Esports Psychology

Esports Psychology is a 2023 article by Condor Performance’s Darren Godwin on the mental side of electronic sports.

The Mental Side of Electronic Sports

eSports is short for electronic sports.

Not an esports fan or competitor? Fear not as this article contains psychologically oriented tips and suggestions applicable across many performance domains. You may be surprised at just how much you can learn despite a lack of familiarity with esports.

What Are Esports?

Esports stands for electronic sports. They are essentially competitions between people playing video games. The most common electronic mediums are the personal computer (PC), a game console (Playstation, Xbox, and Nintendo), as well as mobile devices. There are a wide variety of communities across each of these platforms that passionately dedicate themselves to their preferred game or games. Just like in actual sports, most competitors have one video game that they focus their attention on mastering.

Most esports competitions follow traditional sporting tournament formats. A lot of the most popular tournaments have open qualifications. This is very appealing to aspiring players as it means very low barriers to entry. On top of this are some massive money prize pools. The PC game, Defense of the Ancients 2 (DotA2), had a total prize pool of just over $40 million US dollars in 2021. It is one of the largest prize pools in eSports and was achieved through the fans and community funding it. For additional context, the next closest in terms of the prize pool was the 2019 Fortnite World Cup which was $30.4 million USD. Other globally competitive video games have ranged between $2-$7 million USD. With these prize pools, competitors are trying to find more ways to improve their abilities. Hence a greater interest in eSports psychology over the last few years.

Both eSports and eSports Psychology are growing at an exponential rate.

Why Are Esports So Appealing?

For starters, video games are inherently enjoyable. They are designed with elements that combine challenge and reward which create positive reinforcement and provoke emotions. Video games are intelligently designed to give players feedback for achieving success. Such as animated celebrations for completing a task and uplifting sound clips paired with each successful event. You work your way through a problem and stumble a few times but then work out your own solution which results in a feeling of triumph. This is an experience that our brains enjoy a lot and so we tend to want to sensation that again.

From a competitive point of view, the two main elements these games provide are skill and a score. One of the earliest video game tournaments was held in 1980 by video game company Atari for the game Space Invaders. This was an individual-based competition where the winner was the person with the highest score.

Since the implementation of the internet, video games have been designed to be played only with other real people in the game. Now that creates an enjoyable experience that we are able to engage in socially with our friends. Esports are designed purely with competitive elements in mind and are very rarely played on your own. Think of it like trying to play tennis with just one person. Hence the new classification of esports for competitive video game titles. It is a seemingly simple recipe, put forward a challenge between two or more people and offer a prize.

Esports Psychology

Let’s start by addressing the elephant in the room. Esports do not require any athletic or cardiovascular demands. The physical requirements are more related to fine motor skills with competitors needing to move a device (mouse or joystick) with millimeter precision by the hand and fingertips. This is an extremely similar set of skills to what we have across musicians, snooker, golf putting, and archery to name a few. There’s a lot to be learned from the training methods that have been developed in these sports and performance areas.

Processing Speed

Most of the mental challenges in esports come from higher demands on planning and decision-making. Top competitors tend to develop their visual-spatial and information-processing skills well. This is because they are required to scan through an image on a screen that contains a lot of information which then needs to be translated quickly into a decision. These processing skills are similar to ones required for soccer players, for example, to scan the field for a pass while an opponent is running at them.

There are a lot of similarities between chess and esports with regard to decision-making. Esports can differ by having a much larger amount of data as well as the decision-making taking place at the same time as opposed to turn-taking. To try to illustrate, in DotA 2, there are 5 players on each team. Each player can choose from 123 unique characters to control in one match. These characters then have 4 skills each and can purchase up to 6 items out of a total of 208. The players then actively control their character for an average game length of 40 minutes. You don’t need to make a decision for every combination at any given moment. However, I think it paints a picture of just how much data and situational combinations there are to process.


Given the amount of processing, it makes sense that esports competitors require a lot of focus and attention. Of all the information that’s presented which is the most important to focus on and respond to? Just like for physical sports, competitors can have difficulty on either side of the scale. Some may find it hard to maintain focus and others over-focus. It can be helpful to think of focus as being like the fuel of a vehicle. Step on the accelerator more (higher focus), the more fuel (focus) that’s used.

Tip: for your given title try to understand where the downtime or breaks are between moments that require high focus. Check-in with yourself and see if you have your foot down on the accelerator, you might be using up your focus when you don’t need to.


Just like any other competitor most esports players want to win. And when we care about something along comes our emotions for the ride. Low confidence in our performance, and nervousness playing in front of a crowd for the first time. And maybe most commonly the worry of making a mistake. For esports psychology, the fundamentals are the same but the application might look different. Players will need to develop the capacity to accept those emotions while not having them impact their actions. A great place to start is to develop a reset routine. It can be as small as readjusting a piece of equipment. No matter how nervous or frustrated you might be you will always have the ability to adjust or move the equipment. You can read more about the concept of accepting emotions rather than fighting them here.

