One of the amazing things about playing a competitive game is when it just clicks. Finding the character, weapon, or play strategy that works for you can elevate a game from fun to fantastic, and few things are more comforting than playing a game you know like the back of your hand. If you get destroyed by someone who seems to know the game inside and out, it’s probably because they’ve found their main and are using it to its full advantage.
In gaming, “main” is a colloquial term that refers to the character or weapon a player uses most often. For example, in Overwatch, a player might be a Sombra main if they feel they’re best at Sombra and enjoy playing as her. In Heroes of the Storm, I’m an Ana main because I found that I work best as a backline healer. (I’m also a sniper in Apex Legends – I think I’ve found my niche!)
As good as it feels to find your main, sometimes it can be difficult to pinpoint who you work best with. It’s nothing short of frustrating when everyone else in your friend group seems to have found their natural fit while you’re still figuring things out. To help with the process, I’ve compiled a list of tips and tricks here that helped me find my main in a variety of games. Note that though these tips mostly apply to hero-based games like Overwatch, Valorant, and Apex Legends, they can be extrapolated to more weapon-based games like Halo or Call of Duty.
Find Your Role
If you’re dipping your toes into competitive gaming for the first time – or even just trying a new genre of game – the best place to start when looking for a main is to identify what categories your game places its heroes and weapons in. Apex Legends is a good example here, as it has categories for both its heroes and its weapons. While all of the game’s characters use guns and deal damage, their unique mechanics are different.
Characters can be damage enhancers (those with aggressive abilities that focus on disabling other characters), support characters (who heal or buff allies), tanks (who shield allies and build defensive perimeters), or recon characters (who assist with finding enemies and strategic locations). Apex Legends also has a variety of weapon types, including shotgun, sniper, energy, and more. Any character can use any weapon, which makes mixing and matching a good way to find the combination that works for you.
Other hero-based competitive games work similarly. Games as diverse as League of Legends and Overwatch have different categories they use to group characters. (I still have no idea what a Jungler does in League. Don’t @ me.) When you’re starting out, try each class to find out what play style feels most natural to you. Players who favor an aggressive fighting style and have the reflexes to match might perform best with damage-dealers, while those who play more defensively and like to watch from afar might be better as tanks or snipers. Every role requires its own set of skills and knowledge, so don’t let anyone tell you that one role is “better,” more complex, or more valid than another.
When you’re trying out different roles, characters, and weapons, don’t discount anything because you feel like it’s “not for you” or outside of your comfort zone. Even if you don’t think a certain character would be good for you or if you’ve never given them a second glance, it’s worth trying them anyway – you simply never know what might click. When I first started playing Overwatch, I played a few characters for about 15 hours, but I couldn’t really get into the zone with any of them. It wasn’t until I expressed my frustration to a friend and he suggested I try Junkrat – a hero I’d never really paid attention to before – that I found my main. 450 hours later, I’m still a good ol’ Junk main! (Daniel, if you’re reading this: thank you.)
If you’ve played competitive games before, think about the role you typically perform best in. There’s no reason you can’t be an assassin in one game and a support in another, but thinking about the roles you’ve played well before can help point you in the right direction in a new genre or game. Some games also have multiclass characters, or characters that can be more than one role or choose a different one to specialize in each game. (A good example of this is Heroes of the Storm’s Varian, who can be either a tank or a damage-dealer depending on the player’s build.) These types of heroes are great for players who consider themselves jacks-of-all-trades. Of course, you can always flex and fill character or weapon roles as the need arises in your team or group, but I find that the vast majority of people are most comfortable playing one or two specific roles or characters.
Get Outside Information
If you’ve played one role or character for a long time, sometimes it can be difficult to find something new to play, even if you want to branch out. In many cases, it’s helpful to ask a friend who you play with routinely for their opinion. As I shared above, my friend Daniel played with me a few times and suggested Junkrat based on my play style, which ended up being the perfect character for me. A good friend or teammate can provide another perspective on your play and who or what might suit you better, particularly if you’re playing in an organized competitive setting. In many amateur competitive communities and game-specific forums, coaches and high-ranked players give advice to noobs and lower-level folks. Take advantage of the resources your game and its community offer!
Watching gameplay recaps, professional matches, and strategy videos can also give insight into each character and the play style that they work best with. Watching the pros can help you see what each hero or weapon is at their peak, which in turn gives you something to work toward in your own play and gives you an idea of what the best of the best are doing. This is particularly helpful if you dream of going pro: some of the tips and strategies shown can dramatically improve your skill level in a fairly short amount of time. Even if you’re happy playing in unranked modes or just want to relax with friends, watching match recaps and other gameplay videos is a quick and easy way to see what each hero is capable of in more-than-capable hands.
It can be a long and uncertain road to finding your main, but don’t give up! Playing a hero that you know the ins and outs of is an extremely satisfying feeling, which can lead to more enjoyment and a buffer against tilt. Sometimes all that’s needed is time, patience, and an open mind to new and different strategies. That can be easier said than done, but the rewards are worth it. Think about it this way – once you have a definitive main, you’ll be able to pick up all their cute merchandise at a local gaming convention, right?