Healthy Gaming: Optimising performance
During April, we started a series of articles published in collaboration with Álvaro Fernández Cencerrado, aka ‘Jugandomejor’, clinical psychologist from gamewell.co. Last month, we developed how the brain was working when playing video games, unbalanced dopamine side-effects, and the great impacts of having few short breaks during a long gaming session.
In today’s article, Sbkzor interviews Jugandomejor in order to gather multiple tips and details of how to improve gaming performance.
Sbkzor: First of all, big thanks Álvaro for taking some time to talk with us.
At Silent Shadows we truly want to bring to our community all types of insights that would allow the players to improve their gaming time, be it their playstyle, or their life besides gaming, which is also impactful for their playtime experience.
In your first article, which I really liked (and hopefully, so did the community), you started talking about the relevance of understanding dopamine flows and every clue linked that we will be able to maintain a higher dopamine capacity by gaming sustainably rather than committing excesses. Are the following tips of today’s article linked to dopamine care?
Jugandomejor: In some ways, they all are, nonetheless, there are some that are not necessarily justified by a dopamine care issue, even if they should be impacting it. Let’s overview from the “core” ones, the main ones you would like to have always in your gaming routine and then I’d suggest some additions.
– Avoiding gaming before sleep time
– Doing physical exercise
– Gaming time hygiene
Sbkzor: Okay, so let’s start with the game time before sleeping. This is actually something that I always did for the last fifteen years of my life, but I often read that it wasn’t healthy. Could you give us a bit more inputs on this?
Jugandomejor: It has been proved that just staying in front of a screen before going to bed, delays melatonin secretion (melatonin is the hormone generated when our organism detects daylight is going down so it starts all the endocrine processes linked to night time) when resulting in reduced sleep quality and more time needed to fall asleep. To this, we may add the non-yet proved effect of the nervous system activation linked to each video game: is not the same to farm some plants and herbs before going to bed as playing your last arena games opportunities to cap Gladiator. Having a good sleep routine and habits is basic for performance in the short, mid, and long term. Leave a minimum of 1 hour of no gaming (even no screens) before bed and 2 hours might be the most healthy recommendation.
Sbkzor: Yeah! I can relate. When I was playing back in the days, I often enjoyed finishing my gaming time by going for some farming (Primals, you know…) because I realized that it was a good way to keep me relatively calm in front of my computer for a while, which allowed me to go to sleep without any anxiety or stress. But, Álvaro, there are many people that can only game during the night time due to other compromises, like study, working and family life, what would you say to these people?
Jugandomejor: As easy as that, what’s bad for life is not doing what you really want. It comes to a matter of costs and rewards, I will suggest you establish a relationship with a community/guild that ends raiding or gaming before your sleep time, but sometimes this doesn’t depend totally on you.
Even for myself, I will have to face this issue probably in Classic TBC. I will pray we don’t wipe that much… However still, raiding is not as attentional demanding as playing arena, so if you want, you will always find spaces to game more healthily. Control hype; the ability to delay rewards has always been linked to success and well-being.
Sbkzor: Okay, I see. Basically, it’s about self-discipline and few in-game adjustments, then.
You were also talking about physical exercise. Could you elaborate a bit more? Do you mean that doing physical activity helps improving?
Jugandomejor: It has been proved in a 2020 study, that only 20 minutes of High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) led to an improvement in League of Legends performance in a matter of targets eliminated and reduced the errors in the last hit mechanic in minions as the graph shows. Not only that, the players reported that their mood was improved by 17%. Physical exercise improves performance and prevents TILT.
Sbkzor: Okay that sounds great! Actually, I remember that a lot of professional gamers are actually having physical training to keep competing at their highest level. So basically, we’d recommend similar habits to our players around, right ?
Jugandomejor: Yeah, definitely but not with the same intensity.
Besides that There’s also gaming time hygiene. As we stated in the first article, having a sustainable gaming time will predict better performance results in the mid and long run. Even for most hardcore gamers, we recommend not to play more than 6 hours a day, you will burn your dopamine most likely otherwise.
Try to split that gaming time into sessions with a long 1 or 2 hours break, and every hour trying to make a small break of 5 to 10 minutes at least.
Diving into details, it is important for our psychological routine not to mix gaming hours with working hours, always try to do work first as you will have more freshness in your brain and then you’ll feel rewarded and in peace while gaming.
