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Guest Episode | Nikita 'SKillous' Gurevich: The Importance of Mindset

Guest Episode | Nikita 'SKillous' Gurevich: The Importance of Mindset

Hello fellow gamers. It's time for new guest episode of Gaming Science. 🥳

This episode is written by Nikita 'SKillous' Gurevich, one of the best StarCraft II players on the competitive landscape. As a professional player, he has gathered knowledge and experience from many years of competing on the highest level that allows him to add a lot of value to the science-centered approach of 'Gaming Science'. Today, he is going to dive deep into the topic of a player's mindset, and I'm very happy and thankful to have him contribute to this newsletter.

💡 Nikita, will firstly lay out his personal story and how this mindset was an obstacle to him and his performance. Secondly, he is going to share how working with a mental coach helped him to overcome those issues. Lastly, he shares a list of issues he personally overcame and that helped him to grow on a personal level and improve his performance.

Hello, my name is Nikita, I’ve been a SC2 pro for 5 years, and represent Team Liquid for my second year. Today, I want to talk about mindset and its importance for achieving goals in competitive games. In my opinion, it’s a crucial topic for both, professional esports players and those who enjoy competitive game as hobby.

In this article, I won’t pay too much attention on how to fix these issues, since I’m simply not qualified to give advice on this. Instead, I will put emphasis on my experience, and give examples on practices that negatively impacts one’s mindset. I do believe though, acknowledging the issue for some, might already help, or be a good start at the very least.

Firstly, I’ll talk a little bit about my personal story. As I stated in the beginning of this article, I’ve been playing competitively for more than 5 years, but for the longest time I was known in the community as a player that is highly affected by nerves, therefore losing important matches because of that. I wouldn’t fully agree with that, but there is some truth to that, as always:

I definitely had a very bad mindset when it was coming to practice and competition.

To be more precise, I had a very bad attitude going into training, was getting upset if I didn’t win it all, although it being only practice games, and I had very strict expectation for my results and improvement.

If I didn’t meet those expectations, I’d be very hard on myself and get very negative about my own abilities.

Now the situation is much better. You can never be perfect and can never stop improving, but I can definitely say that I overcame these obstacles, at least part of them.

How exactly I did that? I think there were two reasons: firstly: time – with my competitive nature and never ending will for improvement – I started noticing that something was off. It took me long enough time, but at the moment when it got particularly bad, I realized that it’s the biggest obstacle on my way. It had to be resolved for me in order to move forward. This was the starting point.

Secondly, I was lucky enough to be in a big esports org that has top tier professionals who can help. I started working with a mental coach, and now I can see how better my mindset and general perception of practice/result expectations have become. This has helped me a lot. However, I do not think it is a “must have” for everyone.

In a nutshell, I’d say that a mental coach mostly helps athlete to look at their situation from a different angle.

Of course, professional can also recommend some practices, but they are still highly individual and can work for some, while not work for others, so it’s always a process of trial and error. And that’s what I’m trying to do in this article: try to find yourself within the next few paragraphs. It will be a good starting point for everyone trying to get better at this.

Let’s talk about the main problems with mindset that I’ve witnessed over the years, looking at myself and some other fellow competitive gamers. The list can probably go on forever, but these is only my observations.

1. Negative motivation. That was the biggest issue for me, and I instantly started to feel better after I stopped with it.

What is negative motivation? In my case, every time I was losing, I was blaming myself hard for not being up to my standards. Lost an important match? What a moron I am, will train even harder for the next tournament. And meanwhile it can be efficient short term, long term having this mindset is awful. Once something doesn’t go your way, you get tilted, upset about your own weaknesses, therefore playing worse, getting even further upset, and it creates a very vicious circle.

2. Getting too focused on external factors. With that I mean something that you cannot control, but something that is present in any game.

For example: in team games it might be teammates who are “griefing” or “trolling”. In solo games like StarCraft 2 it can, for example, be problems with balance, variance in matchup, “bad luck” etc. Of course, these things exist. But the brain is lazy, so the more you pay attention to these things, the easier it is to attribute any loss to those factors. One should strive to be as “objective” as possible, although it’s nearly impossible to always be mentally in the right place. Being always aware that it can negatively affect you highly increase your chances to become better.

3. Not respecting your opponents. It also can happen to anyone, even if you do not consider yourself an arrogant person.

One should be confident in one’s abilities, but sometimes it can be too much and start negatively impacting your performance. Opponent is weaker than you? Than I can play a “troll” strategy or build. Maybe make an attack that shouldn’t work against a “normal” player, but will work against this “noob”. In fact, these kind of losses will hurt even more and will cost a lot of ranking points. At the same time, they do not add much new knowledge. Acknowledging that someone is weaker is normal, but everyone still should be treated with respect.

As I mentioned, there are probably many more issues you can face, but there is one common characteristic: bad mindset impacts your confidence and makes your performance and practice worse.

You can be under- or overconfident - both can hurt your performance. But it’s very important to find a “sweet” spot.

I will be happy if, after reading this, you found something new for yourself and look at it from a different angle. Have a nice day!


A big "Thank you!" to Nikita for writing this episode and sharing his insides on the matter of mindset in competitive gaming. Please make sure to follow him and his path on X.

What do you think? Let me hear your thoughts on Twitter (X) and LinkedIn.

Know someone who would enjoy this article? Why not just share it?

And as always, see you guys next week. Cheers,

Christian 🙂

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