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The Dangers Of Escapism In Video Games

How Better Self-Esteem Overcomes And Wins

Clifton Lee

A few days ago, a friend of mine showed me a very interesting article that I felt had to be written about. It was a scientific study done on peoples’ motivation of escapism to play video games and the predictive influence that escapism has on players eventually developing internet gaming disorder as they continue playing. To sum it up, the article found that escapism was a common predictor of gaming disorder among both professional and casual video gamers. Although professionals may have other motivations for spending so much time on their game, (such as competing with others, socializing with their teammates, and self-improvement) the article warns that professionals should be careful that escapism does not creep up on them and become a primary motivator for playing the game. One of the key points that the article ends with is that, “The many facets of escapism also draw attention to the esport gamers’ mental health, highlighting the importance of supporting esports gamers to maintain a stable self-esteem and good subjective wellbeing that could prevent problematic video game use.” (Banyai, Griffiths, Demetrovics, & Kiraly, 2019). This key point is what I want to focus on for this article.

Three months ago, the largest annual Esports event ever in terms of prize pool, The International 9, was won by team OG. OG is a professional Dota 2 esports team based in Europe. They won the multimillion dollar "The International" 2018 and 2019 tournaments. They were the first ever repeat champion of an International, and were awarded $15.6 million out of the $34 million prize pool. What’s even more significant are the context and the conditions that OG had to overcome in order to win. Among other setbacks, OG had to fight against:

  1. Having motivation issues with a lackluster season performance overall.

  2. Being a newly reformed roster with not a lot of time to practice together.

  3. Suffering from the pressure of being the team to win The International 8 and feeling the need to perform.

Despite these odds, OG persevered and managed to be the first team to ever win The International two times in a row. Some would link OG’s success to the unorthodox way in which they understood and played the game, others would attribute it to their collective mental attrition. But there is one variable that is heavily overlooked by most people, and that is that OG was one of the first teams in Esports to hire a sports psychologist. Tying this event back to the study discussed at the beginning of this article, I believe that one of the biggest reasons OG won was that they had a renowned sports psychologist, Mia Stellberg, that helped them maintain the aforementioned, “stable self-esteem” and “good subjective wellbeing” that kept them from self-destructing. Indeed, multiple interviews with the team members of OG after The International confirm this. One of the more vocal members of OG, Sebastien Debs, is noted to have said in an interview, "She was very helpful. She helped us to better understand the things we were doing as a team, as well as introducing us to new concepts we weren't really aware of… I would say she mostly helped us individually, to keep us in check and relaxed."

Both OG’s outstanding win at The International and this study on Escapism show that the world of Esports really needs to pay more attention to the mental health of players. Left unchecked, declining mental health in athletes, not just those that play video games, can have massive repercussions on one’s gameplay, one’s relationship with their teammates, even one’s self-concept and self-esteem. I end this article with a quote from Mia Stellberg herself:

"One part of my job is to keep them grounded but also to balance their life because I’m strongly against practicing ten hours a day, seven days a week. I feel that no matter what your profession is you are entitled to have a life and you’re entitled to have a social life and perhaps someone you’re dating."


Bányai, F., Griffiths, M. D., Demetrovics, Z., & Király, O. (2019, August 8). The mediating effect of motivations between psychiatric distress and gaming disorder among esport gamers and recreational gamers. Retrieved from

Clifton Lee is a former Division II Dota 2 captain. He has over a decade of experience in team-based games, and has played with some of the best competitors in the world. He is currently a psychology major at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona and is a member of Psi Chi, the International Honor Society In Psychology.

Article Source: The International Mental Game Coaching Association

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