How To: Master the Psychology of Competitive Gaming
With more and more eSports teams employing the services of a sports psychologist, what can you do to up your brain game?
eSports is a lot like a physical sport.
Whatever your game is, whether it's played on a pitch or on a screen, the brain is the part of the body that really does the hard work.
The human brain is often referred to as a muscle. While it does contain some muscle tissue, anatomically it is typically not considered a muscle. But experts agree that it can be trained like a muscle, and improve in performance as a result.
Competitive gamers certainly work their brains. There are core considerations where the brain matters, such as reaction speed, strategic thought and the ability to adapt and improvise, of course. But there's also handling pressure, managing competitiveness and delivering performance in front of large crowds.
The best are also able to be interviewed by the press, understand the impact of stress, and know how to handle big career decisions.
Taking a Closer Look at eSports Psychology
Indeed, the brain's value to an eSports athlete is the very reason we've seen sports psychologists start to ply their trade in the competitive gaming arena.
But what can you do as an aspiring player or World of Duels regular who may not have access to a professional sports psychologist? We've gathered some accessible tips for upping your mind game when it comes to eSports and competitive gaming.
Here is everything you need to know about eSports psychology:
Work with the pressure
in the world of sports, pressure is celebrated and embraced. It is the excitement, the rush and the reason to commit. That's why so many successful eSports professionals
used to be athletes in traditional sports.
Coming to competitive video gaming as an athlete with a long history of competition can be a huge advantage. But we can't reinvent our pasts. While it's important to recognize that stress can be a very real problem, try to consider pressure and performing to a crowd as part of the thrill of eSports; not something to be intimidated by, or to be endured.
Stress’s Positive Role in the Psychology of eSports
That being said:
It is important to understand that stress in moderate amounts can be used to improve performance, but too much and it will likely be prohibitive.
Once you open your mind to giving that a go, you might find you become a much better player, and even perform with more finesse under pressure.
Treat training like the real thing
Ready to be under the spotlights?
Training will never carry the same pressure as a meaningful clash in a competition context, but there's a lot you can do to make practice sessions feel more real.
Why would you want training to feel like a real competition? Because when practicing, you're not just refining your core gameplay skills and strategy drills. You should equally be developing your abilities in terms of focus, concentration and cool headedness.
Gameplay training is the perfect time for brain training. Treat your practice session like work, especially in terms of the mindset you take on. Play just as you would in a real competition. Use the same hardware and set-up, from your mouse to your gaming chair. Don't allow yourself to pause or break the session. You can even stream your practice gameplay live, to add the feeling of performing in front of a real audience.
Getting ready for an event where you'll play on stage under the glare of spotlights?
Then in your practice sessions, you might want to point bright lights at yourself. That may sound silly, but simulating the real competition is extremely helpful. As such, the same goes for noise. If your real competition will be amidst a clatter of sounds, practice in perfect silence just won't be as helpful as training with plenty of sonic distraction. Some eSports players even wear their kit in practice, just to make training as accurate as possible.
Training isn't a time to be playful or casual. In this case, hard work pays off better than playing hard.
Trust your team: reign in your ego
Trust and communication will lead your team to more victories
While some competitive genres do require a confident soloist – fighting games, for example – eSports is often a team activity. Confidence in yourself will get you a long way, but confidence in your team will get you more wins.
Talk frankly and openly about each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and trust the individual strength of particular teammates in the competition itself.
Agree with your team that you will take time out to all talk about each other's failings, without taking offense. Don't make those conversations emotional or personal.
Be constructive in your criticisms, and open-minded to learning from how others talk about your performance. If you are motivated by improving as a group together, and recognise that you can grow through better understanding of yourself and your teammates, it won't be too hard to learn from honest appraisal.
That won't be easy…
You can build up a picture of how your team works best together. Understanding your own weaknesses can be one of the greatest strengths in eSports. Working with them rather than against them– and considering team strategies to offset them – is essential.
Use performance profiling
Performance profiling is a long-established technique from physical sports, and it's growing in popularity in competitive gaming. Quite simply, it lets you identify your own strength and weakness, and spotlight what you need to work on.
Track your stats for your performance profiling. [example stats from Rocket league tracker]
How to do that?
Analyse your stats, and capture video of your play session. You'll often hear of real-world athletes studying video of rivals' performances to look for weaknesses. Do that to yourself in eSports. If you're using World of Duels, you'll be capturing your video anyway.
Go through it with a fine-toothed comb after a session ends. Watch it over and over if needed. Watch it with a friend or teammate, who might see things that you don't; we can all be blinkered by subjectivity when trying to analyse our own performance.
Was there any pattern or consistencies in points where you took a bullet, left your team waiting, or missed a target?
Sure, you might not have lost a life in the same scenario every time; but perhaps it always happened late in a game, or immediately following a previous mistake. Looking for patterns will give you solutions to work on.
Use the Psychology of Competitive Gaming to Your Advantage
Use psychology to your advantage and you will find yourself winning more and more
There's a hell of a lot more to the psychology of competitive gaming, of course. That's why it's a profession for many experts. But with our accessible tips above, and via a willingness to be critical of your own performance, you will find yourself winning a great deal many clashes than previously.