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The Science Behind Concentration - Gamer Edition

Success in competitive gaming depends on a massive range of factors: the ability to perform under pressure, the ability to formulate rapid responses to often highly complex scenarios, communicating with team members efficiently, in addition to constantly managing micro-level decision-making tasks that shift and evolve throughout the course of gameplay.

Expert and elite tier players juggle these demanding cognitive tasks effortlessly - transitioning between micro-level contexts while maintaining an accurate picture of the playing field as a whole.

The ideal player will have the iron solid concentration required to effectively manage this dizzying array of tasks and subtasks with ease. Even casual gamers will be familiar with that exhilarating ‘flow state’ that occurs when concentration and competency are at their absolute zenith. Every variable is accounted for, every move is planned and you’re totally absorbed in the game.

The corollary to this situation is all too familiar. Distractions and interruptions can wreak havoc at the most importune moments, and performing sub optimally is never satisfying. At its worst, lack of concentration isn’t just an issue for professional players. Distraction and lack of concentration can strip all the fun out of gaming, rendering it hollow and frustrating - burnout anyone?

What is concentration?

Put simply, concentration can be viewed as being an individual’s ability to avoid distractions - or more formally:

“Concentration is an attentional process that involves the ability to focus on the task at hand while ignoring distractions.”  The Oxford Handbook of Sport and Performance Psychology  

In psychological terms, concentration can be seen as one of the elements which make up attention - a more generalised term referring to the manner in which we actively process specific information in our environment. In addition to concentration, psychologists outline two other dimensions in defining an individual’s capacity for attention:

  • Divided attention: The capacity to perform multiple tasks simultaneously
  • Selective Perception - The filtering of sensory stimuli into degrees of interest, and the concurrent focus of perception on those stimuli that elicit stronger responses

While these distinctions are useful in a research context, from the point of view of eSport athletes attempting to get an edge in competition, it’s more useful to think of attention and concentration as being essentially synonymous.

In the context of gaming, our ability to concentrate impacts three main areas:

  • Avoiding distraction - On a busy screen filled with data, there are often only two or three elements salient to problem solving. Filtering out excess ‘noise’ allows us to reduce the scale of a problem, speeds up our cognition, and allows us to switch between contexts more rapidly.
  • Multitasking - Human beings have limited working and short term memory. Gaming often forces us to divide intellectual resources between a number of different tasks and subtasks. Multitasking effectively is contingent on efficient usage of working and short-term memory - with so many balls in the air, you can't afford to be distracted.
  • Visualisation - In many games, a huge element of success is the ability to accurately predict the location of other players by developing a mental map of the field based on experience, evidence and other assumptions. Developing an accurate temporal and physical mental map of the board requires a high level of concentration, as well as domain knowledge (expertise).

What factors impact concentration?

  • Nutrition - Studies conducted on high school age students demonstrated a marked correlation between good nutritional intake and heightened cognitive performance - including in markers of concentration and working memory.
  • Sleep quality - A large body of research emphasises the significance of sleep duration and quality on a wide range of neurocognitive faculties.
  • Stress - The interaction between stress and cognition is complex and poorly understood. Some research suggests that acute stress can actually improve performance in certain classes of well-rehearsed tasks

    Overall, research suggests that periods of acute stress are associated with impaired concentration, as well as diminished working memory.
  • Environment - One of the biggest contributing factors to our ability to maintain focus on the task at hand is our immediate physical environment. Visual clutter, loud noises, social interruptions…

Can concentration be improved?

Like any other skill, concentration can be improved over time through a number of techniques. In addition to directly training concentration through practice, researchers have noted improvements in measures of concentration arising from strategies as diverse as consistent mindfulness meditation, participation in art therapy as well as physical exercise.

Ultimately, any task which requires sustained cognitive effort will help to cultivate improved concentration.

What ‘hacks’ can help me to improve my concentration rapidly?

If you’re an experienced gamer, it is likely that your concentration skills are already greater than that of an equivalent non-gamer. With this in mind, one of the easiest hacks that you can take advantage of to improve concentration is physical exercise. If your physical exercise game is already on point, there are a number of well researched nutritional supplements that have been scientifically proven to help maintain or improve concentration.

Acetyl L-Tyrosine - Stress, stimulation and memory

Acetyl Tyrosine is an amino acid - a fundamental molecular building block which your body uses to produce tissue, neurotransmitters and proteins. Acetyl L-Tyrosine is especially important for gamers because of its role in the biosynthesis of the neurotransmitters dopamine and noradrenaline. L-Tyrosine supplementation has been shown to decrease the impact of stress on cognition, as well as improving outcomes in a number of cognitive areas - including concentration.

Alpha –GPC - Stress and concentration

Choline is a nutrient found in a variety of food sources, which has a number of roles in the human body. Choline compounds are of particular interest to athletes such as elite gamers because research suggests that choline compounds are associated with improvements in cognition, neuroplasticity and concentration. Alpha-GPC delivers choline to neural tissue much more rapidly than dietary choline sources, and may exhibit a mild stimulatory effect to help keep your head in the game.

Caffeine - Alertness, concentration, working memory

As mankind's favourite supplement, caffeine has an extensive body of research demonstrating the efficacy and power of this ubiquitous compound. There is widespread consensus that caffeine improves performance on attention-based tasks. One drawback of caffeine supplementation is the impact that caffeine has been shown to have on sleep and sleep quality. Given the demonstrable importance of healthy sleep for concentration, this has the potential to be a big drawback.

L-Theanine - The secret to perfect concentration

L-Theanine is an amino acid isolated from green tea leaves which has been shown to reduce stress, improve cognitive performance and boost mood. Most importantly however, L-theanine has been shown to diminish the negative effects of caffeine!

Bringing it all together

As an elite level gamer, getting an edge on your competitors can be an uphill battle. Taking advantage of extensively tested, safe and well understood supplements is the key to maximising your performance. Legion FOCUS contains a scientifically formulated blend of L-Tyrosine, Alpha-GPC, Caffeine and L-Theanine as well as supporting compounds, that will provide the enhanced concentration that you need to succeed.

Sources:

https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-flow-2794768
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https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00301/full
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https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5332116/
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https://www.zora.uzh.ch/id/eprint/127096/14/Clark_Landolt_Sleep%20Med%20Rev%20(2016).pdf
https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/jmf.2009.1374
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