Esports athletes have a lot of pressure to perform. Just as much as regular athletes.
But there are a lot of differences. Pro sports players are trained for optimum physical and mental wellness from the time they’re young. From the time they are in high school, they have access to the best physical training equipment, trainers, and mental health professionals that money can buy.
And this is where esports athletes are being failed. They usually start as streamers.
If you’ve never streamed before, the path to glory and riches is long and grueling. You eat, sleep and live your game. You do it for the prestige and the money and you sacrifice your body and mind for dollars. The newest concern comes from Blizzard’s Overwatch League, or OWL.
Esports is the Future
Anyone who is anyone is seeing the future in entertainment is esports. Twitch gets 15 million daily viewers and that number is expected to rise as new games come out, new streamers are born, and new leagues and organizations are formed. Professional athletes are even starting to invest.
Once these people, who are usually pretty young when they first start streaming, get a taste of internet fame and earn a few bucks, they go on the grind. Most of them are grinding before they even achieve success.
They play for 8-12 hours a day. They don’t exercise and put themselves under immense pressure to perform. Once you become a pro gamer and join a team, it doesn’t get much easier. The money increases but so does the stress. You go from practicing eight hours a day to sixteen.
Living this kind of lifestyle is a road that leads to disaster. OWL is the latest esports organization to see the reality of the issue. Luckily, they’ve decided to take immediate steps to improve the mental health of their players and coaches.
One coach had to take a brief break in May. One player took a break after experiencing a panic attack.
Panic attacks are something that many esports players are dealing with. They push their minds to the limit, live crappy lifestyles, and then when the pressure becomes too much, they crack. To help remedy this situation, Blizzard is looking at changing quite a few things about league play.
They are reducing the number of regular season games from 40 to 28. Two matches a week may not seem like much, but in between these pro matches, the teams are practicing for extreme hours and not getting enough sleep. Allowing the athletes to properly recuperate will extend the career length and the length of the league itself. To keep viewers happy and content rolling in, the league is expanding from 12 to 20 teams.
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Right now, all games are played out of Blizzard’s arena in California. As you can imagine, this kind of travel for China’s team and London’s team can make for grueling travel and give American teams an advantage. In the future, Blizzard wants to expand the league to the point where teams can have both home and away games. Teams would be placed into divisions that are carved out by region to reduce the travel, giving teams the ability to have more time to recover.
You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink, right? Gamers will be gamers. Wake up and grind has been their mentality for years. Can you really change that?
Yes, you can. All professional sports leagues have clauses in their contracts, mostly for personal conduct, especially in public, during interviews, and on social media.
There is nothing stopping Blizzard from requiring these teams and coaches to place a limit on the amount of time these players are sitting in front of screens. While requiring them to be on certain diets may be a stretch, forcing players to limit their practice time and speak to mental health professionals is probably doable.
But the core of the problem is with players. We, as gamers, need to understand that if we want to continue doing what we do, we need to be in peak physical and mental health. This is going to make us happier and it’s going to make us better players in the long run.
Finally, it’s going to set a positive example for the next generation of gamers.