The Psychology of eSports

By Stella Haffner   |   September 6, 2022

Part of the joy of producing this column is learning about spheres that are foreign to me. I have written before on how I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions; instead, I use the journal here to try new things, to give me the kick in the backside that I need, to go out and ask people what I want to know. This week, we’re heading into foreign territory with the help of Brian Arizmendi Villanueva, leader of SBCC’s eSports Club.

The 21-year-old and Applied Technology major entered the world of video games when he was young, and his passion grew from there. With years of practice and exposure to outsider opinions, Brian’s understanding of eSports has developed into the perspective he shares with us today. 

Leader of SBCC’s eSports Club Brian Arizmendi Villanueva

Q. What is an eSport?

A. It’s like many normal sports. As a kid we play football, we play soccer. As a pastime for many of us we play video games. The next tier of that – and to be able to play professionally and potentially make a living off of it – is an eSport. That itself is just a category of play, so if you’re doing eSports it means you’re playing on a competitive level.

How did you get started in eSports?

I have always loved competing, and I always found that I would jump between games as a kid. I wanted to be the best. When I first found out there was a video game club at SBCC during quarantine, I was like, “I have nowhere to go, I need some guidance, I need some people to talk to because I’m stuck in my house.” I met some people there and then it grew into a competitive environment. We wanted to play a “comp,” which is a category of game mode where you’re playing against other people to rank up and get a sense of where you fall against everyone else playing in the world. That competition really drove me to want to pursue it in other games and help people find an outlet if they want to pursue this later on in life.

What makes eSports an attractive area?

What’s really cool about eSports is that it’s not too physically demanding, and it’s not like you need to buy a bunch of equipment for it. A lot of my guys get by on a gaming laptop. Some of them want to invest in themselves, and they’ll buy an actual computer and build it – I built mine. Then they’ll be able to enjoy the set up but also use it practically for school and Zoom. I think just how easily accessible it is makes eSports really appealing because it’s like, “I don’t have to be 6’5 to play basketball” or “I don’t need to put on so much muscle to play football” or things like that.

How does the practice schedule for an eSport compare to other sports?

It just depends on our players. Thankfully this summer not a lot of people had classes, so we were really able to push singular practices with coaches. Each player would have time with their coach and go through their own “VOD’s,” which is just their videos and recordings. They go through that, then they would have a team practice where they all play together, with a coach watching everyone’s perspective to see what’s going on. They also have “scrims,” scrimmages, so like with football or basketball, we’ll play against other teams from UCSB, CalPoly, CSU. We’ll practice with other teams who are also competing at a higher level. 

What do you think people misunderstand about eSports?

I think what’s really difficult, just playing video games in general is oh, you know, “You’re rotting your brain,” etcetera, etcetera. There are definitely healthy doses of playing games and, as with any hobby, you’re not going to want to be playing video games for the entire day. A 16-hour day isn’t healthy, it doesn’t give you any good benefits, strategies, and also wouldn’t start making you more comfortable with yourself or being with yourself; social things are a part of this as well. What we try to do is our best, manage our time wisely, and push off from that. I also run into the idea that these games are conditioning us to think that violence is acceptable. We hear that violence in games gets correlated to shootings and things like that. But it’s like playing football or basketball. That’s what we always try to bring it back to, that it’s just like physical sports. This is just our hobby, this is what we do. And there’s a lot of intentionality that goes behind it.

Do you believe there’s a connection between violent game narratives and violent crime or that’s just something you run into as a misconception?

It’s just something I’m running into. I don’t think so. I think there are a lot of things that go into that – you know, causation, correlation – I think it’s completely different, especially with the games we play. A lot of them are not super realistic. A lot of them are cartoonish. Like we would never correlate that. As a kid we might play a game where an alien or something is shooting lasers. I’m not correlating this to real life. This is an escape for us, this is what we do as a pastime. 

What do you have to say about the psychology of eSports?

I think because of how easily accessible it is, eSports can become a very toxic thing. Because you can see yourself growing. But at certain points in any sport, you will plateau, and that is the most gut-wrenching feeling because it’s like: “Can I be any better than this? Is this really all I can do?” Eventually a really positive mindset can become a really unhealthy mindset, where you’ll dedicate hours and hours to practice, becoming your harshest critic. This is why we have coaching; we all progress and make strides, and moves, and waves in our specific niches. But we don’t think that everyone is going to be a superstar overnight, so a lot of it requires you to take a breather, go outside, go enjoy yourself – know that there’s more that you have to offer. But if this is something you want to do, you need to practice it in a healthy, positive mindset.   


You might also be interested in...