For the Win! The Role of Emotion Regulation in Competitive Gaming Performance
Kyle Nolla1, Mark Beeman1; 1Northwestern University
The emerging field of competitive gaming offers unique and exciting opportunities for studying expert cognition. Gamers combine complex cognition with trained sensorimotor skill under high-pressure circumstances to best opponents. Past research shows that anxiety from performance pressure harms sensorimotor skill execution (Pijpers et al, 2005) as well as cognition that places high demand on working memory (Beilock & Carr, 2005), two domains critical to competitive gaming. Thus, competitive gaming offers a uniquely suitable context in which to study anxiety’s effects on expert performance and how regulation of emotions such as anxiety affect performance. This study examines the role of emotion regulation (ER) in performance in national-level tournaments for Super Smash Bros Melee. Measures were developed to quantify skill in the game, while placing in tournament was used as the performance measure. Between individuals, expertise predicted tournament placing beyond ER (expertise: β= 0.058, SE=0.02, t=-7.27, p<.0001; ER: β=-0.122, SE=0.02, t=1.53, p=0.13). However, within individuals, mood valence (R²=0.02, F(1,339)=6.22, p=0.013) as well as arousal (R²=0.03, F(1,339)=12.0, p=0.0006) before a match predicted self-rated play quality in that match, demonstrating the importance of ER on the individual level. To better understand this finding, factors predicting mood within individuals were examined, including game outcome, time in the tournament, and self-rated play quality. The cognitive costs of ER in relation to performance are considered. Although more research is needed to determine the best ways to regulate emotion in competitive contexts, this study provides a baseline understanding of the role of ER in real-world, high-demand, skilled competition.
Topic Area: EMOTION & SOCIAL: Emotion-cognition interactions