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Today eSports gaming is enjoying growing popularity in the world and much attention from various research areas, including CSCW. eSports gaming is a highly competitive environment commonly associated with negative emotions such as anxiety and stress. However, little attention has been paid to emotion regulation in eSports gaming. In this study, we empirically investigated how players experience emotion and regulate emotions in League of Legends, one of the largest eSports games today. We identify four emotive factors, as well as emotion regulation strategies that players deploy to manage the emotions of their selves, teammates, and opponents. We further report on how they use emotion regulation in emotional self-care and emotional leadership. Building upon this set of findings, we discuss how the competitive eSports gaming context conditions emotion regulation in League of Legends, foreground emotion regulation expertise in competitive gaming, and derive implications for designing emotion regulation technologies. CCS Concepts: • Human-centered computing → Collaborative and social computing → Empirical studies in collaborative and social computing • Human-centered computing → Human computer interaction (HCI) → Empirical studies in HCI
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Proceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction, Vol. 4, No. CSCW2, Article 158, Publication date: October 2020.
Emotion Regulation in eSports Gaming: A Qualitative
Study of League of Legends
YUBO KOU, Pennsylvania State University, USA
XINNING GUI, Pennsylvania State University, USA
Today eSports gaming is enjoying growing popularity in the world and much aention from various
research areas, including CSCW. eSports gaming is a highly competitive environment commonly
associated with negative emotions such as anxiety and stress. However, lile aention has been paid to
emotion regulation in eSports gaming. In this study, we empirically investigated how players experience
emotion and regulate emotions in League of Legends, one of the largest eSports games today. We identify
four emotive factors, as well as emotion regulation strategies that players deploy to manage the emotions
of their selves, teammates, and opponents. We further report on how they use emotion regulation in
emotional self-care and emotional leadership. Building upon this set of ndings, we discuss how the
competitive eSports gaming context conditions emotion regulation in League of Legends, foreground
emotion regulation expertise in competitive gaming, and derive implications for designing emotion
regulation technologies.
CCS Concepts: Human-centered computing → Collaborative and social computing Empirical
studies in collaborative and social computing Human-centered computing Human computer
interaction (HCI) → Empirical studies in HCI
Emotion; emotion regulation; eSports; competitive gaming; League of Legends; MOBA.
ACM Reference format:
Yubo Kou and Xinning Gui. 2020. Emotion Regulation in eSports Gaming: A alitative Study of League of
Legends. In Proceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer
Interaction, Vol 4, No. CSCW2, Article 158 (October 2020). 26 pages. hps://
Competitive gaming has become of great interest to the CSCW community [5,23,84]. eSports,
short for electronic sports, is “a form of sports where the primary aspects of the sport are
facilitated by electronic systems; the input of players and teams as well as the output of the
eSports system are mediated by human-computer interfaces” [33]. In practical terms, eSports
gaming refers to the play and spectating of competitive video games [20,22,34]. In the rest of the
paper, we use eSports gaming and competitive gaming interchangeably.
Authors’ addresses: Yubo Kou ( and Xinning Gui (, College of Information
Sciences and Technology, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802
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Proceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction, Vol. 4, No. CSCW2, Article 158, Publication date: October 2020.
eSports gaming is particularly known for inducing negative emotions such as sadness,
frustration, and anger [8,74], endangering teamwork and social relations, causing burnout and
depression even for professional players [37]. Emotion regulation has been found to enhance
team performance [42,78,79]. Emotion regulation refers to “the process by which individuals
influence which emotion they have, when they have them, and how they experience and
express these emotions” [29]. Emotion regulation also includes how individuals regulate others’
emotions [31], such as how individuals regulate teammates’ emotions in team sport [79]. HCI
and CSCW researchers have investigated emotion regulation in areas such as emotional
expression (e.g., [14,25,35]), frustrating situations [36], mental health [40], and players’
physiological responses [63]. However, emotion regulation in eSports gaming has received
limited attention.
In this research, we investigate how people regulate emotions in eSports gaming. The game
we focus on is League of Legends (LoL), one of the most popular eSports games in the world.
LoL is a team-based eSports game and a major eSports title. Previous research has reported how
the highly competitive environment of LoL is associated with immense peer pressure [49], toxic
behavior [51,54,73], and social support [21]. Building upon existing research, we turn our focus
to the emotion regulation practice of LoL players. Informed by existing emotion regulation
research [28,29,31], we decompose the research question into three sub-questions:
1) What emotive factors are there in League of Legends?
2) What emotion regulation strategies do players use in League of Legends?
3) How do players use emotion regulation in their competitive gameplay?
