Self-Regulation, Stress Appraisal, and Esport Action Performance

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Self-Regulation, Stress Appraisal, and Esport Action Performance

This study titled “Self-regulation, stress appraisal, and esport action performance” investigates how self-regulation may affect performance and compares self-regulation skills among athletes at different levels of competition and across different game titles. Within this study, self-regulation is defined as the cyclical capacity to plan, guide, and monitor one’s behavior; given the significant internal/cognitive and external stressors placed on athletes during competition, it is reasonable to investigate the extent to which athletes can mediate their behavioral responses to those stressors.


  • Participants: The study involved 53 participants with an average age of 21.89 years. They were divided into student competitors (SC) and national competitors (NC). SC participants were current locally- or University-based competitors who aimed to become national competitors, while NC participants aimed to become professional international competitors in CS:GO. All participants had normal vision and no psychiatric or neurological disorders. The SC participants represented the top 13.99% of all CS:GO players, while the NC participants represented the top 3.39% of players, with all but one of them in the top 0.75% CS:GO players worldwide based on in-game ranking metrics.
  • Measures: The study used challenge and threat appraisals (DRES), action performance tasks (CS:GO time-trial and shooting accuracy), and a self-regulation questionnaire (SRQ).
  • Procedure: Participants provided informed consent and completed the SRQ. They performed the primary task in CS:GO and completed challenge and threat appraisals. Data was collected during daytime hours, and participants were instructed not to consume caffeine for a 24 hour period prior to the testing, due to its known effects on hit accuracy and reaction time in esports.
  • Analysis: Statistical analysis was conducted using R Studio. Pearson correlation, paired samples t-tests, and mediation analysis were performed to explore relationships between challenge and threat appraisals, self-regulation, and performance. No outliers were found.
  • To determine the differences in DRES, self-regulation, and performance scores between levels of expertise a series of t-tests were performed.
  • This study compared the findings obtained in this study with the sample of 993 players who competed in a variety of esports (Overwatch, League of Legends, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Rocket League, and Defense of the Ancients 2), novice to elite (Trotter et al., 2021).

Results: The study produced several key findings:

  1. Game Comparisons: When comparing the mean values of self-regulation for this study’s population to findings from the previous study referenced above by Trotter et al., this group was found to have significantly lower total self-regulation and also scored lower on all self-regulation subscales. When specifically comparing the NC group with the top 10% skill groups from the Trotter study, no differences were observed in total self-regulation, but the NC group of this study scored significantly lower on information input, search, and implementation.
  2. Performance Mediation: The total self-regulation score had both direct and indirect mediating effects between DRES and shooting accuracy, as well as indirect effects between DRES and time trial performance. That is, better self-regulation explained the performance outcomes when the competitors perceived a stressful situation as a challenge.
  3. Competitive Association: While findings showed that this specific population had impaired self-regulation relative to a larger set of esports competitors, the NC group exhibited significantly higher self-regulation than the SC group. The NC group also tended to view stressful situations as challenging rather than as threatening to a greater degree than the SC group, and outperformed the SC group in terms of shooting accuracy and time trial performance.
  4. Stress Appraisal and Performance: Given the above information, the authors conclude that individuals with better self-regulation abilities, including their ability to not feel threatened by stressful events, are more likely to have better performance. The authors also note, however, that the NC group has access to additional resources–coaches, organizational support, regular paychecks–that may influence their improved performance on stress appraisal measures relative to the SC group.
  5. Consistent Data: While the groups in this study did have lower self-regulation scores than the larger sample they were compared to, in both studies esports competitors were found to have borderline impaired/impaired self-regulation skills. Across traditional sports data, elite or expert competitors are consistently found to have superior self-regulation abilities relative to non-elites or novices.

Clinical applications: for an esports medicine provider based on the findings of this study may include:

  1. Player Assessment: Esports medicine and performance providers and support staff should consider the inclusion of a self-regulation metric in their screening protocols to identify areas of potential need with players.
  2. Player Development: Esports organizations can use this research to improve player development programs. By fostering self-regulation skills and effective coping mechanisms, teams can build more resilient and successful players. Psychological skill development should be considered a component of performance improvement.
  3. Performance Enhancement: Understanding the relationship between self-regulation and performance can aid in designing interventions to enhance in-game performance. Providers may offer mental training and goal-setting strategies to help players reach their full potential.
  4. Institutional Support: In addition to individual or team-based education and intervention strategies, external resources and support from the organization is likely to contribute to players’ ability to perceive stressors as challenges rather than as threats. Cultivating an environment in which the players have social, emotional, and financial support is like to indirectly improve performance through the mediating effects shown above.

In conclusion, this study provides valuable insights into the interplay between self-regulation and performance in esports competitors. It highlights the importance of self-regulation and stress appraisal as components of high-performing competitors and suggests opportunities for clinical interventions and support to help players manage stress and optimize their performance.


Trotter MG, Obine EAC, Sharpe BT. Self-regulation, stress appraisal, and esport action performance. Front Psychol. 2023;14. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2023.1265778.

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