While video games received a bad rap for years when it came to mental health. However, rather than doing more than good, recent research suggests that video games have a positive impact on mental well-being. All competitive games have a level of social interaction, helping players overcome isolation. What's more, strategy-based games can help develop problem-solving skills and fine-tune critical thinking. However, when it comes to pro-level esports, players need to have a certain level of mental resilience to succeed.
How Esports Athletes Cope With Stressful Situations
It's easy to dismiss esports as being only a game. However, a typical esports athlete needs to train for many hours a day to secure a spot on an S-Tier team roster. What's more, healthy living and physical exercise still play a part in the daily lives of esports professionals. While an esports competition isn't going to push a player to their physical limits like a marathon might, those never-ending round-robin brackets and gruelling best-of-five formats can take their toll.
So why do some players thrive when others falter? It's all down to mental toughness and coping strategies. Many players report using techniques like mindfulness to gain a competitive edge. Some use anger management to regulate pent-up rage, while others have pretty unique pre-performance rituals.
So-called resilience meta is also becoming a useful tool for organizations. The likes of Team Liquid regularly turn to this data, which provides invaluable insights into player performance and in-the-moment responses to stressful situations.
It's All About Balance
While the average esports professional needs to train for at least eight hours a day, especially in the run-up to a major event, even the pros need to take a step back and safeguard their mental health. Achieving the perfect work-life balance seems like a tall order, but it's the only tried and tested way to prevent burnout and nurture better results from players.
Many different factors fall under this banner. Sleep management is a big one, with even one compromised night having a knock-on effect on training and in-game performance. Any self-respecting team organizer needs to be focused on teaching its players the importance of effective time management.
The Importance of Social Support
Esports is built upon social interaction. Even for casual gamers playing with friends, it's often the social elements that keep them firing up the console, time and again. For esports professionals, their peers are even more important. A lost game or second-rate finish can be crushing for anyone competing in a solo field. However, it's a different matter entirely for teams who've shared the result. Fellow players can offer support after a disappointing result and provide a sounding board for advice and suggestions on how to improve. More importantly, they can help players falling into a downward self-esteem spiral, bringing context and reason that couldn't be achieved independently.
Even the best players struggle with performance anxiety from time to time. Take a look at the KW. There's a good chance that every one of those pro-level rosters has struggled with their mental well-being at least once in their career. Anyone who wants to turn their love of gaming into a career needs to invest just as much effort in bolstering their coping mechanics as mastering their gameplay.