Team Unity

The average age of an esports professional in 2023 is between 20 and 26 years of age. More than half of the current titles are team-based and for a lot of competitors, this would be their first experience having to perform within a team. Unlike traditional sports, which have had the better part of the last century to organise themselves into communities and pass along their learnings, esports has yet to establish this structure.

If you are a younger competitor trying to plan your way to professionalism, or you are a parent trying to figure it out, there really aren’t any obvious clubs, teams, communities, or clinics that have an established system to guide these young competitors on what teamwork can look like. If you have any team sport experience, try to imagine what it would be like to only have your own play experience as a form of guidance.

Tip: Due to the demands of esports in terms of focus and decision making these games can make for ideal “cross-training” for competitors of traditional sports looking to target these crucial areas of mental toughness.

Esports and Health

Some of the best esports competitors in the world might be more relatable than you think. Many have enjoyed traditional sports from a young age and due to injury have repurposed their competitive drive into esports. Many of the top competitors understand the importance of taking care of their health and have wonderful physical routines at the foundation of their training. The top esports players look after their mental and physical health by lifting weights at the gym, running, and cycling. They are highly motivated individuals willing to invest their time to improve their performance.

The lack of physical exertion in esports makes it more complicated to have a clearer endpoint for practice. Taking care of your physical health plays a big role in mental performance and if you are looking to improve your mental game, this is a great place to start. Keep in mind that esports titles provide a lot of fun and when we combine that with motivated individuals it can be easy to over-practice. It’s important, therefore, from an esports psychology point of view to take these factors into consideration. From a neuroscience perspective, playing competitive video games with your friends is a very fun and rewarding experience. For a young mind, why wouldn’t you want to keep having fun?

Moderation Is Important

Moderation is important, too much of anything can be harmful. This is definitely a situation where we want to consider quality over quantity. If you are aspiring to improve your ability, start by looking at your health routines and try to understand what 1 – 2 hours of extremely high-quality practice might look like.

At Condor Performance we are really fortunate to have two psychologists who specialise in working with esports competitors and teams. Darren Godwin (author) is a Melbourne-based provisional psychologist whilst fellow Victorian Dr. Michelle Pain is hugely experienced in this domain as well. If you would like further information about working with either of these exceptional mental coaches please get in touch via our contact us page.

Sport Psychology for Kids

Sport Psychology for Kids, by provisional psychologist Darren Godwin based in Melbourne, looks at how traditional sport psychology methods are adapted for younger performers and athletes.

Sport Psychology for Kids
Let’s Talk About Sport Psychology for Kids and Teenagers.


As one of the provisional psychologists at Condor Performance, I have found myself working with a number of younger athletes and competitors. Basically, a healthy chunk of nine to fourteen-year-olds. It has provided me with an opportunity to reflect on the concept of Sport Psychology for Kids. In other words, the way in which traditional sport psychology methodology is adapted for much younger clients. I hope, in sharing some of these reflections that I can provide some general tips to parents/carers/coaches of younger athletes and performers. This is not to imply that the suggestions are not applicable to all athletes. It’s just that they are particularly pertinent to those yet to hit puberty.

Why Do Kids Play Sport?

There are many reasons why children play sports. But to keep it simple the biggest motivations are exercise, social, mastery, and fun. Or in other words, they want to be liked, be good at stuff and have fun and get fit at the same. Sport, especially competitive sport, is unique in providing this irresistible cocktail.

They have begun school and are starting to absorb a lot of information. They want to show others that they are capable. In many ways, sports contests are the first time they will have the ability to show their skills whilst being directly observed by their friends and family. It’s hard to get a standing ovation when you ace a maths test. But scoring the winning try/runs/goal and the cheer from the sidelines can be a huge incentive to try and do it again.

The Fun Factor

The Fun Factor is also a major part of sport psychology for kids. Fun is a subjective term and it can be difficult to understand this from the child’s perspective at times. In simple behavioural terms, if something is fun we’re more likely to want to do it again.

What I try to encourage caretakers to consider is the main driver of the child’s experience of fun and development from their point of view. As adults, it is very easy for us to impart what we want and miss what the child is telling us they’re trying to accomplish. This is important because we can easily crumple the child’s sense of fun by over-imposing our values on their training. I’m sure it feels strange to sit down with an eight-year-old and let them help you design some of their training sessions. But you’d be amazed at what happens when you try this.

When the fun goes it is hard to get it back. This typically leads to kids deciding they are not really ‘sporty’ and quitting competitive sports altogether. For those interested, here’s an article and study on why kids play and quit sports (Visek et al., 2015).

What Can We Control?

When you go over a list of things that your attention goes towards during competition, it does not take long before you realise that you can’t control most of them. Burning effort and energy on factors outside of our control is something that kids are especially susceptible to. I do this exercise with young competitors where we write this list out. Most of the time they can accurately identify what is within their control (or influence) and what is not. The hardest part, as is the case with most sport psychology techniques, is applying it in a beneficial way.

