E-sports players competing in top-flight tournaments face the equivalent pressure and stress as professional athletes like footballers and rugby stars in high-profile tournaments, new research has found. For the study, the researchers examined the psychological challenges encountered by elite e-sports professionals when competing in major contests. Researchers found that e-sports players faced 51 different stress factors - including communication problems and concerns with competing in front of live audiences - mirroring the mental conditions experienced by pro athletes including footballers and rugby stars in high-profile tournaments.
"E-sports has become a multimillion-pound business attracting audiences worldwide, but there is little research into the psychological factors that influence players," said study co-author Phil Birch, a senior lecturer at University of Chichester in England.
"We have discovered that gamers are exposed to significant stress when competing in top-flight contests. By isolating these stressors, we can help e-sports players develop effective coping strategies to deal with such stressors and optimise performance while playing at the highest level," Birch said.
Poor communication between teammates was identified as a key stressor among players when exposed to pressured environments.
To manage the situation, players either became overly aggressive to one-another or attempted to avoid communication altogether, which negatively impacted their performance, said the research team.
For the study, published in the International Journal of Gaming and Computer-Mediated Simulations, the researchers interviewed high-ranking players who compete in the increasingly-popular first-person shooter game Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.
"As an industry we've known for a long time that stressors on top level players can negatively affect their performance," said Rob Black, the Chief Operating Officer at ESL, a leading e-sports company.
"This study proves this and reinforces what we have been saying for years. Further developments are needed in this area, and that will be key in ensuring the number of professional players continues to grow worldwide," he said.