There have been studies that point that the most healthy gaming hours are the evening as playing during mornings or nights have shown more correlations with Gaming Disorder score as these are hours supposed to do any other kind of daily stuff.
Sbkzor: So basically, playing during the evening is right, only if you also make sure to leave your computer (and other screens) at least one hour before sleeping, right?
Jugandomejor: That’s what empirical evidence says. Also is clutch to consider taking at least 1 or 2 days a week of total disconnection from gaming: This will insanely recover your dopamine, boosting your motivation to come back the next day and increasing insanely your performance in the long run.
And this sums up the core tips, nonetheless, there are plenty of little actions you can take to fulfill your healthy gaming routine, so please stay tuned.
Sbkzor: Great! As usual, this is super informative, and I really think that each of us can start to put into practice at least one of these simple tips to start improving. Do you eventually have a recommendation to make besides those three tips? As a gamer yourself, is there a particular physical activity that you’d recommend to the community? What’s your favorite one?
Jugandomejor: My favorites are stretching and yoga as I enjoy them and also tend to suffer from muscular rigidity. I really love this discipline as it is something that works physically and mentally on you, you are forced to focus while making a sustained effort that has a really huge reward after you finished the exercise and depending on how much you pushed for it. It definitely trains your power of will and is a clear discipline to enhance the relation of a painful effort in the present that has its reward, not that delayed in time.
Sbkzor: Well I guess that now I have no excuse to dodge my wife’s recommendation when she tells me to practice some Yoga too, haha!
We’ve talked about stretching and yoga, but let’s overview 5 more tips:
– tip n°1: Power Naps: Having a little “siesta” from 10 to 30 minutes is insanely good to recover your energy. The longer you take the nap, the longer you will need to recover from it: if you go for the 30 min one maybe you feel dizzy for 15 minutes. It’s not recommended to take longer as you will start and stop a sleep cycle which will make you feel even more tired on waking.
– tip n°2: Having accessibility to healthy food and drinks. This is a task done previously for gaming. This habit is insane, if you get used to buying properly in the supermarket and fulfill your fridge with the right nutrition, you will notice an insane boost in your well-being. When you have been gaming for 4 hours you feel the hell out of hunger so is not the moment to think about what you eat. Instead, if you have left their nice meals, you are in the right way.
– tip n°3: Taking natural sun or natural light during day time. It has been suggested that this can counter the effects of artificial light during nights, potentially preventing melatonin secretion (as hypothetically you will be synchronized with natural light already that day).
– tip n°4: Mindfulness meditation and breathing techniques. It is the very best to recover, there are plenty of benefits from mindfulness. I myself have proved this and when I went for a hard mindfulness routine for two weeks I noticed I slept 1 hour less and had more energy. I recommend doing mindfulness before sleeping and some breathing techniques after gaming to enhance the association for an active nervous system with some relaxation. I usually go for Wim Hof breathing.
– tip n°5: Caffeine control and energy drinks, etc. Only use them for tournaments and dose them. Avoid caffeine from 3:00 pm.
Sbkzor: Wow Álvaro, these are many little things that put together can make a difference indeed! Before we end this interview, would you add anything more?
Jugandomejor: Obviously there are tips from the esports perspective, note down your mistakes, watch some of your replays, scout better players. Not all gaming time has to be necessarily gaming. Also want to highlight that for those wanting a deeper explanation of how each tip is connected to gaming performance, we have a free 1 hour session in Gamewell given by Martina Čubrić, the e-sport psychologist from Mad Lions.
Also want to tell the readers to not be a perfectionist. Just try to improve in one aspect for a month. I’ve seen so many profiles that get all-in for 2 weeks and then they fall exhausted from pushing that hard. Remember that maintained and balanced beats tryhard all in no sense pushes. The same is with habits, the best habits are the ones that come for the rest of life, so find your way to assimilate them properly!
Sbkzor: Definitely a great advice here, yes!
Big thanks to you, this is very cool to offer your expertise to our gamers and I’ll make sure to start using at least one of the tips we detailed today to start improving!
Next month, we will give you psychological clues about the interaction of gaming with the standard gaming personality and with its context, from familiar to social and even the whole world context. We will go through frequent struggles such as the ‘snowball effect’, some explanations that will hopefully clever your view, and some recommended ways to go.
Any question you might have, make sure to contact Alvaro “Jugandomejor” throughout his social media or right on Silent Shadows discord.