To answer these questions, we collected and analyzed data from the ‘r/leagueoflegends’
subreddit, one of the largest LoL-related forums. Through thematic analysis [12], we revealed
four major emotive factors (achievement, teammate, game design, and social identity) that can
trigger intense player emotions. We mapped emotion regulation strategies from the sport
psychology literature to those used by LoL players. Additionally, we contextualized emotion
regulation in LoL players’ competitive gameplay, focusing on how they utilize emotion
regulation strategies to take care of their own emotional wellbeing (emotional self-care) as well
as facilitate teamwork (emotional leadership). We discuss how the competitive gaming context
conditions emotion and emotion regulation in League of Legends, and how digital technologies
mediate emotion regulation. We argue that emotion regulation is an important form of
expertise in eSports gaming. Lastly, we derive implications for designing emotion regulation
The research contributes to the literature by 1) providing empirical and conceptual insights
into the role of emotion regulation in the eSports gaming context using the example of LoL; and
2) bridging CSCW research on team-based games with sport psychology research.
In this section, we start by reviewing the emotion and emotion regulation literature to describe
necessary concepts. We then review previous research on emotion regulation in sport
psychology, the most related area to our best knowledge. Lastly, we overview the literature on
video game players’ emotional experiences.
2.1 Emotion and Emotion Regulation
Emotions are “adaptive behavioral and physiological response tendencies” [29], where an
individual evaluates a situation and modulates their emotional responses. We use negative
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emotion and unpleasant emotion interchangeably, and positive emotion and pleasant emotion
interchangeably. People could become aware of their emotional states, and engage in regulatory
efforts upon observing a sufficient discrepancy between their current and desired feelings
[38,57]. The goal of emotion regulation could be a balance between hedonic, seeking to increase
pleasant emotions such as happiness and elation, and instrumental, referring to pursuit of goals
such as long-term benefits [77].
Gross listed five emotion regulation strategies [29]: 1) situation selection means to approach
or avoid certain situations for emotion regulation (e.g., seeking a different route to avoid
encountering a neighbor and having an embarrassing conversation); 2) situation modification
refers to active effort to modify a situation (e.g., asking a neighbor to tone down their music); 3)
attentional deployment means to shift attention (e.g., gazing at a less pleasant thing); 4) cognitive
change denotes efforts to modify cognitive steps to recognize or modulate emotions (e.g.,
reframing a failure as a success); One particular form of cognitive change is reappraisal,
meaning to reappraise a situation to alter its emotional impact; 5) response modulation means to
directly influencing responding patterns (e.g., relaxing to decrease anxiety). Conscious
suppression of emotion expression is also a form of response modulation.
Emotion regulation can be oriented towards self or others [30]. Emotion self-regulation means
the individual regulates their own emotional experiences, while interpersonal emotion regulation
refers to the act of regulating others’ emotions. An example of interpersonal emotion regulation
is that people might use humor to uplift others and enhance their relationships [82]. Since “the
emotion process is inherently social and interpersonal” [24], emotion self-regulation may
intersect with interpersonal emotion regulation in complex ways. For example, in support
groups, one might share their emotions (self-regulation) to influence their audiences’ emotions
(interpersonal regulation). In addition, sometimes it could be difficult to distinguish the two
orientations. For example, in a crisis situation, a leader could try to be calm (self-regulation) to
handle the task at hand, or try to appear calm to make their followers relaxed (interpersonal
regulation) [62].
2.2 Emotion Regulation in Team Sport
Competitive sports bring both positive and negative emotions [67], but the scholarship is
primarily concerned with negative emotions such as anger, anxiety, and worry, and how they
oftentimes engender poor performance and reduced engagement among relatively
inexperienced athletes [7,32,52,65,75]. Thus, emotion regulation has become a fundamental
component of applied sport psychology intervention [10,44]. Athletes learn and practice
emotion regulation before, during, after competition, as well as through time of training and
injury recovery [24,27,80]. For instance, the 1988 U.S. Olympic wrestlers used techniques such
as breathing control and music to achieve a more optimal emotional state [26]. While physical
sports have developed knowledge and procedures about emotion regulation, eSports still lags
Jones [45] summarized eight core relational themes for sport-related emotions, including
anger, anxiety, shame, guilt, hope, relief, happiness, and pride. Although people generally seek
enjoyment in sport [72], some athletes believe that negative emotions such as anger and anxiety
could help performance [56]. For example, an athlete could notice that they were anxious before
a competition started but still won, which gradually led to the belief that anxiety had a positive
effect over their performance. Therefore, negative emotions could be beneficial in sport [24].
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Sport psychologists have paid much attention to emotion self-regulation, often building upon
Gross’ five emotion regulation strategies(e.g., [46,66]). When it comes to interpersonal emotion
regulation in team sport, a few studies have demonstrated the effect of emotional contagion in
which individuals influence others through the induction of emotions. For instance, Totterdell
found that individuals’ happiness was linked to their teammates’ collective happy moods [81].
