What are the psychological dimensions of esports? #PSYCHOLOGY

Pedraza-Ramirez, I., Musculus, L., Raab, M., & Laborde, S. (2020). Setting the scientific stage for esports psychology: a systematic review. International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 1-34 [FREE ACCESS].


Robert Houghton


Competitive gaming, better known as electronic sports (esports), is rapidly growing in popularity. We systematically reviewed the available literature regarding the psychological aspects of esports using the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis Protocols (PRISMA-P) evidence-based reporting checklist and a Population, Intervention, Comparator, and Outcomes (PICO) framework with the following inclusion criteria: (i) published between 1994 and 2018; (ii) empirical investigation (as the current state of research is dense with positions and opinions but has few empirical investigations); and (iii) focussed on esports games that are associated with either cognitive performance or game performance. The goal of our research was twofold: to present a summary of the empirical evidence addressing the psychological characteristics of both cognitive and game performance in esports, and to integrate esports in the field of sport psychology. More specifically, our goals were to highlight the interplay of psychological aspects of performance and esports and to clearly define the theoretical foundations of the psychological aspects of esports performance. Underlining the differences from video gaming will inform future research directions and stimulate the development of high-quality practice in the applied field of sports and exercise psychology.

The Data

Systematic review of 52 quantitative papers covering high level esports performance and cognition. These papers covered experiments, quasi experiments, cross sectional studies, and longitudinal studies. The papers were split into two main categories, cognitive performance, and game performance.


“Overall, the role of psychological factors in esports is still poorly understood.”

“Our systematic review yielded the added value of clarifying and highlighting relevant factors of cognitive and in-game performance in specific esports that have been previously studied in general video game research without considering the relationship of competition and performance in esports”

“esports research and sports psychologists will benefit from understanding the underlying cognitive mechanisms of each esports, in order to adapt training strategies to the specificities of each game”

“Given previous findings, future studies should consider an appropriate methodological design that acknowledges specific variables that can alter performance, such as considering randomised and blinded experiments, gender and age differences, game history, and the so-called hybrid games (i.e. games with shared characteristics of two or more genres”

“This review provides a starting point for future research endeavours, because it is the first systematic review following the PRISMA-P guidelines that explores and separates the empirical evidence on general video games (from their inception) from evidence on esports”

Our Take on it

What are the psychological dimensions of Esports? Many and varied! The paper goes into excellent detail exploring how parts of cognition such as working memory, inhibitory control and cognitive flexibility can have an effect on Esports performance, The authors also explore game performance discussing to what degree in game statistics and player types influence esports performance, as well as how performance in esports or training can have benefits outside of the game.They conclude that individual esports should be studied separately, as each individual esport has its own cognition and game performance dimensions. Overall, this is an excellent foundation to really develop further the scientific exploration of Esports” – Robert Houghton

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