3 Ways to Hack Your Gamer Brain to Improve Mechanical Skill and Gamesense

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How to Improve Your Mechanical Skill in Gaming (2020)

3 Ways to Hack Your Gamer Brain to Improve Mechanical Skill and Gamesense


  1. Introduction 
  2. What’s the Hack 
  3. How Does it Work?
  4. What Does it Affect?
  5. How do you unlock it?
  6. Exercise 
    1. What is the Best Dosage?
    2. What is the Best Way?
    3. What is the Best Schedule?
  7. Nutrition
    1. What is the Best Dosage?
    2. What is the Best Way?
    3. What is the Best Schedule?
  8. Socialization
    1. What is the Best Dosage?
    2. What is the Best Way?
    3. What is the Best Schedule?
  9. Conclusion 

Introduction to Executive Function of Gamers

Accordion to an incredible number of studies, most of you didn’t notice that I started this sentence with an instrument. We make mistakes like this because of decreased brain function of what we call executive function. Executive function is responsible for many mental skills, including:

  • Paying attention
  • Organizing, planning, and prioritizing
  • Starting tasks and staying focused on them to completion
  • Regulating emotions
  • Self-monitoring (keeping track of what you’re doing)

These are skills that all gamers use no matter what kind of game or level of play they are involved with. So what can you do to improve these and other mental functions like reaction time, processing speed, and task switching which are critical to competitive gaming? 

What’s the Hack?

Whether you are at the top of your game or trying to make esports a career if you aren’t doing literally everything known to man to improve your performance how much do you really want success. Unlike many “hacks” you see on nutrition blogs, fitness pages, and medical advertisements this method requires you to spend zero dollars and has mountains of evidence that it is incredibly effective. 

3 Ways to Hack Your Gamer Brain to Improve Mechanical Skill and Gamesense

So what am I talking about? 

BDNF

“Ok nerd neck what is BDNF?” I hear you asking… 

If you really want the science definition: 

“Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is one of a family of neurotrophic factors that participates in neuronal transmission, modulation and plasticity”

“Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is one of a family of neurotrophic factors that participates in neuronal transmission, modulation and plasticity”

How Does it Work?

All that is to say It’s a powerful chemical in your brain that helps with a bunch of mental functions related to information processing, learning, and decision making. If you think of your brain as a plant that grows based on stimulus you give it BDNF is the fertilizer for the soil so it can grow in all the right ways!

All that is to say It’s a powerful chemical in your brain that helps with a bunch of mental functions related to information processing

Dysfunctions of BDNF are related to things like ADHD and other issues like depression, obesity, and insomnia.

But that’s not the reason you should be interested in it as a gamer. Turns out this chemical can literally hack your “normal” brain to make your mental functions, faster, better, and more efficient by up to 20%. It’s literally the closest thing to downloading aim assist for your brain. Even if you are already a world-class esport athlete, improving your BDNF levels can help you break a plateau and improve long term and even prime your system before training or get yourself back into the game when you are getting tilted in the short term

What Does it Affect?

Here’s a list of mental functions that BDNF levels have positive relationships to:  

  • Motor learning and Motor Memory   
    • Example – When you change your binds and need to learn how to play again.
  • Visuomotor tracking (hand-eye coordination)  
    • Example – Aim, skill shots, combos, etc.
  • Cognitive (Intellectual) Learning  
    • Example – Learning and making callouts, movement patterns, rotations, quick decision making, etc.
  • Long and Short Term Memory  
    • Example – remembering mistakes from past matches, better decision making, pattern recognition.
  • Mood Regulation  
    • Example – Getting frustrated with yourself/team and playing worse because of it.
The first and most powerful way to improve BDNF levels in your brain is exercise

How do you unlock it?

So the next question we have to address here is how can you unlock this substance in your brain? There are three strats to unlock this!

Strat 1 | Exercise
Strat 2 | Nutrition
Strat 3 | Socialization

Exercise 

The first and most powerful way to improve BDNF levels in your brain is exercise! There are 2 ways that you can use exercise to improve your mechanical skills and game sense 

  1. Short Term 
  2. Long Term 

Short Term

What is the Best Dosage?

