The truth about actions per minute (APM)

Tein Hee Seow explains why gamers shouldn’t be so hung up on lightning speed reflexes
The truth about actions per minute (APM)

Gaming is serious business. Look at the amount of training and strategy building that goes through each team before they face their opponents during major tourneys such as The International.

Besides building up a familiarity with the competing game, most professional gamers also rely on metrics to track their performance. One such metric is actions per minute, or APM for short.

What is APM?

The name is quite self-explanatory, but the actions require a bit of highlighting. This includes selecting units, clicking on locations, issuing orders and many other micromanagement actions built into real-time strategy games such as Starcraft II or Dota 2.

In theory, when you perform more actions within a minute than your opponent, there is a likelihood that you’ll be able to react to his moves faster. It’s true to a certain extent, given how players who can tap and click faster tend to counter attacks within a few seconds. And right after that, recover to perform a counter assault on their enemies' territory once their forces are depleted from the previous attack.

Professional gamers who are placed on the top rung of the tournament ladder usually have an accompanying high APM too. On average, they hover between the 200 to 300 APM range. If you’re up against fast-hitting gamers who can breach the 400 mark, be prepared to weep in despair.

How do you improve APM?

The truth about actions per minute (APM)v

Practice, practice and more practice. In most cases, it’s the constant grinding and learning of each map that’ll lead you to learn more and start issuing actions like it’s second nature. Every single action you do is built on the constant pounding of the keys, clicking of the mouse and fervent darting of your eyes as you react to each and every move from your opponents.

Of course, besides tapping the same action furiously and going through the same motion day after day, there are measures to improve your APM. Having a particularly good mouse with high dots per inch (DPI) would improve the accuracy of your clicks.

With keyboards, mechanical types tend to fare better, what with the obvious tactile feedback and quick responsiveness of each key. But if you’re moving around with a gaming laptop, the mechanical keyboard option isn’t exactly a great one. Not unless you are using a system with an integrated mechanical keyboard, and by that, there’s only one in the market - the MSI GT80 Titan.

READ MORE: MSI GT80 Titan is the noisiest laptop you’ll ever play with

But is APM really the ultimate skill set?

The short answer is, no. If you’re in the mood for a long answer, here goes: APM only tells how fast a player is when it comes to building structures, moving units and attacking bases. Similar to real-life, the ability to issue fast orders does not equate to the right ones. Nor does random building get them anywhere if players don’t build the right units at the correct moment to counter a potential attack.

Universally speaking, most professional gamers who have a deep understanding of the game would usually have a high APM. But not every gamer with a high APM can truly understand the nuances of the game. A seasoned veteran would be able to break through a barricade by selecting the right units that’ll do insane amount of damage to the opposing force.

On the contrary, no amount of tapping or clicking will save your units if they’re facing a Zerg rush. Or for that matter, if they’ve muddled up the building order, constantly clicking on the structure won’t speed up the build process.

So why do people still favour APM?

The truth about actions per minute (APM)

Simple - it’s a byproduct of a capable gamer. And the easiest way to measure yourself against an opponent. Granted, APM isn’t a definitive indicator of a person’s skill, but it gives you a gauge of how tough your enemy can be. Some gamers might just be spamming their actions, mainly to warm up and maintain the momentum as they go in for the kill during the final raid.

Fact is - having a high APM puts you on the radar, but if your strategy isn’t sound, your bases will belong to your opponent in mere minutes.

Our advice? Watch more live streams of major tournaments, learn the strategy and practice on your own. That will put you on the road to professional gaming.