Pro gamers use medical monitoring for extra edge

Starcraft II and Halo: Reach MLG players borrowing health tips, tools of pro athletes to keep themselves in prime competitive condition.

LOS ANGELES--Red Bull has made a name for itself--and sold millions of cans of its caffeinated drink--by aligning with top extreme sports athletes like snowboarder Travis Rice, skier Lindsey Vonn, and skateboarder Ryan Sheckler. One of the strategies the drink maker utilized was partnering with up-and-coming sports, like skateboarding and snowboarding, long before they went mainstream with the X-Games. Red Bull is targeting eSports the exact same way. Red Bull expects pro gaming to explode over the next few years, and the company is getting in on the ground floor.

Red Bull's weekend event pushed health and nutrition to the forefront for the MLG competitors who took part. (Photo credit: Jay Hanna/Red Bull Media House)

During one weekend in September, Red Bull used its Santa Monica office building to hold a special pro gaming LAN. Twelve of the top Starcraft II players and three Halo: Reach teams were brought in to game for a full weekend in preparation for the recent Major League Gaming (MLG) Orlando Pro Circuit Tour stop. While LANs are nothing new in pro gaming, Red Bull used the event to do more than give its sponsored players time with their gaming teams. The company treated these pro gamers just like their traditional pro athlete counterparts, complete with a full class on health and nutrition.

"I'm a part of the Red Bull family," said Halo: Reach pro gamer Clete "Assault" LoRusso. "They consider us as athletes. Some people may not. Some people may. It's a controversial idea, but they treat us the same."

Red Bull even used the latest medical technology to track their heart rates during gameplay. Former pro Halo player Danish "Dmaq" Maqbool provided commentary for the live streaming portions of the Red Bull LAN and was interested in the medical evaluations.

"These players were on heart monitors to see how their hydration level works, when their hearts raise and lower when they're in pressure situations," said Maqbool. "Professionals were looking at that and reevaluating how the players are dieting and what they should be doing when they're gaming. That's incredible and it really takes the next step forward."

"You can see if you play better when your heart rate is higher or if you play better when you're more calm and chilled out."

"A physiologist helped us figure out hydration," said David "Walshy" Walsh, an elder statesman of pro gaming. "They had me strapped up to a heart rate monitor. It's cool to do this and find out things about myself that I never knew before."

One of the things that pro gamers do have in common with extreme athletes, besides their dedication to their craft, is athletics. Many pro gamers play sports in high school or college. And others keep fit through regular exercise, workouts, and pickup sports games.

"I play baseball in college and being hydrated and getting enough sleep are probably the two most important things to basically doing anything, whether it's baseball or gaming," said LoRusso. "I need to stay hydrated and I need my sleep so I can think and do everything that I need to do to help my team out and win."

Keeping cool under fire can mean the difference between victory and defeat in Halo: Reach.

Walsh believes one's physical and mental health directly helps when playing games like Halo: Reach at the pro level. Earlier this year he focused on diet and exercise more, and he recently competed in a duathalon with his mom, running 2 miles, biking 15 miles, and then running 3.1 miles.

"I'm in pretty good shape right now and I'm playing pretty well," said Walsh.

Halo: Reach player Ian "Enable" White thinks this new convergence of medicine and gaming is pretty cool.

"The physiologists were monitoring our heart rates, seeing when we get really into the game, when we calmed down, and then all of that data is just going to help us work on our strengths and our weaknesses," said White.

When it comes to his own preparation for a big tournament, where large sums of money are riding on every frag, White knows how to keep his heart rate down.

"I just think that I'm playing back at my house and it's just me and no one else is watching," said White. "Because the crowds are huge out there and I don't want to get nervous and not play my game. When I'm comfortable, I feel like I'm playing my best, so I just try to zone it all out and just focus on play."

Halo: Reach pro gamer Eric "Snipedown" Wrona has his own pre-series routine, which involves slowing his breathing and mentally preparing himself for the game. He actually beat Red Bull to the punch when it came to linking his mind and body to gaming.

"They explained the physiology of hydration and your heartbeat and everything and they took blood and urine samples to measure all types of things."

