Physiological responses when playing Overwatch depend on skill level, according to a study

A study of the physiological responses of college age Supervision Players found that many skilled players tend to start the game with elevated physiological stress responses, adjusting during play. The physiological stress responses of low-skill players, by contrast, tend to increase as the game progresses. The study was published in the Strength and Conditioning Research Journal.

Competitive electronic gaming or eSports are gaining ground as a recognized sport. The rise of eSports into a multi-billion dollar industry has been attributed to the emergence of streaming platforms and the high-value ad revenue and sponsorships that accompanied them. eSports is one of the 24 competitive sports included in the 2022 Asian Games to be held in Hangzhou, China.

Following its rise in popularity, scientists have become interested in studying esports athletes to understand the stress related to esports participation, both in competitive and non-competitive settings. Early studies focused on health issues, given the sedentary nature of esports, and primarily studied players from League of Legends (LOL) as one of the most popular eSports games at the time.

Recently, there have been calls to focus on first-person shooters, as data indicates that these types of games tend to elicit a higher nervous system response than multiplayer battle arena games like LOL.

Supervision is a competitive first-person shooter game developed in 2016 by Blizzard Entertainment. Researcher William J. Kraemer and his colleagues hypothesized that the player’s skill level would influence biomarkers of stress while playing, due to the anxiety and arousal associated with competitive performance.

“We have a great collaborative group of esports scientists and athletes at The Ohio State University, but little was known about the core game our players were playing. So we wanted to get some initial data on this topic,” explained Kraemer, senior advisor in sports performance and sports science in the university’s Department of Athletics.

The researchers asked 32 male gamers, ranging in age from 18 to 32, with at least some gaming experience. Supervision, to participate in the study. They were randomly divided into teams of 6 players so that each one participated in a single Supervision team competition game in the laboratory. The researchers took salivary measurements to assess cortisol and testosterone levels immediately before and after the game. Heart rate was continuously monitored throughout the game.

Before the study, Supervision The skill level of the participants was assessed by asking them to report their Supervision range. Players with Diamond ranks (the top 20% of Overwatch players) were considered highly-skilled and the rest were considered low-ranked.

Results showed an 11.3% decrease in salivary cortisol and a 17.2% increase in salivary testosterone after the game compared to pregame levels. Heart rate was also higher after the game than before the game.

When skill level is considered, the results showed more pronounced differences in pregame testosterone levels between high-skill players than low-skill players. While testosterone levels increased during play in the low skill group, high skill players tended to start the game with elevated testosterone levels and only the variability in testosterone levels among high skill players tended to decrease. a bit during the game.

The authors report that “the finding that highly-skilled players can upregulate testosterone concentrations before game, which does not produce changes in the game itself, may explain the lack of significant effects before and after game.”

The findings indicate “that Supervision and other eSport games are physiologically demanding on the players who play them. And stress-related demands and adaptations seemed to occur and are related to the success of the game. As well as the stress of the games themselves,” Kraemer told PsyPost.

“At first glance, the passive nature of eSport gaming may indicate little or no physiological stress,” Kraemer and his colleague wrote in their study. “However, it is clear from this study that even college players experience elevation in heart rate and changes in pituitary-gonadal functions when playing. Supervision in a competitive format.”

“The highly variable response patterns observed for cortisol suggest that changes in sympathetic response may continue as experience with competitive gaming increases. Additionally, skill level can affect testosterone arousal levels, including adjustments with play in less skilled players.”

The role of testosterone in physiological arousal may be related to success in sports due to the need for psychological aggression and physiological adjustments for competitive play. This study sheds new light on its role in competitive esports. However, it should be noted that the study was conducted during game play only, that reactions to games from different properties may not be the same, and that the lab environment and audience presence during gameplay may have had any effect. about the results

It is not yet clear if “game readiness and fitness affect the ability to better compete with sports games and also improve the health of eSport athletes who compete in a sedentary environment for both game and training sessions.” practice,” Kraemer said. “We are just beginning to understand how to prepare and optimize player development for this particular sport and more work will be needed.”

The study, “Arousal/Stress Effects of “Overwatch” eSportsGame Competition on Collegiate Gamer“, was written by William J. Kraemer, Lydia K. Caldwell, Emily M. Post, Matthew K. Beeler, Angela Emerson, Jeff S. Volek, Carl M. Maresh, Jennifer S. Fogt, Nick Fogt, Keijo Hakkinen, Robert U. Newton, Peter López, Bárbara N. Sánchez, and James A. Oñate.

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