Burnout in eSports

Burnout is something that has been well documented over the years at the state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress (Helpguide, 2020). While burnout is typically related to people’s feelings toward their occupation, it is also prevalent in eSports athletes. eSports athletes view their gaming as their job, or part of their number of jobs and responsibilities that they are required to perform well in.

Burnout is a very important topic to understand, especially for team-leaders and coaches, in order to identify the symptoms and address them before it is too late. Stress in players can be compared to that of an elastic band. You can handle stress up to the certain point, but eventually the band will snap, unable to return to its original form. The same can happen to eSports athletes, where they eventually get to the point where they are unable to re-establish that desire they have for gaming.

Unfortunately, burnout does not only affect the ability to play well, but also affects other spheres of life, spilling into home, work and social environments. Therefore, it is important to be able to identify the early signs of burnout so that interventions can be put into place to avoid permanent detachment from gaming.

I was recently approached by the manager of a pro team here in my country. He was concerned with one of his players and asked for my assistance with coming up with a strategy to help get him back on track. When I asked him what issues he was noticing, what he said instantly made me think that this player was experiencing some early signs of burnout.

I just saw his gameplay decline. He is a very good player, but was playing far below his potential. He also had a general lack of motivation for showing up to practice on time, did not want to discuss things during team practice. He’d show up, play and leave right after instead of staying to talk to the team about their practice. It was very unlike him. Once I saw a pattern of this behavior over a period of a few days, I knew something was wrong, and confronted him about it.

‘Mancakes’, GG Team Manager

There are three components to look out for when questioning burnout in a player, namely exhaustion, cynicism and detachment (Maslach, 2006).

Of course, all pro players will feel any one of these symptoms throughout their career, which does not mean that they have burnout. The difference between normal fluctuations of feelings and burnout is when these feelings are sustained over a period of time, and have detrimental outcomes on other aspects of life.