How many hours should I play every day to become really good at the game? That’s the question that many Rocket League players these days want an answer to.
The correlation between being good and hours spent getting there is not new, but being good can mean different things to different people. For some, it might mean having their name on the global leaderboards or winning lots of tournaments. For others, it might mean reaching the highest rank or becoming a pro and playing at the RLCS.
How many hours to Pro?
Whatever getting good means to you, the common underlying objective is to be able to achieve Rocket League Mechanical Mastery. What that means is becoming a well-rounded Rocket League player who can execute all kinds of mechanics in a relaxed way and to whom everything feels easy. Because for a mechanical master like Alpha54, Firstkiller, or Okhalid, there is no need to focus on things like getting the timing of their jump right, perfect shot placement, or their accuracy because all that just comes naturally to them. They can do it all without having to think so that they can simply focus on things like game sense, positioning, and rotations.
The answer to that is all over the internet. YouTubers will tell you it is 10,000 hours because of the famously misunderstood rule. Redditors will tell you it is 5,000 hours because their grandma made it to Grand Champion in that much time. If you really want to become the next Alpha54, Firstkiller or Okhalid then you are asking the wrong question. Because even practicing 10 hours a day for 10 years will not guarantee that you will get there.
How passionate are you?
The real question I want to ask you is: “How far are you willing to go?”.
When I say passion, I don’t mean spending money on merchandise or stickering the backside of your car with a cheesy rocket league insider joke – no. What I mean is how intense is your desire to be great at the game. And when you practice are you able to harness that intensity?
Intensity is arguably the most important factor in becoming good. Because when you are really into it, your whole body, mind, the controller, and the car become one. Then the rate at which you learn accelerates to the next level.
Compare that to dispassionately practicing for X hours a day and Y days a week like it’s a job and sure you will still improve, but you’ll never break into that realm of rocket league mastery where everything seems effortless. Every rocket league player who gets to that level really does so with these extremely intense spurts of practice.
Of course, there will be alternating periods of relaxation and there will be a lot of back and forth between periods of being overly obsessed about the game and periods of being not so obsessed. These are all perfectly normal human conditions. But exceptional performance should not just be equated to some hours. If it was just the question of putting in the hours then there would be a lot more players like JSTN, Aztral, or Ayyjayy.
Hours are just a number
Hours can never convey the important bits like obsession and intensity which are crucial to getting better. The truth is that mastery can even be achieved with fewer hours provided there is a lot more passion and drive. That is what these players have, which is why they probably never even bothered asking such a question because they were not counting hours.
I’ve watched live streams of players that play like they just picked up the game a few months ago but in reality have over 5,000 hours. Almost everything about their play is fidgety, awkward, and hesitant. On the other hand, I’ve also been lucky to watch new players that have indeed only been playing for months but their games are well-coordinated, smooth, and effortless. They play almost like the car is an extension of their own bodies.
What’s the difference? It’s simple, intensity in practice. Some of us choose to deliberately struggle in practice so our games are breezy and relaxed. While some of us relax in practice and so our games are filled with anxiety and struggle.
I’m not here to judge people. After all, Rocket League is just a video game, and many players play just for fun without the ambition of wanting to become really good. I get that and I have no problems with that. But this essay is not for casual players that consider the game as just another hobby. It is for players who are obsessed with Rocket League, who want to become good, and are even putting in the hours but not making progress.
Does it feel like Love?
The bottom line of achieving mastery at anything is that your experience with it has to be like a love affair. There are no transactional thoughts about how many hours you should spend or what you can expect in return. There will be spurts of deeply immersive practice that will be drenched in intensity. The hours will go by but you won’t even know. And you’ll catch yourself coming back to it often, no matter how hard it is or how much you suck at it.
As you are spending time reading this essay, someone that is passionately in love with rocket league probably has a controller in their hands and is messing around in free play. Should that have been you? I don’t know. You tell me. Do you really love and enjoy all aspects of the game, even the painfully hard and boring bits? If the answer is no then there’s no point even putting in those hours. You could explore and find something else that you like, maybe another video game or maybe a sport or some form of art – anything that you enjoy sucking at. You can still play Rocket League but have fun and don’t burden yourself with unnecessary expectations.
Every time that you get a window of free time during the day, what is the thing you catch yourself going to? If in your case, that thing happens to be rocket league, then you can safely forget the question of hours needed to become good at the game because eventually, you will make the time and you will achieve mastery – I can promise you that.