4 similarities between esports and sports players


From teamwork, communication and reaction time - we investigate the similarities of esports and traditional sports players.

Esports has taken the world by storm, rivalling major sporting corporations as a billion-dollar industry. But how are professional gamers comparable to elite traditional sporting players?

Communication is key

Most people don’t realise it, but competitive gaming requires a lot of communication from players. Gamers are not only required to talk team tactics and communicate constructively, but like any team sport they need to embrace teamwork.

Dr Kieran Marston, Murdoch University Exercise Science researcher, says that professional esport players exhibit similar trends to elite athletes in the way they verbally communicate.

You’ll notice in your favourite team sports there are varying jargon terms players use to communicate commands or directions to other team members. For example, elite netballers will use ‘up top’, a meaningless phrase outside of the sporting context, to direct their teammates to a specific area of the court."

“Esport teams will often develop jargon terms to achieve strategic advantage. Multiplayer online battle arena players commonly use phrases such as ‘back’ to draw their teammate into a more defensive position, or ‘push’ to take territory from the opponents. Teamwork and communication are essential for success," says Dr Marston.

Players learn how to manage physiological response to stressors

Like elite sporting players, there are similar psychological stressors competitive esport gamers experience. Time is rapidly counting down, there may be miscommunication between players, or the match may not be playing out as planned. Players may also be dealing with performance anxiety, fear of failing, injury, issues with technique or even traumatic life events.

Dr Marston says that recent studies suggest there is an association between greater mental resilience and positive stress-coping processes in traditional sports and competitive esports athletes.

“When the outcome of a match is important, particularly in a championship setting, there is significant pressure on the players to perform well. Whilst a group of players may experience similar magnitudes of psychological stress, it’s how the stress is dealt with that can mean the difference between good and poor performance.

“Similar to elite athletes, competitive gamers tend to cope using strategies that deal with the problem head-on to take control of the stressor rather than attempting to avoid the stressor,” he says.

Interested in going from player to creator? Learn more about studying gaming at Murdoch.

Reaction time is important

If you want to succeed as a professional athlete or a competitive gamer, shorter reaction times are critical for success, says Dr Marston. 

“Audiences have watched world-class cricket batsmen in awe as they react to a ball delivered at rates of up to 160kph.”

“Once the ball is delivered the batsman has an extremely short window to respond to the delivery. An elite batsman will draw information from the flight of the ball and can even pick the type of ball delivered from hints in the bowlers’ arm, shoulder and head as the ball is delivered.”

Elite gamers are also up against extremely fast-paced and visually complex games. 

Top players must process game elements, possible outcomes and changes to make a complex decision in a fraction of a second. On top of that they’re analysing their team members’ actions, their opponent’s skill-set and even their own character’s next move. In certain games, elite players can miss out by milliseconds in one on one battles.”

Dr Marston says that neurons in the brain are hard at work when gamers and athletes are in the process of making a critical decision quickly.

“The brain receives visual signals from the eyes, which then need to be processed so muscles can contract. But what slows down the decision-making reaction is the brain processing what that signal means and what information is important. As we practice, our vision is honed to identify only the relevant information from our environment which enables us to make faster, more efficient decisions.”

Cognitive function increases

Dr Marston says studies suggest that the cognitive skills traditional sport players have are essential for the success of a competitive gamer.

Using the example of Australian football players, Dr Marston says they are challenged by a fast-paced, 360-degree, visually rich environment where honed spatial awareness and cognitive function is required. But researchers suggest that competitive gamers also show improved cognitive abilities when compared to non-gamers.

“Laboratory studies have determined that top performing gamers tend to display superior attention, hand-eye coordination and processing speed when compared to non-gamers.”


Are you interesting in levelling up your gaming knowledge and beginning your esports and gaming career journey?  Learn more about our courses on offer at Murdoch including Games Art and Design, Games Technology and Games Software Design and Production.

Posted on:

9 Nov 2020

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