The idea of sitting in front of a computer screen playing your favourite game for a living may sound like the dream for many wannabe eSports superstars. It’s that possibility of taking your passion and talent in games such as Dota 2, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive or League of Legends, and converting it into a viable career choice that clearly sounds so appealing. But what the eSports world is discovering is that there’s a lot more that determines success than raw skill alone.
While the argument is regularly made that eSports aren’t as physically demanding as traditional sports, there’s no denying that the physical and mental health of players is an important consideration to make. Grinding away at a game for 10 hours a day, seven days a week in order to practice may be physically possible, but that doesn’t necessarily make it a healthy or reliable way to achieve success.
It all began for Stellberg while working for Astralis – the team that were her starting point into the world of eSports. There she found herself offering assistance to many different levels of the squad: from the broader function of the team in general and right down to the individual coaches and players.
There were things to observe and improve at all levels, she says, to the point where she could be functioning as the coach’s right hand in one moment to support them in their job, and then hold one-to-one sessions with single players in another, “to find out how they’re doing and how you can support them in becoming a better version of themselves,” she explains.
In these individual discussions, she believes her job is to educate. “I like to teach the players a lot about controlling their emotions so that they are more rational instead of emotional. If you have a lot of emotions, that might sometimes conflict the game itself,” she argues.
“To be the fastest possible version of yourself, you need to be calm and collected because if you are nervous or stressed, that does affect your hand-eye coordination and your reaction time,” she explains. “Also your self-esteem as a person has a huge impact on how you’re performing because if your self-esteem isn’t on the right level, you get much more easily stressed.”
Yet, it can go both ways too! When you’re doing incredibly well it can be easy to get caught up in the excitement and drop your concentration if you think a win is already secured. In those times it’s best to remind yourself that overconfidence is a slow and insidious killer.
One aspect she really stresses in her discussions with players is to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Again, it’s the idea that tapping away at the keyboard or mashing on the controller for hours on end each week is not going to be conducive to better play. It’s better if players are more sensible about their time and ensure they’re taking breaks to spend it with friends, family or significant others.
She also feels that there are a lot of aspects of playing an esport professionally that may be overlooked as an outsider, or that players may not be aware of until they are caught in the chaos. Some of the things she lists include the extensive travel requirements, the frequency of games and tournaments, coping with jet lag and the demand from social media and fans. Altogether, she suggests that in general, “being an eSports athlete is more demanding than being on the traditional side”.
Yet, these might be things that players willingly throw themselves into without a moment's pause because of the opportunities available to them. Even more so when especially younger players see it as their first big break. “When you’re 19 you will give your soul to be a professional person and to get paid to do what you love, so you kind of forget yourself,” she says.
And it’s for moments like these where Stellberg sees space for her to step in. With her specialist knowledge of the unique demands required of eSports players, she can find the best way to support them in aspects of the chosen careers and their personal lives to ensure they find even greater success when their talent has taken them to the top levels of play.