May 22, 2020

gla1ve steps down: The grueling stress in esports

After almost four years on the starting line-up of Astralis, Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander has switched to the bench in order to recover from ongoing psychological stress. How big are the risks from stress in esports?

One CS professional has enough: The Danish Astralis player gla1ve announced a three-month break on Tuesday. Substitute player Jakob “JUGi” Hansen, whom Astralis had only signed last week, is stepping in for him. Astralis also signed another player, Patrick “es3tag” Hansen, who will be part of the team from July 1st going forward. The Danish top team wants to compensate for the growing strain on its players. Nicolai “dev1ce” Reedtz, for example, already had health problems in the past.

The overwhelming workload on Counter-Strike professionals has been under discussion for some time. Shortly after gla1ve’s announcement, the Counter-Strike Professional Player Association (CSPPA) issued a statement about the current state of mental health among CS players. The Dane is not an isolated case.

Something similar already occurred in March when Vitality’s leader Alex “ALEX” McMeekin announced his exit due to the high amount of travel. According to the CSPPA, more and more professionals are suffering from sleep disorders, depression, anxiety and substance abuse. In order to guarantee a healthier atmosphere for players in the future, the association calls all companies and stakeholders to improve the conditions.

The CSPPA is already offering an extensive study on the mental health of its members, which is carried out in collaboration with two universities. There is also a hotline that players can use in the event of psychological problems, as well as support to get in contact with doctors or other professionals.

In traditional sports, research has already proven that players suffer from stress. It was no surprise that esport professionals suffer from the same problems. A study by the University of Chichester in England showed last year that players are under the same stress as football and rugby players. The medical leave of the top player gla1ve pushes the problem back into the spotlight.

Vitality player ALEX announced in March that he was having a hard time traveling. Due to the constant stress of the past years as a CS professional, he then announced his depature from the active roster.

Although all matches in CS:GO have been played online since the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of games has increased significantly. For example, the French team Heretics played a total of three best-of-one and one best-of-three matches on May 14. That meant competing in high-stress situations for more than eight hours, without training or warm-up being included.

In addition to the many games and trips, pressure from other directions also weighs on the players’ shoulders. In 2015, former professionals such as Chad “SpunJ” Burchill and Mathieu “Maniac” Quiquerez reported the high pressure exerted by the community. At that time, the focus was primarily on bets, some of which triggered death threats to the CS professionals.

One of the most prominent examples in 2018 was a content manager of the CIS team AVANGAR, who wished the Danish professional Kristian “k0nfig” Wienecke death after a lost bet with a stake of $300.

The burden on Counter-Strike professionals remains omnipresent. Games are still being bet on, which means there are even more expectations of the players. The numerous competitions require a lot of games and high concentration from the CS professionals. The exhausting trips to events will also be back on the agenda after the pandemic is over.

Astralis’ path with more than five regular players could point in the right way in the future. This approach already gave gla1ve the opportunity to withdraw for a while. The workload of the professional circuit can thus be shared among the players. However, the Danish top team has financially better options than many others. Therefore, the player union’s demand for better conditions for all players is a desirable step from a professional perspective.

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Photo credit: Astralis

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