"What's actually really interesting is that I've been doing this stuff by myself in my apartment for a while now," said Wrona. "Whenever I get really worked up I might start playing a little bad, so I slow my breathing down and then I always feel like my mental acuity always just comes to me. And the game starts to play in my favor. Here it's really nice because they actually show you what the results are and you can see if you play better when your heart rate is higher or if you play better when you're more calm and chilled out."

Even the Starcraft II players at the LAN, including top American pro Steven "Destiny" Bonnell, took part in the medical research.

"They explained the physiology of hydration and your heartbeat and everything and they took blood and urine samples to measure all types of things," said Bonnell. "They also had little heart monitor things strapped around our chest and then they have little watches to monitor your heartbeat based on what activity you're doing."

This is the first time Bonnell ever thought about things like nutrition, hydration, and heart rates around playing Starcraft II.

"Most people who play games I don't think really look too much at health and diet," said Bonnell. "That was one of the things that they pointed out in the theater presentation. This is really an unexplored area in terms of physiology. People don't do a lot of research into the health of people who play games professionally."

But Bonnell is open to taking the advice of medical experts, especially if this new research shows that it can improve his play in professional game tournaments. That's something that all the Red Bull gamers are looking at. And it's likely other pro gaming teams will follow suit if these pros find a direct correlation between mind and body--something athletes of all sports have known, and capitalized on, for quite some time.

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Discussion

213 comments
Wrecked69
Wrecked69

People, Its not about gamers being athletes. It's about being in optimal physical condition to play and be successful at gaming. We all know some days we game better than others, and there is usually a biological reason behind it. That applies to just about everything, why shouldn't it apply to gaming? PS. Red Bull and health? I don't think so...

Cybrian
Cybrian

This bull has me seeing red. Hydration? Sure, as long as it's Red Bull.

ACESandElGHTS
ACESandElGHTS

"Former pro Halo player Danish "Dmaq" Maqbool provided commentary." I had to stop here. Bad enough that the word professional was bastardized to mean anything other than doctor, lawyer, accountant, engineer, etc, into meaning "performing some act with some amount of skill and collecting money for it." But what's next? Professional Cheez-Its eater Phat Boi knows a thing or two about downing snack crackers and was the obvious choice for the 5th annual Junk Food Eating Extravaganza!

ben_ster
ben_ster

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

ben_ster
ben_ster

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

ZabuzaR
ZabuzaR

Professional gaming > McDonalds Burger Flipper

emperiox
emperiox

@SimulationStim I don't like stereotypes. As far as I'm concerned there's only Gamers, and Non-gamers. These so called "pro gamers" need to get a life. Gaming isn't a job, and never should be a job. It's a hobby. These guys are not gamers, they're LOSERS because they make gamers look bad. Plain and simple.

darkcomedian
darkcomedian

I run cross country. I am an athlete. I also play games. I am a gamer. I don't play games to be an "athlete", but I am one anyway. See the difference?

JuSt__4DD__M1LK
JuSt__4DD__M1LK

anyone been to a tournament? street fighter 4? super smash brawl? its frigging exciting and if you got paid to do that an be classed as a pro you probably would!

makafri
makafri

There are pro gamers... the definition would be that they live, get money, from playing games... thats a pro gamer... and those exist... in blizzconn the first place just get a 50k price... is that is not be a professional then I dont know what it is... they live to play those game... its their work... and good for them I would love to be on their shoes

tathagat91
tathagat91

kk so we will see Starcraft in london olympics then? The koreans can finally win a gold medal or two and China can start Starcraft academies where they take promising kids from the age of 2 who show stimulus to tiny objects beating the crap out of each other and the US teens can get even more disillusioned. NIIIIIICEE.

BrazNomar
BrazNomar

"Games are for entertainment", "this is the gayest thing", "takes all the fun out of gaming"... Seriously, this narrow-minded thinking plus curses on Red Bull mostly shows how many people would love to be working on something they like for a change. These guys do, and get money for it. Sorry about that.

crazychords
crazychords

There is no such a thing as pro gamer.

Dracon600
Dracon600

This is seriously the dumbest F**kin Sh!t I have heard in a long time. Gamers need health monitors..

