The impact of sports vision on e-sports performance

by Dr. Dan Laby


The popularity of eSports continues to grow, with new tournaments and events popping up all the time. In fact, eSports is considered a mainstream sport in many countries. This has led to a growing demand for top-level athletes. These athletes can compete at the highest level and bring home the gold. Using sports vision to elevate your eSports performance is a very easy recipe for success!

Athletes are always looking for ways to improve their performance, and this is especially true in the world of eSports. In order to compete at the highest level, you need to have good vision and take care of your eyes. This means eating healthy foods, getting plenty of exercise, and taking breaks from the screen. You should get your eyes checked regularly by a sports vision specialist. This will insure there are no problems with your vision.

If you want to improve your vision for sports and eSports, there are a few things you can do to help. First, make sure you get plenty of exercise. Exercise is good for your eyesight because it increases blood flow to the optic nerve and helps the brain processing of visual information. You can also improve your vision by eating healthy foods. Foods that are high in antioxidants, such as fruits and vegetables, are good for your eyes.

In this blog post we will review several key concepts of how eSports performance is related to vision, visually based decisions and visually guided motor actions. eSports is becoming a more globally recognized sport, with worldwide tournaments and large prizes at stake. Maximizing your visual ability can help you perform at your best, increasing your chances to win.

There are many myths about sports vision and how it relates to eSports. Some people believe that you must have 20/20 vision in order to be a successful eSports athlete. Others think that if you wear glasses or contacts, you cannot compete at a high level. This is not true. In fact, many professional eSports athletes wear glasses or contacts.

The Sports Vision Pyramid

The Sports Vision Pyramid

As is true for all sports, the sports vision pyramid applies to eSports as well. We must make sure that the bottom of the pyramid is optimized. That way higher functions such as decision making and actions are able to operate at their maximum.

Basic Visual Abilities

So lets start with the bottom of the pyramid – the most important part, basic vision. This level includes sharpness of vision as well as contrast sensitivity. In eSports, athletes are not looking at targets far away on the field. Instead they are looking at a closely placed screen. This provides some special challenges to the eSports athlete which could effect eSports vision performance.

They must be able to pick up low contrast targets and not be affected by sudden glare. This is a very important skill for gamers. Take a look at these images which show how difficult it can get to pick up targets in the screen. 

Low Contrast Image

Or, take a look at this image of an explosion on screen. This sudden burst of light on the screen creates glare and what has been termed “flash blindness” 

“Flash Blindness”

The better your eyes are at detecting low contrast and recovering from glare the better!

The AVTS (Advanced Vision Testing System) Test

We use the AVTS vision test which combines small targets, of low contrast that are only viewable for a very short time. This is exactly what the eSports athlete faces when competing. Standard tests of vision are simply not life like enough to simulate gaming needs. 

That being said – even if you have great basic vision abilities – during competition you can seriously damage your vision during the time you spend in competition and practice. Specifically, when looking at the screen we tend to blink less and that effects the surface of the eye. If the surface of the eye is not evenly and well lubricated you will suffer reduced vision sharpness as well as contrast sensitivity. Make sure you remember to blink periodically and you may want to use lubricating eye drops to keep the eye surface wet and working maximally!

Multiple Target Tracking

Moving up the pyramid we get to the ability to track multiple targets

In physical sports, athletes usually compete and then have a break before they need to apply maximum energy to their sport. Think of a down in football, an at-bat in baseball, even in sports like soccer or basketball athletes are not alone in the competition and are not “on” for the entire competition.

Also, eSports athletes must track multiple targets simultaneously and continually throughout the competition. This puts enormous pressure on the visuo-motor system, and athletes who have optimum visual systems will have the best performance.

One of the most well know eSports athletes is Travis Cochran who underwent a great deal of vision training. He become ranked 1st in the world for sniping in Battlefield 4 and 2nd in the world for the masters division of League Play for Call of Duty :Black Ops II. Travis credits a good deal of his success to using the Neurotracker system.

Neurotracker is a wonderful testing and training platform to improve visual concentration as well as multiple target tracking. Concentration and multiple target tracking are exactly what an eSports athlete needs to perfect for best performance in the game.

Taking Breaks to Rest Your Eyes

Lastly, it is critically important to take vision breaks perhaps every few minutes. Llook away at some distant target to allow the eye muscles of the eye to relax. There are two sets of eye muscles that are at play for eSports athletes:

  1. The muscles of focus, which allows us to see targets that are placed close to us. 
  2. The muscles of eye alignment that keep both of our eyes pointed towards the screen 

ideally both of these types of muscles are not designed to work indefinitely. Instead need to rest for a few moments to regain their strength and efficiency. Giving these muscles a break periodically allows. them to continually help you perform at your best.

In fact, there is only one muscle in our body that is designed to work non-stop, without a break. Do you know which one that is? See below for the answer to that one …

Make sure you get enough rest to maximize your eSports vision performance.

Blue Light and eSports Visual Performance

And here’s a bonus topic

Everyone has heard about blue light blocking glasses and the effect of blue light on our brains. For eSports athletes this becomes a very serious area of concern. Remember gamers are looking at a computer screen for significant periods of time and the screen is emitting blue, as well as many other colors, of light. When our eyes and brains see blue light we think it is daylight and the brain sets up for daytime activity and being wide awake. In fact, blue light suppresses sleep since that is not what we need during the day. Doesn’t matter if its dark outside, if your eyes and brain see blue light then it thinks its daytime.

At some point even the most serious eSport athletes will need to sleep. If they were exposed to blue light up until going to bed, they will have very inefficient sleep. Very poor sleep wont allow their brain and body to recover and be primed for the next day.

Not only is this not healthy but it will certainly effect the next day’s game performance!

We suggest one of two avenues

First you can certainly purchase blue light blocking lenses and use them from sunset to sunrise to block the negative effect on sleep.

A cheaper and more targeted solution would be to set the night mode (not dark mode) on your gaming system so that the system itself will stop projecting blue light at sunset and protect your eyes and brain.

There are many many areas to discuss related to maximizing eSports vision performance – we’ll cover more of them in future posts.