It’s time to talk about defining experience of my undergraduate and graduate programme in MAD Lions E.C. It is a leading eSports club in Spain in which I have entered thanks to my mentor Alejo García-Naveira. Having spent 9 months in the club I gained better understanding of this sector that I would like to share with you.
If you are curious about what eSports is and what the heck have I been doing there as a (sports) psychologist, read on…
Starting with a basic definition, from my nerdy scientific point of view first I offer you a ‘peer-reviewed’ one:
eSports is an area of sport activities in which people develop and train mental or physical abilities in the use of information and communication technologies (Hamari & Sjöblom, 2017)
eSports are a form of sports where the primary aspects are facilitated by electronic systems; the input of players and teams as well as the output of the eSports system are mediated by human-computer interfaces (Wagner, 2006)
I know what you’re thinking, ‘physical what??’, so I’ll outline two points of view.
eSports athletes conduct 400 movements/min using the keyboard and mouse, they produce cortisol at similar levels as a race car driver, and have pulse rates similar to competitive marathon runners.
A quote from a university professor Froböse that has experience in sports studies. So yes, something is happening on a physical level, but is it enough to call it the same as sports?
From my own experience, I have created a following definition of eSports:
eSports is competitive play of video-games between professional players better known as ‘gamers’ who train their gaming abilities and engage in complementary training to build healthy habits.
I would personally not mix it with sports because physical activity is not its main characteristic, rather an additional type of training. Also, sports are universal and ‘of people’, they are a public good in which everyone can participate. On the other hand, eSports are owned by private entities who have a power to change the game rules as they see fit. Imagine someone coming tomorrow and changing the width/height of the basketball hoop? No can’t do… In eSports, there is little stability as it is all new, but it’s definitely growing and developing.
Let’s talk numbers
According to estimations there are more than 22 million participants in eSports and around 500 professional gamers worldwide. A recent global eSports market report shows that the eSports economy grew 41.3% (up to $696 million) in 2017. It is estimated that the global eSports audience has reached 385 million people, between players & spectators.
There are around 500 professional players worldwide. And now comes a hot question that I often get asked: ‘They earn money playing? How? How much??’. Oh yes they do, and some of them a lot more than you can imagine. (‘I have chosen a wrong career’ you might be thinking, but wait for it…) Although the numbers of tournament prizes can have 6+ zeros, this is not the primary source of income for the players. It all falls back to marketing and sponsors. There are many companies that (are starting to) recognize the impact eSports is having and they choose to invest money into clubs and individuals that could spread their name faster and to larger crowds. But this has its cost. These guys basically need to play a role of celebrities and completely expose their life on social media. And not in just any form, but meticulously choosing information to publish and moving in important circles.
MAD Lions E.C.
It must be noted that MAD Lions E.C. Is an idealistic example of an eSports club. We are pioneers in the sector and all of the methodologies we are putting to practice are experimental, but based on theoretical work borrowed from traditional sports. Our players are submitted to the method developed by professionals from multiple backgrounds who combine their work in a multidisciplinary way always having in mind the same objective for the players: ‘Grow as a person, evolve as a gamer’. MAD Lions E.C. Counts with head coaches, strategic coaches, physical conditioning trainer, psychologists, responsible of image, logistics manager, and a whole marketing department making it all visible and attractive for sponsors. There are six teams in MAD Lions E.C.: LOL, CS:GO, Clash Royale, FIFA, Fortnite and Brawl Stars. Together we count with more than 50 professional players.
What do we do
When the club was founded (August 2017) first thing that we did was describe the core values that every player and member of the club needs to have. Psychologists’ work inside of the club on a daily basis deals with reinforcing these values and making them a part of our culture.
‘Decalogue of MAD Lions E.C.’:
- Hard work
- Respect and good manners
- Team spirit
- Mental strength
- Winning mindset
- Fair play
On a ‘gamer’ level we work with the players both individually and in groups. As the eSports players are usually young (and) fellas (embarrassingly low percentage of girls in eSports overall, Lions are aware and taking action by creating mixed Academy teams) we start from the fundamentals. It is briefly explained in this episode of MAD Lions E.C.
Most of the work with players is based on building healthy mind-body habits. Topics of concern in this primordial phase are: nutrition, physical exercise, rest, free time, co-habitation and performance, both individual & team.
Moreover, there is a more specialized type of work too. It deals with concentration exercises adapted to eSports, visualization practice and learning techniques of stress management. Many of the players are seeking to be calm & focused when playing with extraordinary levels of concentration in the game. Playing strategic games such as League of Legends and CS:GO is highly demanding on a mental level and players often end up feeling exhausted after playing official matches.
I will be able to tell you more about psychological variables in eSports after defending my Masters Thesis titled Qualitative analysis of psychological aspects and sports performance in eSports.
Stay tuned, good stuff is coming up. 😀