GPolice
GPolice

sport/spôrt/ Noun: An activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others. ex·er·tion/igˈzərSHən/ Noun: Physical or mental effort. As stupid as it sounds, you ARE putting physical effort in to push the buttons (plus it raises your heartbeat as the article says). If you combine these definitions, gaming in fact can be a sport.

makafri
makafri

They are not athletes... but they certeinly need skill to play games like starcraft 2... and those tournaments are pretty fun an exciting to watch... so the term pro gamer is actually accurate... athletes not much... and redbull sucks

cbthedog
cbthedog

btw, i do think they are progamers. they are, they are gaming as a profession. but they are in no way shape or form an athlete. unless they do sports, but i dnt think many of them do

cbthedog
cbthedog

this is the gayest thing ive ever seen. health monitoring to press buttons...wow

Glade_Gnarr
Glade_Gnarr

There was a time when sports were just a hobby and, now, people make millions just by playing. Videogames are the most versatile form of entertainment, they are gaining ground as an art form and now as a sport and if you refuse to see that then you are hurting the whole industry. TL DR haters gonna hate, but esports is here to stay.

DaJunt
DaJunt

Redbull has been shown to have the same effect on the body as methamphetamine, but without the 'high'. It's basically poison. The idea of any athlete endorsing it is ridiculous.

SimulationStim
SimulationStim

@emperiox If they're getting paid, then they're professionals. Plain and simple. Call them any name you like, but they are most certainly pro-gamers. I don't consider gaming a hobby, I consider it an interactive art-form. If someone was willing to pay you money to do something your good at, something that's not 'immoral", and something you enjoy, you wouldn't do it? How do they give other gamers bad names?

liam-G
liam-G

@ DanielL5583 you're completely right pardon my blindness :)

Spacerac
Spacerac

wait, why is Red Bull and "Health and Nutrition" in the same sentence?

emperiox
emperiox

I should clarify my posts guys: I have absolutely NO problem with competitions that award an exclusive copy of the game/gift card or something, I do have a problem with gamers being awarded money for playing in competitions though. Gaming is not a job, it's a hobby. Anyone who tries to play a game solely to make money is an idiot, and he/she makes ALL gamers look bad.

emperiox
emperiox

@shaun_ofda_dead Lol! Your comment is so direct and accurate... WIN. :P

Mad_max911
Mad_max911

Red bull = Bad. should only be used as an emergency solution for a quick powerup but ONLY if you dont have anything else. Eat some fruit instead and a cup of coffee without sugar. Im confused by the amount of ignorants in this thread. What is it exactly that makes you think these players arent pro? There are Pro poker players, chess players. They are not athletes but they are professionals.

emperiox
emperiox

@gatsbythepig First of all, gaming isn't a sport. Secondly, if someone offered me millions of dollars to throw a freaking ball around on a field, I like everyone else would obviously take that deal. You can't compare the two. The NFL is a business, gamers are not employees of the game that they are playing. Games are meant to be played to have fun, whereas football, hockey, basketball, etc are meant to solely make money.

shaun_ofda_dead
shaun_ofda_dead

lol "esports". what a friggin joke. playing a video game is not a "sport", and "professional gamers" has to be the stupidest thing I have ever heard of. games are for entertainment. get a life.

StJimmy15
StJimmy15

This is your heart monitor on Halo: Beep.....Beep.... This is your heart monitor on Red Bull: BEEPBEEPBEEPBEEPBEEPbeeeeeeeeeeep......

Triton
Triton

@Nuke_fonkillazz Nuke, I hear ya, but my department manager who sat behind me would sleep at his desk, so I guess you could say he "was" a Pro Sleeper. Lol! By the way, the cut backs here got rid of him and his sleeping ways. Heck he may be sitting at home right now working on trying to become one of these Pro Gamers now all day long.

DrScience
DrScience

What difference does it make if we label them "athletes" or not? It's an interesting study. Other studies are done for people in the workplace under similar stressful conditions (i.e., primarily mental in nature). You fool yourself if you don't believe there's a connection between mental and physical health. If you've never felt exhausted after a particularly difficult mental challenge (say, a standardized test over a period of four or eight hours), I'm not sure your brain has been working.

lindallison
lindallison

Pizza Hut should sponsor an event like this.

