e-sportsIf you pay attention to the wide world of video games, there’s a good chance you’ve been hearing a lot about e-sports lately. That’s because it’s a fast-growing industry that produces mountains of news stories regularly.

Whether it’s schools giving scholarships for competitive gaming or the record-breaking $11.4 million prize pool for this year’s International Dota 2 tournament, there’s a lot going on in the world of e-sports.

It’s getting so big that ESPN covered this year’s Heroes of the Storm tournament. It’s getting so legitimate and producing so much money that the billionaire investor Mark Cuban recently put $7 million toward a new e-sports betting website.

Venture Beat says, “According to ESPN, 27 million people tuned in to watch the 2014 finals of the League of Legends World Championship. That is more than watched the final game of the World Series (23.5 million) or the NBA Finals (18 million).”

Clearly, e-sports are a big deal and they’re growing fast. If you love gaming and want to compete at the professional level, you’re going to have to put a lot of work into it.

After spending years in the eSports world we have come to realize that the majority of people have a very distorted reality of what eSports is and the demands it places on its athletes. If you asked most people to describe an avid video game player they would, as if guided by racist thought, describe the kid who has no friends, sitting in a dark room, covered in cheato dust, taking a fantasy game way to seriously and neglecting the rest of his life. Destined to be broke and refusing to grow up.

Myths, especially if they fit our preconceived notions, have a tendency to propagate if gone unchecked. And that’s what we’ve got here: The myth that those lazy videogamers don’t pay a serious toll. It is a little known fact substantiated by a growing body of research that esports actually are incredibly grueling to both body and mind.

I think most people believe that professional eSports players sit around most days playing simple games, like Mario cart, and that these simple games lack skill of any kind. The games that are the most competitive in the world are like playing chess, at high speed on steroids. They involve strategy, planning, millions of hours of practice and a very high level of brain function.

Wait, what?

Videogame competitions have existed since 8-bit graphics were the standard. The current iteration of online esports exploded in popularity among gamers in South Korea during the early 2000s and has since garnered a worldwide following. Just like any successful sport, esports has three major components: An elite class of professional players, hordes of avid spectators, and lots and lots of money.

There are now hundreds of millions of people–mostly young males–all over the world who regularly play competitive videogames online. Some of the best are now getting paid to participate in SuperBowl scale tournaments, pitting their skills against each other for multi-million dollar prizes and lucrative sponsorships from companies like Red Bull.

The success of esports has led to the creation of startups like Twitch, a video service that allows viewers to watch live-streamed footage of their favorite games and players. In 2013, Twitch saw 32 million users login to watch the League of Legends finals. And to give you an idea of esports’ mounting success, Amazon bought Twitch last summer for $970 million.

Which brings us to the question on everyone’s mind by this point: What does it take to become a professional eSports athlete and can we really call them athletes?

The Dark Side

Pro-gamers may not physically exert themselves as much as Kobe Bryant, but just like traditional sports, different videogames present their players with their own unique sets of physical and mental challenges. Depending on the game, a player’s body and brain chemistry are altered in a myriad of different ways, not all of it good. Sure, that endorphin rush of beating your opponent to the punch feels great but it all comes at a cost.

Physically speaking, sitting in a chair all day can actually take a physical toll, just as any sedentary activity–or lack thereof–can do. Serious cardiovascular and back problems are common among hardcore gamers. The ascent of esports has brought with it a new wave of scientific research aimed at tracking the effects of long-term videogaming on the brain. This has been and continues to be the main area of concern. With this in mind, energy drink-maker and longtime corporate sponsor of esports Red Bull is building a state-of-the-art lab in Santa Monica, CA to study and enhance player’s skills at the controls. The lab has enough equipment to derive biometrics and brain analysis from players, whose heart rates, skin responses, facial patterns, and general behavior while jacked into theirs games are measured and observed by researchers.

