Notes on The Human Factor in Esports

Chapter 1 – Stages of Development in Professional Esports

The model of progression can be broken down into four phases, which loop in the event of a “rebound.” The stages are as follows:

1. Enjoyment
2. Struggling
3. Achieving
4. Slumping (19)

When a “rebound” happens, it can either reset the player to a state of enjoyment or to a state of struggling. (19)

Enjoyment – In this stage, the game itself motivates the player to continue playing. Most often, the player has not yet decided to pursue a career in professional Esports yet (22). In order to transition out of the enjoyment phase, to struggling, the player must get involved in the social scene of the game (22).

Struggling – During this stage, the player creates a defined practice schedule and makes the deliberate choice to become a professional gamer (24). Losses and mistakes can become harder to manage and can become a personal problem (25). The player can also lose the joy he or she previously experienced when playing the game (25).

Achieving – This stage occurs when the player has developed good enough skills to consistently win in competitions (30). “This stage is often short-lived, as most of the so-called ‘meta’ of games change a lot, putting up new requirements for the player to understand and consider” (30).

Slumping – This is used to describe “the inability to find meaning in playing the game continuously” (34). This can lead to the player quitting the sport altogether or can become coaches or analysts of the sport (35). The organization and social scene could also help the player to get back into the game and renew their enjoyment or help reenter the struggling phase (35).

Rebound – Rebound can occur during other phases or in between other phases (36). When the player “decides not to leave the ‘loop’ of professional development,” this is called the rebound phase (36).

Chapter 2 – Comparison with Professional Sports Development

The sampling years – “a stage describing a period in which the young athlete tried out and engaged in a range of different sports and games” (44). During this period, it is very important that parents get involved with the athlete’s sport, but it is very uncommon that this happens with professional gamers (45).

The specializing years – competition becomes more “structured” and the sport becomes “vital” to the athlete in question (46). Similar to the struggling period in the esports model, the specializing years encompass the developmental stage of the sport (46). Unlike the esports model, in the sports model, this struggling stage is divided into two separate stages – the specializing years and the investment years (46).

The investment years – athletes sacrifice many personal and extracurricular activities to focus only on the sport in which they wish to succeed. The main defining characteristic is that athletes become “very deliberate in their training” (47).

The maintenance years – the athlete reaches professional level and must retain the necessary skills to hold a position professionally (49).

The one clear factor that establishes the success of all professional gamers is community, which is not all that different from sports (53).

Chapter 3 – Team Development and Structured Communications in Esports Teams

Teams are the “backbone” of professional gaming (57). While many teams solely focus on in-game teamwork and management, the few teams in esports that do plan time for out-of-game team development are the most successful (57).

“To be great together, we must learn from and with each other” (60).

The three important factors of effective team communication are “planning a meeting, team analysis, and team culture” (60).

Planning a meeting – each team must plan “team development meetings” in which they review and learn from each other (61). The most important factor in this is that it is planned – without planning, it will likely not happen (61). The most evident model is in sports, in which many teams designate 2-3 hours per week to meet (61). The team leader is usually in charge of both creating the agenda for the meeting and setting a precise date and time for the meeting (61).

Team analysis – this step is essentially the analyzing of each of the team’s members (63). This analysis allows teams “to see the strengths and weaknesses in their teamwork” (63). Overcoming individual shortcomings as a team is the central idea of this process (63). One simple way of analyzing a team is asking for the aid of an expert (63). The end goal of each team analysis should be to “create a common understanding and language for the team to talk about the human factors of a team” (64).

Team culture – each team needs “a culture tuned for development” (65). In general, it may be difficult to talk about the culture of the team (67). Before the meetings, each member of the team should understand the idea of the process so they know how to behave for optimal results (67).

  • Definition – Culture : “the characteristics, rules, and knowledge of a group of people” (65)

Additonal reading on team cultures :

Process development – the important part of process development is that it emphasizes how each individual team issue can be overcome (70). The best process includes an analysis of opponent strategy, followed by a discussion of possible counters to said strategy and an analysis of their effectiveness (71).

One of the most effective analogies is that of a tool. Communication is a tool that is vital to master and, like all tools, it must be used to acquire mastery (72).

The reflecting team – a model of team communication in which a group of at least four people reflect on the actions of a specific player (73). There are three roles in this model – an interviewer, an interviewee, and a reflecting team (73). The interviewer asks the questions, the interviewee answers them, and the reflecting team determines the effectiveness of the strategies employed (73).

Chapter 4 – Personal Development – Reflecting on Yourself

System 1 – “the natural reaction we have to stimuli” (85).

System 2 – “the system that allows us to figure out the world” (85).

Systems 1 and 2 are designed to work together during training to make “actions” become “reactions” instead (85). Another way to say the same thing is that training makes System 2 actions become habits, thus moving them to System 1 (86). System 2 cannot be active all the time due to its high energy consumption (86). This means that we need to rest it, even if that is “recreational rest” instead of sleep (86). Although it is straightforward, training sessions should be scheduled around your System 2 energy levels, planning for breaks in between System 2 training sessions (88).

Tilt – “the feeling of complete frustration, which leads to a shutdown of our rational thinking and is overtaken by emotional reactions” (89). Tilt is a system 1 action, meaning when it is in effect, it overwhelms system 2 (89). Fortunately, this means that proper System 2 training can allow athletes to mitigate tilt (90). There are three main effective ways to mitigate tilt, which are as follows :

  1. Work out a strategy – find something that you will do when tilted to refocus (90)
  2. Communicate with others – discuss the feelings that are causing you to tilt and how you can effectively manage them with others. Get their reflections of how you behave when tilted (91).
  3. Chill out – sometimes, saying, “Sorry, you are right” and forcing yourself to admit fault is the best way to manage tilt (92).

