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How to Get Prepared For a Gaming Competition

Dianna Labrien, Freelance Writer and Content Strategist, @DiLabrien

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In less than two months, gamers will converge upon Oakland, CA for the Intel Extreme Master's Championship. There, the most elite gamers will challenge one another until a champion emerges. You may not be prepared to compete on the national stage just yet, but you might be preparing to enter a local or regional competition for the first time. If you are, keep reading. This will serve as a quick reference guide that you can use to prepare for your first gaming competition.

Getting Mentally Prepared

Gaming competition is intense, and if you are a first timer it's normal to feel a bit intimidated. Here are some things to know so that you are mentally prepared for your first competition.
  • Nobody is going to give you a break. They are going to come at you with their best, no matter who you are. They expect you to do the same. Going easy on someone is something that players might do at home with their six year old little sister. Trying to slaughter you in a tournament is a sign of respect. Live with it, get better, and come back next year.
  • Get the best gear you can afford. Even if you aren't flush with cash, an online resource such as gaming zone can hook you up with quality gear that can boost your gameplay and confidence.
  • You will probably lose, and that's okay. Come in and do your best to win, but also set some other goals for yourself. This could be getting past a certain round, or using a challenging move effectively.
  • Know that you are going to make a stupid mistake, and that if you don't one of your teammates will. Prepare to forgive yourself and to forgive them.
  • Get enough to eat and drink. Try to get enough sleep the night before the competition. Drink coffee or energy drinks if you need to, but take it easy. Nobody plays well with jittery hands.
Get Commitment From Your Teammates

It's a few days before the tournament, and you and your teammates are packing up and preparing to hit the road. Then you get a text from one of your key players. "Uh, hey. I have a thing that came up. You guys are going to have to go on without me." Holy crap! Now what are you going to do?

Before you finalize the addition of anybody to your tournament team, be sure you can count on them to be there. The best way to avoid last minute flake outs? Hit everybody in their wallets. Collect gas money, motel room money, tournament fees, even snack money ahead of time. Put it in a bank account or even in an empty jar. Then, get everybody to agree that if anyone blows off the team for any reason, the money is not refundable.

Speaking of commitment, anybody wanting to go to the competition should agree to a specified number of hours each week of play time. This ensures that everybody playing knows all of the strategies forward and backwards.

Make Travel And Hotel Reservations Early

If competing requires you to stay overnight, get on the horn and make your hotel reservation quickly. Then, be sure your plane tickets, train tickets, car rental etc. are also set up. Even a relatively small competition can fill up local hotels fairly quickly. Remember there are spectators coming, not just players. The last thing that you want to do is get stuck staying at some seedy motel 30 miles from the venue, or sleeping in your car.

Here's something to keep in mind. Gaming competitions are also social events. People will often get together to game or just hang out in their hotel rooms. In fact, sometimes entire floors will throw parties after the event has happened. Even hotel staff might get in on the actions and designate the lobby or other area as a gaming area for those who want to continue playing after the official tournament is over. If the venue has a hotel attached to it, by all means do what you can to get a room. This will guarantee that you get to enjoy the entire tournament experience.

Know The Ground Rules

Each gaming competition is run just a bit differently. It's your responsibility to visit the competition website well before the tournament, and familiarize yourself with the rules. If you have questions, or find anything confusing, it's also up to you to contact the organizers to get clarification. While each tournament is operated a bit differently, here are some common rules that you can expect.
  • If you didn't sign up online, expect to spend a bit of time on paperwork when you arrive. If the media is in attendance, you might be asked to sign a photographic release. The same thing goes if the organizers intend to share pictures and videos on social media.
  • Bring your own controller. Don't rely on the organizers to provide that for you. In fact, you should probably bring a spare.
  • Make sure you and your team is ready when you get called to play. Nobody is going to delay things just for you. If you have to step out to use john or make a phone call, let a staff member know.
  • Listen to the announcements over the intercom. Yes, it's loud and chaotic, but if you miss a changed play time or other important announcement, that's on you.
  • Behave in a civilized manner. Acting like a sexist, racist, jerk might fly with some online gaming sysops (we hope not), but it's absolutely inappropriate at the competitive level. In fact, it's inappropriate period. There's nothing wrong with a bit of trolling and talking smack, but don't act like a jerk. TL;DR put on your decent human being hat when you are at a gaming tournament.
  • Follow the organizers' and the venue's rules when it comes to alcohol consumption. Don't drink if you're not of age. Don't drink if it isn't allowed. Don't buy drinks for the minors on your team. In fact, you're probably better off saving the celebratory or pity drinking for after the event.
Watch Your Money

Between tournament fees, travel costs, food, and your hotel room, a weekend tournament can easily set you back a few hundred dollars. Depending on cost of living where the tournament is held, maybe even a thousand bucks. Here are some ways to save money.
  • Renting a suite and sharing it with several people can cost lost than renting multiple single or double rooms.
  • Pack a cooler with drinks, sandwich fixings, yogurt, cereal, and other items. Don't waste your money in drive thrus.
  • That suite you rent probably has a fridge and microwave. It may even have a range. Take advantage of that.
  • Buy your own booze, it's cheaper than the bar.
  • If you drive to the tournament, map out the cheapest gas prices on your route.
Competitive video gaming can be an exciting experience. It's also a great way to connect with other gamers in real life, and form lasting friendships. If you are preparing for your first tournament, bookmark this page. You may find it to be a useful resource when the event date gets closer.

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