Red Bull Ready Check looks to prove AimLabs is the future of esports training

Carver Fisher
Red Bull Ready Check

With esports being an ever-evolving industry, AimLabs is focused on changing the ways that pros train for game days and creating tools that allow the average player to strive for those same heights. Dexerto spoke with some of the folks behind AimLabs to ask about the Red Bull Ready Check and their hopes for the future.

When it comes to traditional sports, finding ways to train outside of game day is normal. Competitors train their bodies in all sorts of pointed, focused ways to stay at the top of their game. Meanwhile, when it comes to most FPS esports titles, even the best players often practice by just queuing for a game.

However, the question AimLabs poses is whether or not focusing specifically on aim and all the ways in which it can be expressed in video games will help players improve, and whether or not the best esports competitors are truly the best aimers. The Red Bull Ready Check features several different scenarios meant to challenge even the greatest aimers, and it’ll pit pros from different esports titles against the best competitors on AimLabs’ leaderboard for the event-specific set of challenges.

Ahead of the event, we spoke to Dr. Wayne Mackey, CEO and founder of AimLabs, as well as Jackson Kyle, their Head of Product, to get their insight on the creation of AimLabs and what they hope to accomplish with the Red Bull Ready Check.

Drawing parallels and treading new ground

In finding ways to establish esports as more than just a pastime, many of those who created the foundation for the current esports landscape of both practice and league formats have looked to traditional sports as, in many ways, a model.

This approach has had just as many positives as it’s had negatives within the industry, but AimLabs CEO and Founder Dr. Wayne Mackey wanted to put together the best of both worlds when creating the initiative. His wealth of experience in neuroscience has given him a scientifically-driven perspective on how to facilitate the growth and improvement of those who want to get better at their favorite FPS titles.

In esports, scouting is largely a venture in having an eye for what makes a star player. Game knowledge, split-second decision-making, and raw aim can all be observed, but quantifying them and finding places to improve can be difficult. This is where Mackey saw a problem and created a product that aims to fix it.

“I don’t want to get anyone to get mad at me, because I’m not going to say that traditional sports are not very cerebral – because they are, I’m a big fan of combat sports. I would argue a lot of that is basically a chess match with a lot of physical powers involved. But [esports] is largely a head-up sport, is what we would say. I think that’s what attracted me to try and to solve some of the very first problems that started the company.”

Mackey then cited part of an interview Steve Arhancet, owner of Team Liquid, had with ESPN about the difficulty of scouting good players and the importance of putting together a strong team. AimLabs putting a stat behind people’s aim has the potential to be a great tool for scouting new players.

“He had mentioned something in there about scouting players and how difficult it was, because it’s not like they’re on a football field where you can throw a ball. You can measure how far they throw it, you can use that information, and he was talking in the context of scouting.”

Aim is by no means the be-all and end-all to what makes someone great at a game like Valorant, but it certainly helps. Not to mention, in a setting like collegiate or amateur leagues, there are often players who are mechanically strong but need some extra help from good coaches to get where they need to go. Having accessibility and the proper environment to improve is important.

Mackey himself started on a controller when he was young, simply because he couldn’t afford a PC.

“Growing up, I was a big console player because, honestly, I was just too poor to afford a PC, right? To be able to compete at a high level on PC, you had to have some pretty good equipment.”

Anyone who has played both knows that aiming with a mouse offers a level of precision controllers can’t. But getting to that level of precision requires a great deal of practice.

With the number of college scholarship opportunities around games like Valorant and League of Legends, it’s not that far-fetched a concept to have school-facilitated practice for esports titles in the near future.

“I think it’s an important part, from an educational standpoint, for people to understand the complexity and the depth of skill required to play games at a very high level, right? Like, and again, using traditional sports as an analogy – and I’m going to use LeBron because I’m from Northeast Ohio – if I look at LeBron, I go, ‘Holy s***, that guy’s an athlete, that guy is a specimen, he is something I am not.’ I can see a massive difference.

“When the outside world looks at the average pro gamer, they don’t necessarily see or appreciate the tremendous level of skill – motor skills, perceptual skills, cognitive skills – involved in being able to perform at a high level, being able to break down the components of what makes you good at a particular game.”

Mackey also spoke on how esports has a level of inclusivity that traditional sports can never offer and that, with enough practice, those who are determined to reach their goals can hit them.

“I would argue that one of the wonderful things about gaming and esports is that I think it casts a wider net of who can participate. Because, you know, your height doesn’t matter, all these other kinds of physical characteristics don’t matter. You can still play at the highest level.”

This is where the inspiration for Red Bull Ready Check comes in. It pits hopeful AimLabs prodigies against pro players in a test of raw aim across several different scenarios. While all these FPS pros have earned their place at the top in their respective titles, it doesn’t mean that they are shoo-ins to win the competition outright.

