By Brian “i am guitar” Cordry, Player Manager for Evil Geniuses
A lot of people work in high-pressure jobs. People working in the financial industry are playing with numbers that can earn (or lose!) them a lot of money. Architects, engineers, and construction workers design and build structures that must support hundreds of thousands of people safely for dozens of years without. Pilots and emergency vehicle personnel have many lives in their hands during transport. All of these professions require their workers to bring their full attention to the job every day and put aside the distractions that might plague them in their personal lives. If you have an ‘off day’ in a high-pressure job, you might be endangering others along with your career.
Any time you take a job in a field that revolves around competition, you’re also placing yourself in a high-pressure situation. Professional athletes, writers, real estate agents and the like all compete for their points, their publishers, and their customers. If you’re a hardcore (or even casual) online video game player, it’s statistically likely you’re in college – so you might know firsthand what it’s like to be in a competitive environment. To an extent, college students compete with each other for the best grades and for job opportunities upon graduation; falling behind in class can mean less job offers and a smaller chance at a dream job.
Try to imagine the feeling you get when you have a big test tomorrow (if you do have a big test tomorrow, stop reading this and go study!). You might feel a number of physical symptoms associated with stress and anxiety: an upset stomach, chest pain, a rapid heartbeat, dry mouth, or shaking hands, to name a few. You might also find yourself experiencing cognitive symptoms like the inability to concentrate (“I’ll just check Facebook again before I continue studying”), extreme pessimism (“There’s no way I can pass this test, I’ll just give up now”), or elevated agitation (“Why won’t those asshole construction workers just let me focus!”). Even if you’re just recalling the feeling of a big exam tomorrow, your body might start to sweat and you’ll feel your pulse rate increase. Stress has that big of an effect on the body!
I’m sure you see where I’m going with this by now – high-stress environments are hard, and to an extent, can be unhealthy. Pro-gaming, especially the LCS, is the epitome of a competitive, high-pressure job. That feeling you got when you failed your first big test in college or came in late to an important day at work – that is a feeling that LCS players feel every single week. There are few other jobs where you’re forced to compete for your job every week against five other individuals (who are also under a lot of stress) while facing six (or more) months of “unemployment” before you can “reapply.”
Not only that, but there are very few occupations where your every step is broadcast for the world to see and judge, where passer-byes can be put on an equal platform as you to state their opinions and criticisms. Can you imagine an NBA where every casual YMCA rec-league player could pick up a microphone and tell the entire stadium all of the mistakes that they think LeBron made last week? Can you imagine a Hollywood where every movie was prefaced and followed by a slew of comments by “fans” that ripped into an actor’s character based on their performance? It’s hard to do, isn’t it? These are some of the stresses that pro-gamers face on the weekly.
I’m painting a pretty bleak picture of the life of an LCS player. Don’t get me wrong, there’s glamour to being a gamer and a celebrated personality that few other professions can capture. I don’t want to imply that many (if any) of the players in the LCS hate their job or wish they were doing something else. But there’s no doubt that most or all of them detest the extremely high levels of stress that they’re subjected to on a regular basis. You can see their breaking points frequently – Voyboy getting sick before LCS matches, Araneae retiring prematurely, dozens of players commenting and complaining on social media. It’s pretty clear that the platforms that fans have to bash on players (Twitter, Reddit, Facebook) combined with the cutthroat nature of the league (relegations) create a pressure cooker of stress that’s just waiting to explode from under the skin of any player.
So what can players do to counteract this effect? In my eyes, there are two effective methods that anyone in high-stress environments can use to keep themselves sane and healthy. They simply revolve around monitoring two important parts of your life: the first being consumption, the other being activity (both mental and physical).