As a lifelong gamer, I couldn’t help but get a little bit defensive when my Fortnite coach said, “Practice with purpose makes perfect. But if you’re just endlessly practicing the wrong thing, you’ll never get anywhere close to perfect.”

As it turns out, I’m even worse at Fortnite: Battle Royale than I previously thought.

Sure, I’m good enough to have about a dozen Victory Royales under my belt (in Duos and Squads, anyway). But, to be honest, I’m an obsessive looter with decent gunplay skills who’s utter trash at building. I have little to no grasp on the basic strategies that can elevate other players into the top tier of this game.

So yeah, I spend a lot of time practicing the “wrong thing” when I play Fortnite, mainly because I have a lot of fun looting and don’t have enough experience with effective combat and building mechanics.

Finding a Fortnite Coach

If you’re like me and tired of getting totally wrecked by all the teens out there playing Fortnite, then you might want to get professional help like I did. That’s why I turned to Gamer Sensei, an online platform that connects players with esports professionals and coaches that can help them get better.

For when you're tired of getting wrecked by all the teens in 'Fortnite'.
For when you're tired of getting wrecked by all the teens in 'Fortnite'.

I already write a lot about Fortnite: Battle Royale professionally. I even casually stream it via Twitch every now and then, but I often worry about how poorly I perform under pressure.

In a typical Fortnite session, I either aim strictly for Weekly Challenges or just play for fun with friends in Duos or Squads. Working as a team lets me focus on firefights without needing to worry about my terrible building skills, but Gamer Sensei helped changed that.

Browsing potential coaches — called “senseis” to go along with the branding — you can’t help but feel like you’re looking at dating profiles. You see a nice photo and read about someone’s personal history and skills. Every sensei sets their own hourly rate too, which makes Gamer Sensei kind of like Fiverr for video game coaching.

Sensei profiles on Gamer Sensei make it feel almost like a dating website.
Sensei profiles on Gamer Sensei make it feel almost like a dating website.

After a bit of browsing, I connected with Krish “Convertible” Nara, a retired Overwatch pro player who brought those skills over to coaching for an even more popular game.

After I scheduled the session through Gamer Sensei’s system, Convertible and I connected over Skype, where we chatted briefly about what I could expect from the session.

Gamer Sensei

I shared a few pre-recorded videos of my gameplay with him before the session, and we started out watching them together while voice-chatting over Skype. Convertible used Watch2Gether, which allowed us to “watch together” with him controlling the video player. He’d fast-forward through boring segments of me looting aimlessly and then pick apart my combat behavior like a grizzled veteran, rewinding to emphasize all the sloppy mistakes I’d made and the chances to protect myself that I squandered.

Fortnite is already pretty stressful, but this really put the pressure on.

Leaning From My Mistakes

“NEVER hip-fire with AR,” he said matter-of-factly when an enemy player rounded the corner and I panicked, firing off several rounds from an Assault Rifle that hit them once in the leg but mostly just peppered the tree next to them.

“Don’t hard scope to turn a corner,” Convertible said a minute later when I made the mistake of inching around the corner of a building with my targeting reticle zoomed in, which slowed down my movement and left me exposed to an enemy that blindsided me. “Always be conscious of where somebody can shoot you from,” he explained.

Perhaps the best bit of advice from Convertible came as we fast-forwarded through 15 minutes of me landing at my favorite secluded destination to casually loot far away from any enemy conflict.

“This is too passive,” Convertible said with a sigh. “You can have all of the gear in the game, but if you don’t know how to build or win a shotgun fight, you’re just gonna be a delivery boy for the other guy.”

I winced.

A delivery boy for the other guy? It was hard to hear, especially because I have a big ego as a gamer. I’m the guy the other guys in my dorm used to gang up against in every match of Super Smash Bros. The guy who could routinely fend off two enemies at a time in Halo.

Now I’m just a delivery boy.

'Fortnite' death

It’s true that if I just spend most of my time looting but can’t defeat enemies all that well, I’ll just die and essentially hand them all of my beloved loot on a gleaming platter. So what’s a mediocre Fortnite player like me to do?

Fortnite Homework

Convertible gave me homework: Practice building by playing “Build Battles” with one of my friends, and “play Gun Game in Tilted.”

Build Battles are difficult to pull off in most game modes, but you can do it in various 20 vs. 20 limited time modes and the upcoming Playground mode. Essentially, you and your enemy square off at 20 paces or so, and when the game starts, you both build and run upward, constantly trying to cut off your enemy’s growing ramp while at the same time trying to block and kill them, preferably with shotguns.

Here are some pros doing it in a video Convertible sent me:

A big reason why everyone says that building is so important in Fortnite is because each character’s head is incredibly small. So if you’re firing down on an enemy, you’re usually able to target their whole body at an advantageous angle, whereas they can only see the top bit of your body peaking out.

Dick bullets be damned, this strategy will forever be a valuable one in Fortnite — unless Epic Games does make those drastic changes to building that the company talked about in June.

The other huge piece of homework, Gun Game, refers to a match type in the Call of Duty franchise in which every time you get a kill with a weapon, you advance to the next weapon in a pre-established order. Usually it begins with a pistol and progresses forward through bigger and better weapons.

This modified version functions like hyper-aggressive baptism by fire. I had to land in the most popular place on the map, Tilted Towers, and try to kill everyone. After each kill, I had to switch to a new weapon I picked up.

“Challenge every single person you see,” Convertible clarified. “Never back down.” He said that I couldn’t leave the city until I had already gotten four or five kills. “Go for kills in Tilted,” he said, adding, “Every time you die, think about what you needed to do to survive that encounter.”

Here’s me trying out some Gun Game during my session with Convertible:

“Try to spend 2 minutes of reflection after you die in every match,” Convertible advised, especially when playing Gun Game. The key was to learn how to play aggressively, to overwhelm and overpower opponents with popular weapons like shotguns.

Convertible also told me to read a few of his articles on the Gamer Sensei blog, namely “The Basics of Combat” and “The Importance of the High Ground.”

For now, I’ve got some serious homework to do to if I want to get any better at Fortnite: Battle Royale, but before long, I might finally be able to make it out of Tilted alive.

Photos via Gamer Sensei, Epic Games