right after,” Ninja says.
This also works when you’re moving around rooms. As you’re looting, people tend to aim at what they’re grabbing. Instead, practice situational awareness and keep your crosshairs trained on the doors and windows where enemies might appear. That way, you can flick fire at them if they pop up.
If you want to get better at playing video games, you have to put the hours in just like any other athlete, he writes. “If you’re serious about getting better, you need to set up a schedule, not just be setting aside a slot of time for dedicated practice, but also having a plan for what to do with that practice time,” Ninja says. “Warm-up, free play, drills, replay review, scrimmage — you need to make space for all of it.”
Watching replays may sound boring, but it’s crucial. You can use YouTube, Twitch, and hundreds of other services to record your matches. Watch them and learn what you did right and how you might improve. “It’s very hard to be conscious, in the moment, of every decision you’re making,” Ninja says. “Replays are useful for figuring out what you might have done differently, or seeing your play with new eyes to assess why you’re losing.”
It’s all a mind game
One of the most surprising and important parts of Get Good is how much Ninja focuses on both physical and mental health. Throughout, Blevins constantly reminds his fans and readers that they need to physically exercise and practice healthy mental habits to stay on top of their game. There is such a thing as too much practice, he says. “A lot of research shows that you stop really benefiting from additional practice after about six hours a day,” he says. “So until you’re a professional, consider that your hard limit.”
Ninja also focuses on communication. Fortnite and Apex Legends are both team games and Ninja couldn’t win if he didn’t click with his teams. Often, when I play with friends I’m guilty of getting excited and shouting information that’s totally unhelpful. I’ll notice an enemy, but won’t report where I’ve seen them. By the time I’ve figured out they’re behind a tree on the other side of the mountain, they’ve already sniped me and my team is taking fire.
“You should try to make communication as intentional and efficient as possible,” Ninja says. “When you’re playing with friends, try to convey as much information in as few words as possible. It’ll take conscious effort at first, but eventually it’ll become a habit.”
Gamers can have a hard time managing their emotions, especially anger. Let’s face it: losing is rough, and the other guy totally cheated. In moments of pure hot rage, Ninja advises gamers step back and take a deep breath. “Gaming can be frustrating,” he says. “You need to find a way to deal with negative feelings that come with it. Over the last couple of years, I’ve started to understand that it’s okay and normal to get angry — but it’s also important to understand that you’re upset and take the right steps to get back into a good headspace. Too many gamers just get angrier and angrier and blame everyone but themselves.”
Get the right gear, practice the right way, and get into the right headspace and you too can Get Good.