Physiological responses to playing Overwatch depend on skill level, study finds

A study of college-age physiological responses Overwatch Gamers have found that many experienced players tend to start the game with elevated physiological stress responses, adapting to them throughout the game. The physiological stress responses of low-skill players, in contrast, tend to increase as the game progresses. The study was published in Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

Competitive electronic gaming or eSports is gaining traction as a recognized sport. The rise of esports into a multibillion-dollar industry has been attributed to the emergence of streaming platforms and the high-value advertising revenue and sponsorships that came with it. Esports is one of 24 competitive sports included in the 2022 Asian Games to be held in Hangzhou, China.

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

Recently, there have been calls to focus on first-person shooter players as data indicates that these types of games tend to elicit a greater nervous system response than multiplayer area battlefield games like LOL.

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

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

The researchers asked 32 male gamers, aged between 18 and 32, with at least some gaming experience Overwatchto participate in the study. They were randomly divided into teams of 6 to each participate in a singles match Overwatch team competition game in laboratory. The researchers took their saliva measurements to assess cortisol and testosterone levels immediately before and after the match. Heart rate was monitored continuously throughout the game.

Before the study, Overwatch Participants’ skill level was assessed by asking them to report theirs Overwatch rank. Diamond-ranked players (the top 20% of Overwatch players) were considered highly skilled, and the rest were considered low-ranked.

The results showed an 11.3% decrease in salivary cortisol and a 17.2% increase in salivary testosterone after the match compared to previous levels. Heart rate was also higher after the game than it was before the game.

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

The authors report that “the finding that highly skilled players can upregulate testosterone concentrations before gameplay without making changes to the game itself may explain the lack of significant pre- and post-game effects.”

The results indicate “that Overwatch and other esports games are physiologically demanding on the players who play them. And stress-related demands and adjustments appeared to occur and correlated with game success. As well as the stress of the games themselves,” Kraemer told PsyPost.

“At first blush, the passive nature of eSports gaming may indicate little or no physiological stress,” Kraemer and his colleague wrote in their study. “However, it is clear from this study that collegiate players also experience increased heart rate and changes in pituitary-gonadal function when they play. Overwatch in a competitive format.”

“The highly variable response patterns observed for cortisol suggest that changes in sympathetic response may continue as experience with competitive play increases. Additionally, skill level may impact 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. It should be noted, however, that the study was only conducted during a game, that reactions to games with different properties may not be the same, and that it is possible that the laboratory setting and audience presence during gameplay may have had some effect on the results.

It is still unclear whether “game preparation and fitness impact the ability to better compete in sports games and also improve the health of esports athletes who compete in a sedentary environment for both gaming and training sessions.” training,” Kraemer noted. “We are just starting to understand how to prepare and optimize player development for this particular sport and more work will need to be done.”

The study, “Arousal/Stress Effects of “Overwatch” eSportsGame Competition in 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, Pedro Lopez, Barbara N. Sanchez and James A. Onate.

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