pretty sure being great at playing games comes naturally for elliotYou're totally wrong about me.
Studying hundreds of chess diagrams is not natural talent.
See the cover picture? The entire book is filled with diagrams like those, each one a puzzle to solve. And that's it. No badges, no congratulations, no praise, no funny stories, no fluff, just diagram after diagram after diagram. You do one. Then you do another. And, eventually, you turn the page. And after you study hundreds of them, you get faster at it and you find more similar stuff in your own games. Chess skills like looking ahead and visualizing positions are a skill you develop.
Reading books and taking tons of lessons is not natural talent.
Going over your games with others to find mistakes and get tips is not automatic. It doesn't just happen. It's not natural.
These are the kinds of things I did large amounts of, intentionally, to improve at chess. For years and years.
(The people who fail at FI and give up and leave usually never put in 1% the work I put into chess. Literally. And FI is harder than chess.)
I've been bad at a wide variety of other games, too. All of them...
I did not start out good at RPGs. I worked at it. I read tons of guides, forum discussion, etc. I watched video of how others play. I thought about how to do better. I practiced. I took action to improve over the course of well over 10 years.
I was not a natural at Hearthstone. First I played Magic the Gathering. I started out terrible. I read tons about it, looked into how pros played, practiced, etc. I got OK, not that good. That laid some groundwork for Hearthstone which is a similar kind of game. Regardless, I started out bad at Hearthstone. When I was trying to be good at Hearthstone, I put lots of time and effort into it. And not just messing around and playing naturally. I studied stuff. I did math. I recruited good players to collaborate with. I wrote articles with my ideas. I tested strategies in a methodical way. I tried to figure out what skills and knowledge I needed to win and focussed on getting that. Rather than playing whatever I found most natural to my personal style (typically mages across many games, and typically somewhat defensive longterm play), I played whatever I thought was good and would help me do well (like a lot of aggressive Warlock). I make an effort not to have a personal style when it matters. Play to win. Learn to be flexible and learn how to play every style. This isn't automatic but it's doable.
I was not a natural at Duet or Infinity Blade. I practiced the dexterity. I am no natural at Super Smash Brothers Melee. That takes a learning process: http://curi.us/1715-ssbm-training-1-marths-sh-double-fair
Do you think I'm a natural at Exile? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z0m3De1fQzc That speed run involved rather non-natural steps such as downloading and reading source code in C, and finding info from dead forums with archive.org.
It's always like that – being good takes intentional effort applied strategically. And after you get good at dozens of things, yes you can learn faster. There's some carryover. You can re-use some skills from some previous games on a new game. And you can re-use the methods of learning themselves on new games.
And it's not just new games that require learning. McIntyre, a top Heroes of the Storm players, struggled with Greymane, a new hero. He was already good at the game but had to put in a bunch of thought and practice to figure out how to play Greymane well. And it wasn't love at first sight. His initial impression of Greymane was negative.
There's a common misconception among bad players that games are easy for good players, that good players have (natural) "talent", etc. And there is a common belief by many good players that it didn't come automatically to them at all, they sucked at first and put in tons of work. The good players frequently actually remember sucking and struggling to get better. They're right.
It is possible to practice wrong. Some people put a lot of time into something and still suck. You can spend time on a game without learning much. But no one gets really good without working at it. Effort is necessary but not sufficient. It takes rationally-directed effort to get good. LOTS of it. Tons of bad players just massively underestimate how much effort being good is, and kinda give up early and don't really play to win and learn even if they do keep playing. And tons of people think if they play a lot they will get good automatically, whereas good players often did some more organized forms of practice and did more thinking about the game instead of just playing. And people who get good more often make spreadsheets, do math, do in-game experiments to test things, etc, etc. Top players usually put effort into learning the game, rather than just playing a bunch and hoping they'll naturally get better somehow.