Value-controlled action – actions that help you move toward your goal (94).

Emotionally-controlled behavior – instant reactions based on an overwhelming emotion (94).

All players must consider the goal that they are trying to achieve and what that really means to them (94).

Metacognition – “A term used to refer to a specific category of thinking about thinking. It is essentially cognition applied to cognition. It is to be aware of one’s inner thoughts, feelings, and habits” (98).

Metacognition includes, but is not limited to practicing something with the intent of learning it and (very importantly, because this is the metacognitive part) checking your progress along the way, and knowing how you learn best (99). As another example, stopping bad habits is also a metacognitive function (ex: quitting smoking) (99).

One of the most important foundations of both professional and private life is having a “basic sense of self-worth” (100).

Self-worth – “The internal belief that you are worthy of your life. The belief that you are fundamentally OK” (101).

Self-confidence – “The belief that you are capable of solving a given task or overcoming a given difficulty” (101).

Evaluation of self-worth is a metacognitive process (102). If you have self-worth, you can ask yourself how you can improve, but if you don’t believe that you are worthy of your life, you will constantly be negatively questioning your character, leaving less room to grow (102). The key to developing better self-worth is working on your metacognitions to improve their effectiveness and prevent them from determining your self-worth (107).

Overthinking vs. Thinking – Overthinking is considered thinking that “only leads to doubt and negative self-evaluation” (109). Thinking is “a natural process that occurs every time we meet an internal or external stimuli” (108). When met with negative results from any sport, the player can begin to negatively assess themselves and the team (110). A negative assessment of oneself or their performance isn’t necessarily overthinking, but once the assessment has been made, a lack of acceptance can force the loop of negative thinking afterwards to become overthinking (110).

The most effective way of getting out of this loop of overthinking is by having a team around to talk to about some of the thoughts you are having (112).

Chapter 5 – The WWH3 Model

WWH3 is a “quest system” designed to answer the questions “Why?”, “What?”, and “How?” (thus WWH)(125).

  1. “Your purpose is your journey (the game you are playing) – this represents the ‘why’.”
  2. “Your goals are your quest lines, your sub-goals are your quests. These represent the ‘what’.”
  3. “Your steps are your quest objectives. They represent the ‘how’.”
  4. “Your actions are when you start working on these quest objectives” (125).

Once the purpose is discovered, this becomes the “game” the athlete is playing (127). Afterwards, the player can then begin to contemplate what storyline they want to accomplish by playing said “game” (127). When determining the “what,” each goal should line up in some way with the “why” (127).

Chapter 6 – TCI + A Model

The archetypes of a team :

  • “The optimist – coopertaive, reward-oriented, and curious worker, who always looks at the bright side.
  • The counselor – the curious, consistent, and driven advisor, who eagerly shares his or her knowledge.
  • The leader – the all-around, self-aware front-runner, who dares to be curious, have an eye for everyone in the team and wants to improve together.
  • The politician – the persistent, well-rounded change-seeker, looking to insert influence, based on an overview of the entirety of the situation.
  • The soldier – the hard-working, selfless, and cooperative team-player, who will persist through tough times

These archetypes aren’t as simple in practice as they are here – they are “pure versions of something that is, of course, a lot more complicated” (153).

The seven factors of the TCI + A Model are as follows :

  1. Novelty seeking – “a person’s tendency to be on the lookout for new stimulations” (155).
  2. Harm avoidance – “a measure of how well one deals with the uncertainty of the future” (156).
  3. Reward dependence – “a measure of the individual’s need for social rewards in the team” (157).
  4. Persistence – “the ability to keep on grinding” (157).
  5. Self-directedness – “the characteristic of an individual to be able to create a plan, understand its purpose, and apply the correct external and internal resources to follow the plan” (158).
  6. Cooperativeness – “the individual’s ability to function within a social working relation” (159).
  7. Self-developmentalness – any important factor for “anyone trying to develop themselves to achieve a high level in anything” (159).

Each archetype has a certain level of each factor, allowing each individual to be categorized and have a defined role in the team (163).

Chapter 7 – Team Planning and Individual Planning Tools

TOAST – uses a framework of “planning, practicing, and evaluating” to organize an approach of developing a team – more importantly, this is a team organization and planning tool (177). In the TOAST plan, a team meets to discuss one specific element of the team and exactly what their purpose is as a team (181). During each TOAST meeting, the team writes down exactly who is present, why they are present, their function as a team, and their issue (180-182). After the discussion, the team then writes down exactly what they learned, which is the most important section (182).

PLOT – a tool used to help “gain an overview of your life as an esports athlete” – this is an individual planning and organization tool (177). This tool is a bit more complicated than TOAST in that it requires more information (185). The categories required are as follows :

  • Sleep
  • Pauses
  • Diet
  • Exercise
  • Practical
  • Groceries
  • Economy
  • Social life
  • Gaming/Esport
  • Work
  • Education

Each factor is considered on the basis of what is possible, what is wanted, what is needed, and what is actual in terms of the amount of time spent doing each activity (186, 187). A calendar is created with the exact times of each activity and their durations (190).

Citation : Andreasen, Morten Saxtorff, and Trine Bjerremand Caspersen. The Human Factor in Esports: Esports Psychology. Books on Demand, 2019.

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