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Are eSports pros inherently better than the average player?
Are eSports pros inherently better than the average player?
August 4, 2014 | By Christian Nutt

Do pro players have inherent advantages over the average player? That's the question that Dr. Amine Issa, an avid League of Legends player with a PhD in biomedical engineering, has begun to research.

He published an article today on eSports site Cloth5, as well as releasing a video about his study, which used "cognitive testing, eye-tracking, heart rate and physiologic monitoring" to try and discover what, if anything, makes pro eSports players what they are.

Dr. Issa's Thoughts

Dr. Issa also shared some of his findings in a Reddit "Ask Me Anything" session.

His "driving motivation" for the research, he wrote, is providing information to teams that would improve their achievement: "I think the teams can benefit so much."

"Seeing what the benefits of scientific training techniques is tremendous, and being able to apply them to eSports is real," he noted.

It's worth mentioning that Dr. Issa's research is preliminary, and the youth of the eSports movement in the West means that some questions are as yet impossible to answer. His insights, however, are interesting.

He suspects there "probably" are natural characteristics of successful eSports pros, but "I am not sure what we can identify as natural aptitude at this point. Fine motor skills, maybe? Ability to process multiple channels of information?"

For one, he expects that eSports players will likely be able to have long careers: "As for League of Legends and the age ceiling, I think the game is more about good decisions... so older players are not too disadvantaged," he wrote.

"Our physical traits begin to dull as we age, but the hope is the wisdom, experience and intelligence we have gained more than make up for it. However I think the ceiling for this is much higher than most people think."

Throughout the discussion he posits that training regimens that include proper nutrition and physical exercise -- not just PC time and energy drinks -- should have positive effects on eSports pros.

When asked about performance-enhancing drugs, he admits: "drugs do give results, no doubt. How long and how much? We don't know. Regulating them has been a nightmare in traditional sports. I don't know how we can make eSports any different."

There's much more over at Reddit.

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Eric McConnell
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Having played at many major FGC tournaments (Evo, FR, etc) and competed in amateur Muay Thai & MMA fights, I see a lot of similarities between the two. What I find very interesting is the subject of PEDs (performance enhancing drugs) in eSports.

I'm going to throw out a blanket statement most people don't want to hear and it's that all major sports have a large portion of their athletes of athletes on PEDs. Whether or not you believe that statement is up to you. A simplified relationship for this would be "more money = more people willing to gain any advantage they can".

Where it gets interesting is when more and more money goes into eSports. Evo (big fighting game tournament) is a beast! USF4 was a 2000 player shark pool. You have to defeat countless players, many of which are "pro" players, to get to top 8. Watching evo pools this year, many matches came down to the last mix-up where any player could have taken it.

So what I wonder is what the tipping point is? Ritalin, Adderall, Provigil, all would help tip performances in your favor, fight off fatigue, help your brain focus, etc. When is every eSport team going to have doctors writing Modafinil prescriptions for their players? Are the spectators going to care if they find out their favourite players are doping before major tournaments? Is it even considered doping? It will be very interesting indeed

Matt Keast
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There is another side to this coin: what if a player legitimately has ADD? Would he not be considered disadvantaged if he doesn't take medication?

Sam Evans
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If it becomes anything like professional physical sport, the performance enhancing substance will be banned outright. If you need it for medical reasons, then you simply cannot compete professionally.

Katy Smith
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What? No! For substances that have a valid use, as long as the team doctor has the prescription on file, you get a pass. (At least for the NFL and NBA. I don't know all sports)

Sam Evans
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I guess it depends, they do take a lot of things on a case-by-case basis. The guidelines for WADA are outlined here:
The NCAA outlines their exceptions here:

So yeah, a prescription helps - and if there's a life-threatening situation I think governing bodies tend to allow things. But having a prescription isn't a guarantee that the drug is OK to take.

Matt Keast
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That doesn't sound right to me. ADD is a slight disability alleviated by medication.

If a pro basketball player has a bad knee, they don't ban him from using a knee brace.

Or if you want a drug analogy, if a pro basketball player has asthma, they don't ban him from using asthma medication (which can contain steroids).

Luis Guimaraes
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Sounds like a bit of a chicken and egg problem.

Do professional eSports player have better -test criterion results- therefore are good at the game or is the amount of hours they play everyday that make their -test criterion results- better?

A professional Counter-Strike player plays 6-10 hours every day to keep their level, a semi-pro player plays between 1-4 hours. The amount of hours you play daily usually dictates the skill ceiling for you, and so does the scene you play in (better competition makes you better).