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Caffeine Boosts E-Sport Gaming Performance

28 August 2021
Giulio Prisco


Caffeine is considered a cognitive enhancer at low to moderate doses because it improves alertness, vigilance, attention, and reaction time. Now, researchers in Madrid have investigated and assessed the effect of acute caffeine intake on e-sports-specific performance.

Electronic-sports (e-sports) represent a relatively new sport discipline consisting of gamers playing competitive video game tournaments. E-sports share a common structure where the player, seated in front of a screen, has to direct the movements and decisions of a virtual avatar through a controller.

E-sports have similar characteristics to more traditional sport disciplines, mainly due to their competitive nature, but also because of the physical skills necessary to play at a high level. For example, in a first-person shooting video game, players have to rapidly react to fast-moving visual and auditory stimuli. The most important factors for gaming performance in first-person shooting video games are precision to hit a target that suddenly appears and moves on the screen, together with a low response time to perform the shooting.

The researchers studied the effect of ingesting 3 mg of caffeine per kg of body mass on simple reaction time in a color test and on hit accuracy and reaction time during a first-person shooting game. Fifteen professional e-gamers participated in an experimental trial. The results of the trial are reported and discussed in a 2020 research paper published in Physiology & Behavior.

In two trials three days apart, the participants either ingested a placebo (cellulose) or 3 mg/kg of caffeine in an opaque and unidentifiable capsule. 45 minutes after ingestion, the participants performed a simple reaction time test and completed a first-person shooting game. The game was intense and stressful, because the participants had to hit 60 targets that appeared anywhere on the screen in a 2 minute time period.

The researchers measured the reaction times and accuracy of the participants. In comparison to the placebo, caffeine decreased the reaction time, the mean time taken to hit the targets, and enhanced hit accuracy. The researchers conclude that caffeine supplementation might be considered as an aid for e-sports gamers based on its effect to enhance hit accuracy and time.

The researchers “recommend the use of caffeine only on those days with a high load of training or before e-sports competitions in order to avoid tolerance and to reduce the prevalence of the main caffeine-associated drawbacks.” I’m unable to comment because since I was ten or so I have had no experience of living without a regular dose of caffeine (taken in the form of cups of hot black espresso coffee). I can only say that, though I never liked action video games too much, I used to be quite good at them.

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