Tamminen and Crocker reported how athletes could consider social and contextual factors such
as social norms and team roles when performing self-regulation and interpersonal regulation
Collectively, sport psychologists have stressed the need to identify the emotions experienced
as well as the emotion regulation strategies used by athletes. This study expands on this body of
literature to pay attention to emotion regulation in eSports gaming.
2.4 Emotions in Video Gaming
Emotional experience is an important reason that people play games [3,9,41,60]. Prior work has
demonstrated the complex role that emotions play in player experience, that even negative
emotions such as frustration and sadness could bring benefits [1,9,43].
Games research has also acknowledged the social nature of emotions [18]. Lazzaro noted that
players enjoyed a variety of emotions from competition, teamwork, and socializing
opportunities [60]. Players could obtain emotional support even in highly competitive games
[21]. In long-term teams like guilds in World of Warcraft, team leaders can manage the
emotional highs and lows in raiding for the sake of team performance [4].
However, little research has paid attention to emotion regulation in eSports games like LoL,
with a few exceptions that focus on general player experiences of LoL but unanimously point to
how poor performance of self or teammates leads to negative emotions such as anger and
frustration [39,48,50,68,83]. To our best knowledge, there is no systematic investigation of
emotion regulation in LoL. This study aims at filling this gap.
League of Legends (LoL) is a Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) video game developed by
Riot Games (Riot for short in the rest of the paper). Released in October 2009, LoL is one of the
largest games with 8 million peak concurrent players across the globe [70]. 44 million peak
concurrent viewers watched its eSports tournament finals on November 10, 2019 [64].
The main gameplay mode in LoL is a match between two five-player teams, the blue and red
teams. Two teams compete on the map called “Summoner's Rift.” Figure 1 shows the beginning
of a match. A match usually lasts 20-40 minutes. At the beginning, the two teams appear in their
bases at the opposite ends of the map. Each base will send out minions for the enemy base
through three lanes, namely top, middle, and bottom. The minions will encounter and fight in
the middle of each lane. To win a match, one team must destroy another’s base.
In each match, the player starts with a weak character at Level 1 (max is Level 18). The
character gets stronger by gaining experience points to level up, and obtaining gold to purchase
in-game equipment by killing non-player characters (NPC) or opponent players. Figure 1 shows
the beginning of a match where three players on the blue team are waiting to kill an NPC that
will spawn soon.
LoL uses a ranking system and a matchmaking system to efficiently generate fair matches for
its millions of players. The ranking system assesses a player’s skill and generates a
corresponding rank. It has several leagues (i.e., Iron, Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, Diamond,
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Master, Grandmaster, and Challenger), ranging from the least skilled to the most skilled. Each of
the first six leagues (from Iron to Diamond) is further divided into four divisions from 1 to 4.
And each division has 100 league points. The matchmaking system arranges matches for the
pool of available players based on their ranks.
Ranking practices are central to LoL players’ highly competitive eSports culture, as player
rely on ranks to manage progression and inform collaboration [49]. Professional players are
usually at the very top of the ladder (from Master to Challenger), and achieving a high rank is
an essential condition for LoL players to become a professional.
Figure 1. Screenshot of League of Legends.
LoL affords a variety of ways for players to express their emotions. For example, they could
type in the chat functions to express their emotions. They could also use emote, a type of sticker
floating on their in-game characters. In the middle of Figure 1, there is a wheel of five emotes
that the player could choose one from.
In this paper, we use qualitative methods to generate findings pertaining to our three research
questions. Specifically, we collected emotional experiences shared in the ‘r/leagueoflegends’
subreddit, a large LoL player community, and employed qualitative analysis to discover
meaningful patterns. Members of the research team are all familiar with LoL. The first author is
an experienced LoL player who has played the game’s ranked mode for several years.
4.1 Data Collection
In the CSCW community, researchers have already utilized specific subreddits for research (e.g.,
[2,71]). In this paper, we decided to use the ‘r/leagueoflegends’ subreddit because it is currently
the largest online forum where LoL players gather, and even Riot uses it as a channel to
communicate with the community. The researchers also frequently browsed content in the
subreddit because of their own interest and engagement in the game. Players’ online discussions
could contain rich experiences that players share in a naturalistic manner, while interview and
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survey might become a temporally bounded setting that constrains what players could recount.
Therefore, we deem the collection of online data valuable as a first endeavor to explore players’
emotion and emotion regulation experiences. Since Riot regularly introduces fundamental
changes to gameplay at the end of each competitive season to keep the game content fresh and
novel, game content could be a confounding variable impacting player emotions in different
seasons. Therefore, the research team decided to focus only on player discussions that happened
in Season 9 (January 23 November 19, 2019), the one closest to the time of this study.