If the eight challengers that have honed their skills through AimLabs’ scenarios can get close to or beat the pros, it says a lot about how effective practicing your aim can be even when pitted against esports professionals.

Is there a “wrong” way to practice your aim?

There are many who look at something like AimLabs and wonder, “Why wouldn’t I just play the game?” It’s a valid point in many ways, especially considering there are many pros out there who have never touched AimLabs. It’s entirely possible to become one of the best players in the world by purely playing the game and improving organically through it.

However, it’s strange that practicing in a traditional sense is so rare when it comes to FPS titles. Outside of real-world sports parallels, a comparison can be drawn between FPS games and fighting games. In fighting games, spending time in training mode and practicing combos is standard, even for casual players. Practicing in a training mode for FPS games, on the other hand, wasn’t a part of most players’ routines up until recently.

street fighter 6 players convinced command inputs are bugged
Street Fighter 6 is one of many fighting games that features a robust training mode

AimLabs head of product Jackson Kyle spoke at length about developing a compelling tool for players, even if it means spending less time in their favorite game.

“It’s similar to if you were going to go play basketball on a competitive level or anything like that. You don’t just go and just play games: You practice, you do your shooting drills. And it’s not just shooting drills, it’s three-point drills, free throw drills, different positions, stuff like that. It’s isolating different skill sets in a specific situation to practice that skillset.

“So, you know, for example, if you were to play something like Valorant or CSGO, those types of games, once you die, you’re kind of just sitting there for a while once you get eliminated. So, there’s a lot of downtime that actually doesn’t really lead to any sort of improvement, whereas playing AimLabs can help increase your skills at a faster rate.”

Several popular esports titles have a lot of downtime where players aren’t improving. For instance, if you’re an Apex Legends player like iiTzTimmy, who’s dropping into the action and winning fights constantly, you get a lot of practice in-game. But if the average Apex Legends player goes around looting and playing for position in circle for 10 minutes and loses a firefight in 10 seconds, the only time you’re practicing your aim is in that brief firefight.

In all fairness to a newer game like Valorant, there is a practice range that allows players to shoot at targets with some light elements that let them control how they practice, as well as some on-the-fly sensitivity adjustments for those looking to tweak their settings. Games like Apex Legends and Overwatch 2 also have similar firing ranges, albeit with even fewer options than Valorant.

In contrast, AimLabs has a much more robust set of systems and functions meant to test a variety of different skills and train players to get better at more niche abilities, like flicks and spray transfers. Kyle spoke about how AimLabs can not only help players get better but also develop a sort of style and personality that makes players unique.

“I think that, beyond just skill, showing off personality and who you are is not really done often enough in esports, in particular. I think events that really like kind of those characters show and shine, both and – especially in a format like the Red Bull Ready Check where you have a mix of pros and ‘amateurs’ or, you know, qualifiers that are coming in through via AimLabs. Getting to see these different types of personalities mix and see their different skill sets, I think is going to really show a more engaging storyline and also a more engaging community. It’s all about fostering and showing that there are really skilled people out there, and letting not only those skills, but those personalities, shine.”

Community-focused esports-adjacent events like the Riot Games Fight Night and the Street Fighter 6 Crazy Raccoon Cup have had massive viewership and shown just how invested viewers can get into esports events outside of the main tournament circuits. The Red Bull Ready Check hopes to capture some of that casual esports audience in what promises to be a fun yet competitive event.

That said, not everyone participating is entirely sold on AimLabs. Jordan ‘Zellsis’ Montemurro, a player for Cloud9’s Valorant team and an FPS veteran, claimed that he prefers to get into the game and practice for himself ahead of competing at the event.

“I’ve always been a firm believer in just playing the game a lot. Like, I know there’s like some cases where some people don’t have to play and they’re just naturally talented or gifted. But, I think just playing the game a lot, doing stuff that makes you feel like your aim is like either improving, or it’s like something you just doing like your daily routine, AimLabs, or something like that. I think all those things like help. I feel like it’s dependent on the person, honestly.”

Zellsis certainly didn’t denounce the usage of AimLabs, but he isn’t a firm believer that it’s a must to become a pro player. Considering he’s been competing for the better part of a decade, first in CS:GO and then in Valorant, it’s no surprise he’s developed his own methods of practicing since he became a pro before AimLabs even existed.

It remains to be seen if Zellsis and the other featured players’ experience in esports can get them through the variety of AimLabs challenges during the Red Bull Ready Check on July 29, or if aspiring competitors can take them down.

The Red Bull Ready Check features esports professionals and content creators facing the best AimLabs has to offer and puts them through 9 different scenarios that’ll test every part of their skillset. You can catch the action on Red Bull’s official Twitch channel:

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