All over the world, we have boys and girls – men and women who love esports. All types of people love to play games on their computer, console, tablet or phone – some in groups and some alone. This fact, in its self, is a dilemma, because many of the people closest to the gamer, like friends and colleagues, do not get it – the love for the sports. Even most gamers’ families do not understand why they chose to sit in front of a screen constantly instead of going outside and getting some fresh air.
We, as humans, seek and appreciate other people’s recognition. When we are acknowledged for our work, hobbies, and/or athletic or academic ability – we feel social approval.
The positive attention from others makes us feel that we are accepted and that builds a person’s self-esteem.
Let´s get the concepts right:
- Self-esteem: To feel trust in one’s abilities, qualities, and/or judgment
- Self-confidence: To feel confident in one’s own worth and/or abilities
You can have self-esteem, without feeling confident and you can feel confident, without having high self-esteem. The two are not mutually exclusive.
In return, when friends, family and colleagues disapprove of our passions, for example gaming, we feel bad and ashamed. In some of the worst cases people are bullied, mocked, and made fun of, which is not really a part of building strong, functional humans.
Let´s take a look at some theory here…
The Self-Determination Theory (SDT), developed by researchers Edward L. Deci and Richard M. Ryan, concerns human motivation, personality, and optimal functioning. Consider the phrase “optimal functioning”.
I like the idea of it and isn’t that what we want for anyone—to function optimally?
The hypothesis of SDT says that people have three basic psychological needs: competence, relatedness, and autonomy. When these needs are fulfilled, people are empowered to function optimally and can be successful in their lives.
The need for competence means that humans have the desire to control and master the environment and outcome of their surroundings. We want to know how things will turn out and what the results are of our actions are.
An esports example: when we are working and playing around/in esports games, we feel competent.
The need for relatedness in the SDT deals with the desire to “interact with, be connected to, and experience caring for other people”. Our work and daily activities involve other people and through this, we seek and fulfill the feeling of belonging.
An esports example: When we play games with others, work with others, or simply just talk to people about our game(s), we feel connected and relatable. The stronger the connection is, the better.
The need for autonomy concerns the urge to be causal agents and to act in harmony with our integrated self. Deci and Ryan believe that to be autonomous does not mean to be independent. It means having a sense of free will when doing something or acting out of our own interests and values.
An esports example: It is important to actually allow players to be players and let them play, work or study the field they are passionate about – esports.
This leads me to consider motivational theories; what is it that really motivates us? Deci researched giving positive feedback based on performance on an activity and whether or not this increased intrinsic motivation. You can read the full study here: http://psycnet.apa.org/record/2000-13324-007 but he came to the conclusion that positive feedback can satisfy people’s need for competence and this can, in turn, enhance our intrinsic motivation. Positive feedback is seen as a social approval.
Receiving positive feedback can increase self-motivation due to our need for feeling competent and wanting to belong and connect with other people. Moreover, affection and verbal approval are not seen as a controlled stimulus, and therefore intrinsic motivation tends to increase. Ryan & Deci (2000) define intrinsic motivation as, “doing of an activity for its inherent satisfactions rather than for some separable consequences”.
Simply put, an individual is intrinsically motivated to do something when they like what they are doing. For instance, gamers love to game for the sake of the activity itself, for the positive experience of performing and not for the potential secondary gains that may arise from doing what they love.
Why esports in clubs are important
We now know that in order to feel motivated and function optimally, it is important to feel competent. It is important to have relatedness and to be autonomous. You can experience these three factors in harmony in esports when those who have the passion for the area, have jobs or educations within esports or gaming. This is the same for esports and gaming clubs and associations, where most activities are based on passion, gaming and volunteer work.
I believe that every single gamer should become a member of a club, whether it’s at a school or at a sports club, I do not care. When gamers become members of something bigger, we, as a society, have the opportunity to create social learning and provide a place for friendships to grow, skills to improve, parents to be included, and most importantly, the players have people and places to go to, when in need.
I believe in clubs, communities and associations. I believe that governments should support clubs offering esports activities. I believe in clubs where friendships grow, where great coaches and role models can teach and educate players, and where gamers can develop as member of a group, rather than sitting home alone. I believe in building economical and ethical esports clubs where players can feel at home and where people can grow as individuals and as players because that is what I have seen works in real life.
Take Home Message
The Self-Determination Theory claims that people have three basic needs: competence, relatedness and autonomy. When these needs are fulfilled, people function optimally and feel empowered to achieve their goals and dreams in life. Gaming and esports are based on love and passion for games and competition. Gamers are intrinsically motivated and by playing in a club, with friends or on a team, they can get the three needs from the SDT fulfilled. I recommend that every sports club in the world offers esports activities and by that, play a part in building empowered, successful people.