Delving inside the brains of competitive gamers

  Last updated February 18, 2019 at 1:47 pm

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QUT researchers need the help of competitive gamers to find out what separates the best from the rest.



What makes some esports gamers good enough to compete in global teams in front of thousands of people and earn millions of dollars, while others compete from computers at home with their mates from school?


QUT esports researcher Michael Trotter is delving into the minds of competitive gamers to gain insights that he hopes will help shape training programs to push more Australian gamers to the top of the world stage.


Mr Trotter, who co-founded QUT eSports with fellow psychology graduate Dylan Poulus, is currently conducting research for his Master of Philosophy (Psychology) and has launched an international survey of competitive gamers.


The survey is targeting gamers aged 18 and over who play competitively online of any of these five games – Overwatch, Rocket League, FIFA, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and League of Legends.


“We know the importance of psychology, fitness and social support in traditional sports, like football, swimming or cricket” Mr Trotter said.


“I want to find out if that’s the same for esports.”


Mr Trotter suspects the answer will be ‘yes’.


“The best competitive gamers are incredibly focused on their goals, they train for hours every day, they have very high level strategic skills, they withstand the stress of playing in front of thousands of people and competing for millions of dollars, and they maintain concentration levels during competition akin to a world chess champion,” he said.


Esports is an exploding $1 billion global industry which offers millions of dollars in prize money, attracts millions of viewers to live streams, and is drawing investment from traditional sports clubs, sponsors and advertisers.




Melbourne-based Australian player Anathan Pham became an eSports millionaire in August this year when his five-member global team, named OG, won $15 million at the world’s richest ever esports team event.


Pham, the only Australian on the team, pocketed more than $2.8 million as his share of the major prize at the International DoTA 2 Championships in Vancouver, Canada.


Mr Trotter said that easily made Pham the highest ranked earner in Australia for eSports.


“There’s a couple of guys who’ve earned more than $1 million, then there’s a handful with over $100,000, then it dwindles right down to everyone else,” he said.


“The ultimate aim of my research is to improve training strategies so that more players can get up to those really elite levels.”


The international survey will look at many of the same markers that are used in traditional sports.


“We’re looking at psychological factors that lead to good performance, such as confidence, self-talk, emotional control, goal setting, imagery, activation, relaxation, overcoming negative thinking, automacy and distractability,” Mr Trotter said.


“We’re also looking at general physical health, body mass index, the number of days spent drinking, smoking, and exercising each week and how much social support players are getting from their family and friends.”


The survey is open until December 31, with Mr Trotter aiming for at least 500 men and women to log on and share their experiences.  Participants will also go into a draw for $500 of gaming equipment.


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