A recent study conducted at The University of Chichester in West Sussex, England has found that the high level of stress generally experienced by professional esports athletes is comparable to the amount of stress felt by soccer and rugby players (and presumably athletes in sports popular outside the U.K. as well).
Whether or not this is surprising probably depends on one's familiarity with esports. Those who follow virtually any major esports scene are likely well aware of the huge amounts of pressure involved in competing at the top level. That said, for those who are entirely unfamiliar with esports, understanding that competitive gaming can be a bona fide sport isn't always easy. It can even be hard for avid gamers who simply haven't dipped a toe into the esports world to understand.
Thanks to this new study, esports athletes' stresses are now quantifiable. Researchers have now found that esports athletes experience 51 unique stress factors in total. Among these are communication issues and anxiety about performing in front of a live audience. These are both identical experiences to what physical athletes likewise encounter in a professional competitive setting. Communication issues, in fact, were identified as a key stressor in esports. Players oftentimes respond to communication anxiety by either acting aggressively on one end of the spectrum, or shutting down entirely on the other end, both of which are adverse to good gameplay.
Dr. Phil Birch, who is a senior lecturer in sport and exercise psychology at the University of Chichester and a co-author of this study, cites the lack of research into esports psychology relative to the massive size of the esports industry as part of the rationale behind conducting the study. He hopes that its findings can be used to help esports athletes develop methods to cope with the factors it has isolated and help optimize their performances.
The study is just the tip of the esports iceberg at The University of Chichester. The university recently launched a three-year BA (Hons) esports degree, through which students study everything from nutrition to coaching and strategy in esports. While this study in particular contributes valuable scientific data to a phenomenon many already knew to be true in a general sense, this is likely just one of many findings that can have a positive impact on the development of esports into the future.