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Apr 21, 2021

Does caffeine have a positive effect on esports players’ hit accuracy and reaction time?

How did the experiment look like?  

Three scientists, Ignacio Sainz, Daniel Collado-Mateo, and Juan Del Coso, in collaboration with Team Queso, subjected 15 Fortnite and Counter-Strike professional players to a couple of trials. The aim of this experiment was to test the effect of caffeine on their hit accuracy and reaction time. Before the test, all 15 of the players consumed 3mg/kg of caffeine or a placebo. After 45 minutes they took part in two trials.  

The first one was a simple reaction time test. Players had to press the spacebar or left mouse button as soon as they noticed their screen turning a different color. The second trial was similar to FPS warmups. Scientists used a browser program called 3DAimTrainer to test players’ reaction time and hit accuracy on less predictable targets. Professionals spent 2 minutes per attempt on an aim training map where they had to shoot different dots randomly appearing on their screen.  

What was the conclusion of the study? 

Caffeine had a positive effect on all three measured variables. Players who consumed the caffeine had their reaction time reduced and hit accuracy improved in comparison to the ones that took the placebo. Caffeine had the most significant influence on hit time in the second trial, the time needed to hit all 60 targets on the training map.  

It is important to note that the differences in results between players affected by caffeine and the rest were pretty small. To quote the study, none of the interactions between substance and repetition “reached statistical significance”. Reaction time improved by approximately 10ms, which might be worth more in a competitive environment, but is still not a significant margin. The differences in hit accuracy were even smaller. Most of the players, being as experienced in playing video games as they are, were close to 100% accuracy in the second trial. Caffeine couldn’t have had a big impact on that statistic.  

Nonetheless, players who consumed the caffeine before the trials were consistently better than the others. Effect of the substance on accuracy and reaction time is therefore irrefutable.  

What did we learn?  

First of all, because of the environment of the experiment, it’s hard to tell for sure if the caffeine would have had the same effect on MOBA, RTS, or even Counter-Strike and Fortnite players for that matter. Experiments were organized in a couple of simple browser programs, not the exact competitive games mentioned in the study. The results might also be different in a serious environment where players are affected by adrenaline, stress, and an arena full of people cheering for their team.  

The same goes for the amount of the consumed caffeine, 3mg/kg. To give you a comparison, there is 80mg of caffeine in a regular can of Red Bull and approximately 210mg in a single espresso. We still don’t know how long does the positive effect last or if a larger dosage would result in 100% accuracy and significantly lower reaction times. Players should note though, that trials began 45 minutes after the consumed of caffeine when it started affecting the participants.  

There are still many things that we don’t know about the effect of caffeine on esports players. Spanish study is a good start to figuring out the basics. Scientists in the summary of their work still noted that “caffeine supplementation might be a valid strategy to increase esports performance”. Caffeine used wisely by healthy professionals could become a useful tool to help with all those tiring scrim blocks and sleepless nights.

For more specific information, see the original paper.

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