For short term benefits, according to neurologists, the most optimal way to increase BDNF levels in the brain – is by exercising HARD for about 3 minutes. BDNF changes are not related to length of time but instead related to intensity. 3 minutes of intensity is when BDNF levels peak. When we say hard exercise we mean hard. A good rule of thumb is that if you can still count reps out loud you aren’t working hard enough. The idea is to stress your entire nervous system to produce more of this substance which can directly be used to improve your mechanical skill, recover from tilt, and improve your decision making.

What is the Best Way?

For short term benefits it’s good to pick an exercise you can easily do at your desk, calisthenics like jumping jacks, pushups, lunges, squats, burpees, etc can be really easy ways to get moving whenever you feel like you aren’t playing at your best, the harder and faster you can do these exercises the better! 

For short term benefits it’s good to pick an exercise you can easily do at your desk

What is the Best Schedule?

You should aim to do 3 minutes of high-intensity exercise every day at least but because this substance helps to “grease the gears” of your brain, it can be an especially useful boost right before you 

  • Warm up in game
  • Train your aim or other mechanical skills 
  • Play in a tournament 
  • Between rounds or matches 
  • When you are playing badly 
  • When you are getting tilted or frustrated 

Because BDNF helps your brain operate more efficiently and reinforces motor pathways you want to be careful to use this powerful tool right before you try to improve your skills. 

Long Term

Long term, the mental effects of BDNF are more powerful in more trained people when compared to people that haven’t been exercising.

What is the Best Dosage?

What that means is that if you have a regular exercise routine you will get a bigger mental boost from doing the 3 minutes of intense exercise than you would otherwise. You will also have sharper baseline foundations of mechanical skills (like reaction time) than somebody who is untrained.

The studies suggest that 20 minutes a day of high-intensity cardio can improve your mental functions! This particular study took young adults and had 1 group do brain training and exercise and the other group do just the brain training. After 6 weeks the 1st group that did exercise and brain training blew the other group out of the water!

This goes to show…

NO MATTER HOW GOOD YOUR MECHANICAL SKILLS AND GAME SENSE ARE RIGHT NOW IF YOU AREN’T EXERCISING THEY ARE NOT AS GOOD AS THEY COULD BE! 

NO MATTER HOW GOOD YOUR MECHANICAL SKILLS AND GAME SENSE ARE RIGHT NOW IF YOU AREN’T EXERCISING THEY ARE NOT AS GOOD AS THEY COULD BE! 

What is the Best Way?

Rowing, biking, running, swimming, elliptical, stair master, jumping jacks, whatever your preferred method of getting your heart rate up is, it’s all SUPER effective at improving not only your physical health but mental health and performance! Again this is where you may be rolling your eyes and saying you hate cardio, but how much do you hate not being the best? Esports by nature is not a particularly physically demanding sport, however that does not mean that you cannot harness the benefits of the incredible mind-body connection that exists to make yourself mentally better, faster, more accurate no matter how good you are at baseline.  

Dr. Hwu has put together a really nice 15-minute full-body starter workout for gamers!

What is the Best Schedule?

If you are looking to pick a good time to do 20 minutes of cardio things to take into consideration are things like your work and sleep schedule. Working out too close to bedtime can keep you awake at night and working out too close to clock in time can be tough.  

It really comes down to personal preference but 20 minutes of cardio exercise in the morning can help improve your alertness throughout the day. If that is too much to jump into right away a 10-minute walk can be a great place to start! Also exercising right before you begin grinding competitive play can be really helpful. 

If you are looking to pick a good time to do 20 minutes of cardio things to take into consideration are things like your work and sleep schedule

Nutrition 

How does what you eat impact how you think?

Well,the biggest thing you can eat to improve the BDNF levels in your brain and ultimately improve your performance is….. 


NOTHING

That’s right, intermittent fasting has been shown to truly beef up your brain’s ability to produce these aimbot chemicals in your brain by 50–400%!

Your brain is designed to improve your mental function in the absence of food because if it didn’t, your ancestors would have died off from “the dumb” every time the food a little scarce.

Intermittent fasting is a pattern of eating where you go long stretches without consuming any food or consume significantly decreased calories on a daily basis.

How does what you eat impact how you think?

