The clock is heading into its last waning seconds, as the audience leans in, breath held to take in the most critical part of the final match in one of the biggest esports tournaments of the year. The steely veteran and young upstart are solely focused in the moment, no words exchanged – their eyes locked on the screen in front of them. The players make their final moves – and the newcomer sends his opponent flying, as the announcer calls game.
This is the world of esports competition – the world that Cogswell video game design student Kyle Burnham throws himself into when he’s not working towards his degree. Part of what makes Cogswell great is the vibrant atmosphere filled with people who live and breathe video games and digital entertainment — even when they’re not in class. Kyle specializes in esports tournaments for the Nintendo fighting game Super Smash Bros. Melee, simply known as Melee in the esports circuit since its release 16 years ago.
We recently sat down with Kyle to ask about his tips to getting ready for an esports competition, and why he plays in the competitive Melee circuit.
Why do you participate in esports tournaments, and how do they fit into your life?
Esports fit into my life like other hobbies would fit into most people’s lives. Instead of watching TV or skateboarding, I’ll just practice Melee. I compete in Melee for my own ambition; being super good at esports games has been a passion of mine since I was young. I’m always improving, and that’s enough for me — esports tournaments are the measurements of my skills. The higher I place, the better I am. It’s simple, but very rewarding.
How would you describe your eSport training or practice methods for the tournaments?
I treat eSports training and practicing as two different things.
While training, I repeat movement options or combos over and over to be as consistent as possible. I’ll train with moves such as shield dropping, wave landing, ledge dashing and L-canceling. While training, what works best for me is having a relaxed mindset and relaxed hands — it’s very important to keep your hands relaxed whenever you can.
I usually practice against other people, where I focus on the mental aspects of Melee: stage control, shield pressure, habits and neutral game. When I’m practicing, I’ll try non-optimal move options to see if they work and learn from them. For the most part, however, I will simply apply what I have been training or studying.
What research do you do to prepare for a given esports opponent at the tournaments?
When tasked with a specific opponent whom I know I will come into contact with in esports tournaments, I will usually study their games on YouTube. If they have no esports games online, I will simply watch them during other matches to analyze their play style.
Are there special routines you do prior to the start of esports tournaments?
I always warm up both my hands and body. Hand health is extremely important to active button-pressing esports games like Melee. My warm-up includes, but is not limited to: stretching my whole body, jumping-jacks, shaking my arms, literally warming up my hands with hot water or rubbing them back and forth and finger exercises. I eat a big healthy breakfast before an esports competition; this improves my reaction time and mental state in general. Plenty of sleep, a cold shower and a confident attitude are also important tips to get myself ready to go into esports tournaments.
Like Kyle, Cogswell students don’t contain their passion for creativity to the confines of their courses and studio work; check out our academic and non-academic clubs and student life offerings to learn more.