They say you should always keep your eyes on the prize. A phrase that is both powerful and difficult. In the realm of eSports, maintaining motivation can be a daunting task. This is true for both new players and veterans. Even more so for players and content creators who haven’t made it big.
The amount of time that is put into competitive gaming is massive for an individual. Especially for those who have a full time job and family. Not only is it a requirement for you to be skilled and maintain your skills, but as a competitor you are driven to. So you hop on every single day. Playing for hours, streaming for hours. Running discords and social media accounts. Just trying to make something happen. Then one day, you just stop. It just isn’t happening. The competitive fire dies, and although you want to keep going, the very thing that brought you so much joy and fulfillment is now a burden on your mind.
I don’t typically like starting off a post with a story filled with so much negativity. However having just watched this very thing happen with one of my players I felt it an important topic to discuss. Mainly the different types of motivation, and how to keep your eyes on the prize.
Two Motivating Factors
Motivation can be placed into two categories. Extrinsic and Intrinsic. (Note: There are more than just these two, however for simplicity we will stick to these.) Both motivational factors are incredibly powerful. Often overlapping with one another. But in their differences they hold answers to questions such as; Why do people or I keep jumping from game to game? Why do so many players quit? How is it possible to achieve what my favorite players have achieved? Especially when it’s so difficult for me.
Let’s take an introspective look into these questions and the difference between Extrinsic and Intrinsic motivation.
By definition Extrinsic Motivation refers to behavior that is driven by external rewards such as money, fame, grades, and praise. This is the ‘Prize’ that I was referring to in the title. It would be foolish to say that anyone and everyone doesn’t want money or recognition. Of course we do. However in the space of gaming and eSports, when you make it the sole reason you are competing, streaming, or creating content, it can create obstacles. See the issue isn’t in the desire for external rewards. It’s when you obsess yourself with the reward based nature of motivation.
Imagine only playing a game because it’s popular and has financial support. You don’t really enjoy playing it, but it feels like the only way to break out as an eSports star, or make money. Imagine boxing yourself in to a single game because it’s all you’re known for and without it you feel as though you won’t make any money or have support.
How much harder is it to take a loss? How much faster will you give up when you aren’t making progress? These are struggles that plague every type of player, new and old.
The truth is, fully dedicating yourself to something because of a chance at an external reward takes an immensely heavy toll on your mind and will. You’re basically working at a job that may or may not pay you. No matter how many hours you work. This mentality can be a suffocating and it is a huge cause of burnout and forfeit. The scary thing about the mentality is how easy it is to slip into it.
You can’t really blame new players. They see all their favorite players and content creators doing it, and figure they can do it as well. Older players have other time constraints and responsibilities that plague them as well. So what can be done? How can you maintain your motivation? What is missing, and what can be regained?
By definition Intrinsic Motivation refers to behavior that is driven by internal rewards. In other words, the motivation to engage in a behavior arises from within the individual because it is naturally satisfying to you. This is the biggest difference between the players who fizzle out and those who manage to keep going. It’s vital to enjoy what you are doing. To actively want to do it and seek out each obstacle that comes your way. Without finding your Intrinsic motivation you leave your longevity and enjoyment up to chance. Chance of feeling the rush of improvement, or chance of winning.
Now of course you have the ability to influence whether you win or not and can take the necessary steps to achieve those wins. However, even after those successes you will be craving more. That’s the natural response when your motivations lie solely in the outcome, and not in the experience. It doesn’t always start out this way. I’m sure even right now you can look back at your first discovery of the game you’re playing. How fun it was to pick up, and how addicting the feeling of improvement was.
But over time it’s common for those things to fade away. We get into a routine and a groove. Sometimes a good groove, sometimes a bad groove. While there we feel pressured to not play for our enjoyment or fun, because the definition of fun has changed for us. That right there is the key to finding your intrinsic motivation. Recognizing that your definition of fulfillment or enjoyment has changed and trying to rekindle your original efforts. Not to fully replace your desire to improve, win, or become something more. But to allow them to work along side each other, and overlap.
That is the key to longevity. Think about your favorite players and content creators. Could they possibly continue doing this every single day if they weren’t enjoying themselves and fearless of the outcome? Most of them are there, because they were never waiting on the outcome. They recognized a lack of guarantee and plunged in head first regardless.
A Lesson for eAthletes
Put forth the effort to become great. To improve wholly. Use the critical thinking and decision making required inside of the game, outside of the game. Actively remember your goals, your motivations and your purpose.
Never give your motivations an ultimatum. “If it doesn’t go well this time then _____.” You remove all possibility of enjoyment and belief in the future. There are no guarantees, only what you can control. Tap into your intrinsic motivations. Think about the future and keep going.