What is the Best Dosage?

When looking at the research a 16 hour fast can have significant improvements on reaction time and other mental measures. 

What is the Best Schedule?

This means that you go 16 hours without eating and eat only 8 hours of the day. 

So if your last meal was at 8PM you wouldn’t eat until noon the next day. (Essentially skipping breakfast and eating Lunch) 

What is the Best Way?

The research on how long the benefits of intermittent fasting can last aren’t really well studied but some people keep up this way of eating for months at a time. Ultimately making changes to your diet habits should be something you experiment with personally and stick with whatever works for you. Also as a side note – Although intermittent fasting can be really helpful for improving your mechanical skill.

“Intermittent fasting may put certain individuals at a health risk, including people with diabetes, women who are pregnant or nursing (as inadequate nutrition can put a growing or nursing baby at risk), and those with a history of eating disorders/disordered eating.” Consult with a doctor before making any big changes in your habits. 

Other Nutrition Tips 

Before taking any supplements, make sure to consult with your doctor. Be sure to let them know about any medicine you take, including vitamins and herbal supplements, whether it’s prescription or over-the-counter.

If you and your doctor agree that supplementation is a good idea, be sure to select products manufactured by a supplier that is respected and trustworthy.

Note that the FDA has not licensed dietary supplements for medicinal use. Strong clinical study is typically lacking in supplements. No regulatory body guarantees that they are safe or efficient.

Some research indicates these supplements can lead to increased BDNF and mental health support:

Socialization 

As it turns out social interaction is critical for humans to maintain our BDNF levels.

What is the Best Way?

According to the research, gamers (categorized with internet gaming disorder) actually are able to maintain their levels of BDNF through online socialization when compared to non-gaming populations. 

The gamers in this study primarily played World of Warcraft which is a naturally social game. 

According to the research, gamers (categorized with internet gaming disorder) actually are able to maintain their levels of BDNF through online socialization when compared to non-gaming populations.

But that is not to say that it isn’t important to get face to face socialization to improve your mental health and function. Face to face interactions gives us more sensory cues, (body language, smell, touch, etc) which make the social interactions exponentially more powerful than just voice chat in-game. 

What is the Best Dosage?

With that being said we don’t want good to be the enemy of great, if you find yourself in a situation as a gamer where you feel like you are spending a lot of time grinding solo que to get better and not interacting with other players in a meaningful way. You may be doing yourself a competitive disservice. 

Make sure the game you are playing competitively offers you an opportunity to play it socially or find a different game that does allow you to play socially at least some of the time. 

What is the Best Schedule?

As far as we know there aren’t any studies that look at the exact amount of socialization necessary to optimize your BDNF levels and thus improve your performance. We recommend at least 2 hours a day of social interaction either with people in real life or in a fun relaxed gaming context if that isn’t possible. 

As far as we know there aren’t any studies that look at the exact amount of socialization necessary to optimize your BDNF levels and thus improve your performance

Other things that can boost BDNF

Sleep – Higher quality sleep is linked with increased BDNF in the brain and higher levels of BDNF are linked with getting higher quality sleep at night. It’s a cycle that can be kickstarted with exercise! 

The Sun – In an analysis of 2,851 individuals in the Netherlands, it was found that blood BDNF increased in the spring and summer and decreased in the fall and winter. BDNF levels correlated to the number of hours a person was exposed to the sunshine. So another good reason to go outside and socialize a bit! 

Sleep - Higher quality sleep is linked with increased BDNF in the brain and higher levels of BDNF are linked with getting higher quality sleep at night. It’s a cycle that can be kickstarted with exercise! 
We Know Gamers Have Had A Bad Relationship With The Sun 

Conclusion 

As gamers, if we want to boost our mechanical skills and game sense we can hack our brains by unlocking BDNF. We do this by… 

  1. Exercising Short Term (Intense 3 minutes when we need a brain boost) 
  2. Exercising Long Term  (Moderate 20 minutes every day) 
  3. Occasionally Fasting (14-16 Hours)
  4. Socializing (2 Hours a day – In-game or IRL)
  5. Getting good sleep (8 hours a night) 
  6. Getting some sunshine (30 minutes a day) 
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