The online environs of many of esports’ competitive games presents researchers with the perfect wilderness in which to conduct their studies: A wide-open yet structured central location populated by suitably large and diverse sample sizes. This year for instance League of Legends creator Riot Games launched a series of studies aimed at getting the game’s players to generally treat each other better and communicate with less negative language. Some companies like mobile-game maker Lumosity are taking advantage of the online nature of games to disseminate products that they claim can have positive effects on the brain. Lumosity tends to attract controversy, but some research does indeed indicate that playing games can be therapeutic and rejuvenative. Researchers at Michigan State University are busy working on a game that their studies indicate can calm anxiety and eliminate distractions from the player’s mind.

A lot is still unknown, otherwise the research wouldn’t be necessary. What is known doesn’t always paint the sunniest picture. But then the studies oftentimes contradict each other. A recent study by the University of Montreal revealed that certain first-person shooters increase the players’ chances of getting Alzheimer’s later in life. Yet by the same token, scientists with the University of California are actually using videogames to gain a greater understanding of how Alzheimer’s progresses.

One thing that’s for sure is that videogames can be incredibly addictive. Websites like video-game-addiction.org provide a plethora of resources—including recommended treatment programs and a help hotline—for a problem that has grown in seriousness in recent years. The authors of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders considered but ultimately decided against including video game addiction as a mental health disorder when revising the manual in 2013.

It remains a serious problem nonetheless. A 2014 study conducted at the Unversity of Bergen in Norway concluded that video game addiction “…is associated with depression, decreased academic achievement, and with conduct problems.” The same areas of the brain that are activated by a craving for alcohol or other drugs light up in the presence of videogame addiction. Sometimes the problem progresses to the point of fatality. This spring, Wu Tai, a 24 year-old gamer from China, died in an internet café in Shanghai after playing World of Warcraft nonstop for 19 hours straight.

This is an extreme case to be sure, but even a healthy, non-dysfunctional gamer looking to go pro faces significant physical and mental strains to stay at peak condition. Popular esports games like Starcraft and Call of Duty require their players to have an incredibly high degree of stamina and complex problem solving skills. There’s a reason why most pro-gamers retire in their mid twenties: burnout. Here’s retired gamer George “HotShotGG” Georgallidis in an interview with CNBC.

“You need to dedicate pretty much your whole life to it, and there’s so much competition now it’s really hard to have a balance life and be a pro gamer,” Georgallidis said.

Like traditional sports, a professional gamer needs to practice eight hours or more a day just to stay competitive. The stress is high enough to drive some players to abusing prescription drugs like Adderall. In fact, abuse of Adderall has become so prevelant in esports that it has prompted a crackdown from the Electronic Sports League, a major stakeholder in the competitive esports arena. ESL’s recent call to monitor and prevent the use of drugs among players came after pro Counter Strike player Kory “Semphis” Friesen admitted on the record that he and the rest of his teammates regularly take Adderall to stay focused during gameplay.

Which brings us to KOIOS.

A healthy alternative

Adderall is a drug that psychiatrists commonly prescribe to treat Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder. Gamers typically take Adderall and other stimulants like caffeinated soda and energy drinks to sharpen their senses and tighten their focus on the task at hand. The problem with these kinds of stimulants is that they are harmful to the human body and mind. According to the American Psychological Association, stimulants like Adderall can dull the brain’s reasoning capabilities, heighten impulsive behavior, and increase the likelihood of addiction.

KOIOS offers a healthy alternative. We are a Colorado based company that manufactures natural dietary supplements in accordance with FDA guidelines. Our supplements is what is called nootropic, a term used to describe “smart drugs” tailored to increase mental capability. Our team of neuroscientists designed the product using a blend of natural ingredients to increase mental drive, enhance focus, and bolster memory and cognitive skills without the harmful effects of popular stimulants.

We at KOIOS designed our product specifically with esports players in mind. Esports place a large demand on the brain to function at high capacity, and KOIOS can help players do just that. Its positive effects are already making waves among players

“Anything that can help enhance game play that is healthy is a huge benefit,” said Gabriel Toledo, Captain of Team Kabum. “KOIOS helps enhance brain function and is 100% organic – I love it and all gamers should make it a part of their routine.”

“KOIOS makes me a gaming GOD! I don’t game without it,” said Todd Williams with Team Luminosity.

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