The Psychology of Esports: A Systematic Literature Review

Abstract

Recently, the skill involved in playing and mastering video games has led to the professionalization of the activity in the form of ‘esports’ (electronic sports). The aim of the present paper was to review the main topics of psychological interest about esports and then to examine the similarities of esports to professional and problem gambling. As a result of a systematic literature search, eight studies were identified that had investigated three topics: (1) the process of becoming an esport player, (2) the characteristics of esport players such as mental skills and motivations, and (3) the motivations of esport spectators. These findings draw attention to the new research field of professional video game playing and provides some preliminary insight into the psychology of esports players. The paper also examines the similarities between esport players and professional gamblers (and more specifically poker players). It is suggested that future research should focus on esport players’ psychological vulnerability because some studies have begun to investigate the difference between problematic and professional gambling and this might provide insights into whether the playing of esports could also be potentially problematic for some players.

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Acknowledgements

This study was supported by the Hungarian National Research, Development and Innovation Office (Grant Nos. K111938, KKP126835). Orsolya Király was supported by the ÚNKP New National Excellence Program of the Ministry of Human Capacities. This study was supported by the COST Action (Grant No. CA16207) funded by the Horizon 2020 Framework Programme of the European Union. The funding institutions had no role in the study design or the data collection, analysis and interpretation of the data, writing the manuscript, or the decision to submit the paper for publication.

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Correspondence to Zsolt Demetrovics.

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Three of the authors (FB, OK, ZS) declare that they do not have any interests that could constitute a real, potential or apparent conflict of interest with respect to their involvement in the publication. The authors also declare that they do not have any financial or other relations (e.g., directorship, consultancy or speaker fee) with companies, trade associations, unions or groups (including civic associations and public interest groups) that may gain or lose financially from the results or conclusions in the study. Sources of funding are acknowledged. MG carries out consultancy with the gambling companies in the area of responsible gambling, harm minimization and player protection. Some of his research has also received funding from GambleAware, a charity that is funded by gambling industry donations.

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Bányai, F., Griffiths, M.D., Király, O. et al. The Psychology of Esports: A Systematic Literature Review. J Gambl Stud 35, 351–365 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10899-018-9763-1

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Keywords

  • Esport
  • Professional video gaming
  • Competitive video gaming
  • Gambling
  • Poker
  • Video games
  • Gaming motivations