So crucial is this mental skill that the younger it can be developed the better. All too often the consequence of this exercise is that the young athlete will have a short list of half a dozen aspects that they have a huge amount of influence on. In our experience as psychologists, it’s rare that these items are the same ones their parents and coaches are telling them to focus on. Hence why one of the cornerstones of great sport psychology for kids is making sure that caregivers and coaches are mentally upskilled as well. This is one of the main reasons why at Condor Performance we allow and often encourage the families of our younger clients to sit in on sessions. You can hear more about this via the answer to this FAQ.

Processes Over Outcomes

A process is a series of actions that can be repeated or have a sequence. Outcomes, on the other hand, are results or the byproduct of some actions. In the context of sport and performance, both training and competitions can have processes and outcomes. Let’s take basketball for example. Training processes could be all the practice shots attempted at the end of squad training. But the number of balls that go through the hoop and any credit you get (or did not get) from the coaches are outcomes. These two are almost the same in an actual competitive basketball match but not exactly. Suddenly in a match, you have a defender who will be trying to actually reduce the number of shots you attempt. So for this process, you might need to be trying to make shots by running hard. Suddenly, the number of shots you get joins the number of points you score in the outcome column.

When I ask young competitors what they enjoy about their sport one common answer is “winning”. It is wonderful to hear this accompanied by a big grin however for kids this is usually the extent of the concept.

Shifting their focus toward the process and away from the outcome is not easy but can pay huge dividends throughout the rest of their sporting career. Imagine how much better placed a 10-year-old is when they learn to become more process orientated and use that for the next 25 years of their career. A ‘win at all cost’ mentality is potentially understandable for highly paid professional athletes. But not for youngsters.

Thinking About Winning

Thinking about winning, or any outcome for that matter does not actually help us achieve that outcome. I know it feels like it does and I know many well-intended adults will tell you as such but it just is not the case. Our attention is better placed on the actions that we need to perform in order to give us a higher probability of that outcome occurring.

Which of these two hypothetical children do you think will fair better in their upcoming soccer/football match? The child who is saying to themselves “I must win, I must play well, I must impress my friends”. Or the child who is reminding themself before kick-off “dribble when in space, spread out and use the whole pitch and run hard, I can rest after the match is over”? A Process Oriented Mindset (POM) will also help children manage their own expectations. They do not need to produce something each week, they just need to aim to give their best effort and let the processes take care of the outcomes. Hmm, that would be a great title for a book (see right)!

Delayed Gratification

In today’s world, it’s very easy to access things that bring us immediate pleasure. Largely thanks to advancements in technology we can buy most things online and have them the next day. We can watch almost any TV show or movie at the press of a button.

Communicating with groups of friends only takes a few seconds in 2022. However, there are still a number of very important human experiences that don’t have short-term solutions. These include the development of meaningful relationships and the mastery of skills.

Delayed gratification is putting off short-term enjoyment for long-term benefits. It is important for young competitors to build an understanding that their improvement will not happen overnight. If they have big goals, they might have to skip watching TV for some practice in the backyard. A much more in-depth article on this subject can be seen here.

The Relationship Between Action And Emotions

Sport provides a wonderful opportunity for children to learn about their emotions. It is very important that we start to teach them that it is okay to experience these emotions. We are all human so our lives will be filled with a full array of feelings. What we are looking to do is model for the child how we act whilst we experience those emotions.

Where we get into trouble is when we view certain emotions as undesirable. We then get into a position where we want to remove ‘the nerves’ for example because they make us uncomfortable. This results in an endless struggle because ultimately we don’t have much influence over our emotions.

We are really looking to create a habit where our actions are not conditioned by our emotions. There are a number of examples of this happening in daily living such as getting up early in the morning to catch a flight or going to school. In those moments our feelings aren’t necessarily positive but our actions are more aligned with what we want to accomplish. What we want to do is help kids increase their capacity to respond to these emotions instead of reacting. Basically, we want to reduce impulsivity as per this recent article by my colleague and supervisor Gareth J. Mole.


Resilience is a very alluring quality. When asked, most people respond by saying they want it or that they want to help their child develop it. We know a lot more about its benefits rather than how to develop it. The Oxford Dictionary defines resilience as “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties”. This implies that the person has to experience something difficult first.

This puts a completely different twist on training. When practice situations are littered with difficulties this is a golden opportunity to develop resilience. The child is essentially practicing accepting the challenges, accepting their emotions, and developing helpful actions that basically equate to recovering quickly.

A wonderful post-match process is reflecting on the performance and writing down what you want to make the focus of your next practice. This reinforces the process over the outcomes, as mentioned above, and gives them a tool to continue developing their skills so that they are better equipped for the next time they meet the challenge.

Do You Want To Get In Touch?

Has this article piqued your interest in improving either your mental health or mental aspects of your sport/performance? Then get in touch via one of these methods: ⏩ Email us directly at and let us know more about you and how we can help. ⏩ Fill in one of our four Mental Toughness Questionnaires and tick the box at the end when it asks if you’d like to receive info about our services. We typically respond within 48 hours.