By Jason Parker
November 12, 2019
Consider this: There are thousands of people watching you perform. They’re waiting to find one tiny mistake you made, and nitpick at you on social media for months to come. Whether you’re sitting at a computer or running down a field, this doesn’t change.
A study was done at the University of Chichester that examined the psychological challenges in esports pros during major events. It’s important to note that this is the first investigation done of this kind in esports.
Dr. Phil Birch, a senior lecturer in sport and exercise psychology said:
“Esports has become a multimillion-pound business attracting audiences worldwide, but there is little research into the psychological factors that influence players.
“We have discovered that gamers are exposed to significant stress when competing in top-flight contests. By isolating these stressors, we can help esports players develop effective coping strategies to deal with such stressors and optimise performance while playing at the highest level.”
There are many stressful factors in esports, as many as in physical sports. I’d like to consider that first example, and take it a bit further. The Fortnite World Cup’s prize pool was 30 million dollars. There were teenagers becoming millionaires practically overnight.
I can’t even imagine how stressful it would be to be in a match where a million dollars are on the line. I play plenty of competitive games online, and even when nobody’s watching, it makes my blood pressure rise.
Most esports are team-based games. This means you have to worry about your own skill, but the skill level of your teammates. In professional esports, your team is likely to be on your skill level. In MOBAs, a player who doesn’t have a wide character pool can be banned out and be at a major disadvantage.
Another serious stressor would be communication, or specifically, poor communication. When under pressure, players can become incredibly toxic. Alternately, they could simply clam up and not speak at all. When at a major event, this is something you simply do not want to ever occur. This negatively impacts performance at the least, and at most throws matches.
A recent SKT press conference shed light on some of the post-game stress facing esports players
When playing with players that frequently tilt or become angry at mistakes, this will only exacerbate the issue, and teams will go from doing well, to losing match after match. It’s incredibly important for a team to be friendly with one another. Teams that work well together and communicate in the worst of times can turn defeat into victory.
Researchers into esports recommend that top-level players be given psychological training, focused on coping techniques. Competing at such high-levels is without a doubt, intensely stressful. People who are already skilled at coping with stress can have an advantage at elite levels of play.
Learning how to deal with stressful situations without turning to negativity and anger is important for not only the success of esports professionals but their long-term health. Stress is not healthy after all, and reducing stress will help in the long run.
Astralis recently hired a Sports Psychologist to help their players excel
It’s also important for the people in the lives of esports players to understand that they aren’t just “playing video games for a job”. Sure, they are playing video games, but at a level your average person does not. It’s also typically for large amounts of money. Pros also have sponsors to deal with, and livestreams to keep up with. Content is king, after all.
Dealing with this stress starts with the player, but the people in their lives, and fans also have to understand how debilitating these levels of stress can be. You can find further details on what this study suggests at this link.
I’d like to round this out with a final word from course leader Rams Singh. Singh was also a European esports champion. He is the course leader at University of Chichester’s new Tech Park. It is focused on covering physical and psychological impact of esports. This course covers not only coaching and strategy but important factors like nutrition.
“Esports is a developing area, but it is essential that it remains grounded in traditional academia to help us understand immersive gaming and its impact on mind and body.
“This study is important for the industry. We must understand how we can best support the health of our gamers and keep them performing at the top level – just as any other professional athlete.”
The health and well-being of sports stars is important, so why not our esports stars too? They face similar stressors. Esports is a new and growing field, and like any intense, stressful environment, it needs study and support.