Recovering from mental fatigue in gaming
Mental fatigue can have a large impact on your gaming performance. Starting a game in a fatigued state can reduce your chance of winning by 12%. If you track your mental fatigue with a device like MaddCog, you will get a clear recommendation after every game whether you should play again. But that is only half the battle. If you are fatigued, and in need of a break, what can you do to accelerate your recovery so you can come back and play again, without the fatigue?
Recovery and break duration
This research used eight League of Legend players who each played over 100 games while tracking their mental performance.
The first thing we did was look at how their breaks impacted fatigue and performance. The result was surprising and alarming. The players only recovered (ie. fatigue was reduced) in 49% of their breaks between games. This means that half the time, there was no recovery, and at times, fatigue continued to increase between games. Even in the 49% of cases where there was recovery, the amount of recovery was small.
We then categorized the break as long or short based on duration. Only one of the eight players recovered more in the long breaks. The majority of players recovered no more in the long breaks than they did in the short breaks. This was another surprise.
It wasn’t a coincidence then, that the only player who performed substantially better after a long break was the single-player who also recovered better. The remaining seven players continued to perform at the same level, with a similar win rate.
When is a recovery break needed?
Given this surprising finding, we assumed we must be missing something. Maybe we shouldn’t look at all breaks. Instead, we should just look at the breaks where the players had a high level of fatigue from the previous game. That makes more sense.
This showed that a long break had a positive and meaningful impact on game performance for five of the eight players when a player was fatigued. This means that a long break becomes more important, and more valuable when you are fatigued.
The key to effective recovery then, is the length of the recovery, and also what you do during the break. A break between two games is only a recovery break if you undertake actions that promote mental recovery. We haven’t yet looked at this in our work but we can rely on published research in this field.
And the research shows that the key is (drum roll) dried-bonito broth, a type of Japanese soup. Just kidding. I don’t even know what dried-bonito broth is but there is some research stating it reduces mental fatigue. Let’s ignore that and instead focus on activities that are practical. We actually get the most benefit from a power nap, laying down listening to music, a walk, or relaxing with some food and drink.
So if you are fatigued after a game, but want to keep performing well, take a 10–20 minute break, and go for a walk, or lay down and listen to some music. This will maximize your recovery and have you ready to get back to playing your best quickly.