Jonathan53
Jonathan53

Oh, and don't be hatin' on the gamers there. I'd be happy if I got paid to go drink Red Bull and play games. :p

Jonathan53
Jonathan53

I think that, while there is a correlation between good physical health and good mental health, Red Bull turned this article (that might've been able to make a few people take gaming more seriously) into a complete and utter joke. They just paid a bunch of money to a bunch of people to get a lot of bs thrown out so that people would buy into drinking Red Bull for gaming. I mean, if you think about it, they said that a lower heart rate is better, which is the opposite of what Red Bull tries to do. And blood and urine tests? Wth? I understood the heartbeat monitors, but they just went way over the top with trying to make us forget that we shouldn't be drinking Red Bull for gaming. It upsets me because so many people are laughing (and I don't blame them) at e-sports because of this. And gaming is not a sport, that's why it's called e-sports. I think e-sports doesn't get taken seriously often enough, but articles like this are the reason why.

StJimmy15
StJimmy15

According to the dictionary, an "Athlete" is defined as, "a person trained or gifted in exercises or contests involving physical agility, stamina, or strength; a participant in a sport, exercise, or game requiring physical skill." I suppose loosely defined, that could apply. Their thumbs are probably ripped. Its cool not to be ashamed of your passion, but hey, lets not kid ourselves.

NoHotAshes
NoHotAshes

LOL these pro gamers are such tools, cus you need to be in top physical condition to sit on ur backside playing video games... golf is more physical and actually requires going outside, and some of those guys are fat old men. Hell, even darts requires more moving around.. and snooker, and those guys are fat and old too. -_-

MrHanky35
MrHanky35

laughs aside, if you play better when your "chilled out" wouldnt you not wanna be downing caffeine (redbull). i dont think this helps redbull. i guess a halo goes with those wings...lol...lol

MERGATROYDER
MERGATROYDER

"Red Bull's weekend event pushed health and nutrition to the forefront for the MLG competitors who took part." ^^^ Seriously? This is an event Red Bull should have nothing to do with. Gaming is in no way, a sport. I have clocked easily in excess of more then 2000 hours of online game-play with the CoD series alone since CoD:4. I consider myself a Tier 1 player and I don't feel the need at attempting to "Go Pro" anytime soon. The term "Pro Gamer" removes the fact that they are a gamer, mostly because playing a single game doesn't really make you a "Gamer." It's the one reason I don't consider WoW players to be "Gamers" when it's literally, the only thing they play, or have ever played. Let's just call them "Pro Players."

wavelength121
wavelength121

Red Bull-- or any energy drink for that matter-- has no place advising anyone on proper health. Those things are pure poison. Also, thank you for the article GameSpot. Best laugh I've had in a while.

gatsbythepig
gatsbythepig

@emperiox Do you feel that way about pro athletes too?

gatsbythepig
gatsbythepig

There is something severely wrong with this sentence - "Red Bull's weekend event pushed health and nutrition to the forefront."

emperiox
emperiox

@Dynamo11 I actually agree. It's one thing to be competitive and have fun at the same time, it's a completely different thing to treat gaming as a job. I'm treading the pond carefully here, but I feel that pro-gamers are pathetic when they only play for the cash. It's an embarassment to ALL gamers when you aren't in it to have fun.

gralvader
gralvader

@GFourteenM Hence the term E-SPORT... Electronic sports, abbreviated e-sports is used as a general term to describe the play of video games competitively. It is not your average sport definition you find in the dictionary, which by the way, neither Oxford nor Merriam Webster dictionaries provide a definition for this new term.

Dynamo11
Dynamo11

Pro gamers make me laugh so much, the idea that gaming is a sport just sucks all fun out of gaming

Megavideogamer
Megavideogamer

Professionals yes, Talented yes, but not Athletes no. Playing videogames at a professional level does not make you an Athlete. A better comparsion is to professional Chess players which are skilled/talented but are not Athletes either. Hockey, football, soccer, baseball, etc are athletes Professional Videogamers, Professional chess players are not. Sorry

100proofsoco
100proofsoco

Not to be crude, but Captain Phil Harris from Deadliest Catch was sucking down cases of Red Bull. I believe he died from a stroke.

shawnyboy456
shawnyboy456

Ok.. Here we go.. To say esports is on the rise is kinda bs.. yes granted there are more people playing and events are getting bigger. But America will never follow it. Redbull has done great things to help out other sports, but the other sports are appealing to Americans. Who likes watching other people play video games... Not too many people

JoshX042
JoshX042

I stopped reading after about the first paragraph....