We took an iterative search strategy to identify relevant threads from the subreddit. We
utilized Reddit’s API to collect threads, including posts and their comments, from the subreddit.
The APIs allowed us to search posts containing specific keywords. Thus, we first needed an
initial set of search keywords, which we could use to identify potentially relevant threads. As
currently there is not an existing vocabulary of emotions in the LoL community reported in the
literature, two researchers from the research team generated the initial keyword set by
combining emotions suggested by the sport psychology literature (e.g., [45,79]), emotional
words mentioned by previous studies on LoL (e.g., [50,68,83]), as well as emotions and emotive
factors the research team identified in their own initial reading of 50 threads. Our initial
keyword set was {anger, anxiety, shame, guilt, hope, relief, happiness, pride, tilt (severe
frustration that negatively impacts the person’s capacity to carry out the optimal performance),
feeling, emotion, mad, burn out, depress, share, stress, rage, embarrass, exciting, pleasure,
frustrate, mentality, sadness, fun, enjoy, win, and lose}. When creating this keyword set, our
goal was to include not only emotions, but also specific factors that easily induce emotions such
as winning and losing. Our rationale was to tolerate false positives at this stage, with the goal of
being as comprehensive as possible.
The two researchers repeatedly retrieved sets of threads based on the search keywords and
their variants. For each set, the two researchers read each thread to determine its relevance.
Threads that are not about explicit emotional expression were removed. An example is when a
player wrote “happy birthday” to an in-game character. They read relevant threads individually
and mark down initial observations of emotion and emotion regulation, and looked for
additional keywords that LoL players often used when talking about emotions and emotion
regulation. These additional keywords (chill, disturb, disrupt, glad, community, sharing,
awkward, teemo, yasuo, draven, gg ez (good game easy), steal, gank, ks (kill steal), yolo, Tyler1
were iteratively added to keyword set and used for further searching of threads. The two
researchers continued this process until they deemed that they have reached saturation [11], at
which point no new information was found in the data collection process.
Through the data collection process, all the threads including posts and comments, as well as
their metadata such as timestamp and upvotes were stored in the relational databases of
MySQL. Upon the completion of data collection, the dataset contained 431 posts as well as their
associated 35,221 comments.
4.2 Data Analysis
Below, we list our data analysis approaches for each research question. All the data analyses
were led by the same two researchers who conducted data collection.
1) What emotive factors are there in League of Legends?
Tyler1, a popular streamer, was once banned by Riot, and has elicited strong emotional reactions from the subreddit.
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In this question, we sought to understand factors that would trigger players’ emotional
experiences. Since there was no prior research on this topic, we used inductive thematic
analysis [12]. The two researchers each read the dataset and generated a list of initial codes
individually. They then discussed their lists of initial codes, resolving disagreements while
consolidating similar ideas. During this stage they frequently went back to the data to
concretize the codes. Upon generating a list of codes that both researchers agreed upon, they
held several discussions to generate higher level concepts by articulating their semantic and
conceptual similarities and differences. We completed the analysis process upon arriving at a
satisfactory thematic map with overarching themes and satisfying the standards of internal
homogeneity and external heterogeneity.
2) What emotion regulation strategies do players use in League of Legends?
We drew from Gross’s five emotion regulation strategies (see subsection 2.1) [29] as a priori
codes to analyze emotion regulation strategies players apply on their selves, teammates, and
opponents. The separation of these three populations came from the researchers’ understanding
of the literature and initial readings of the dataset. For each population, we conducted a
deductive thematic analysis [12]. Each researcher read the dataset to assign the five strategies to
ideas where players expressed about what they did to manage their emotions. However, we also
allowed new codes to emerge where data did not fit into the a priori codes. Upon generating the
initial lists of codes, the two researchers met to discuss agreements and resolve disagreements
while comparing their lists. After this process, the two researchers held discussions to associate
ideas and construct higher-level themes, and eventually generate a thematic map, using both
inductive and deductive thinking.
3) How do players use emotion regulation in their competitive gameplay?
For this question, we used the labeled dataset from the former analysis where we already
located all the data records of emotion regulation. We then used inductive thematic analysis
[12] to analyze how players deploy emotion regulation strategies in relation to their competitive
gameplay. In this research question, our goal was to understand emotion regulation in the
particular eSports gaming context of League of Legends. We repeated connecting emotion
regulation activities to the contexts where those activities were situated. We also inductively
aggregate contexts we had located till we reached a sound thematic map. Our final overarching
themes are emotional self-care and emotional leadership.
4.3 Ethics Statement
The study was approved by the IRB board at our university prior to the data collection and
analysis processes and deemed to contain no more than minimal risk to people. The data have
been stored securely in our password-protected computers and only accessible to the research
The research team also acknowledges that the IRB approval might not keep up in full with
the current ethical recognitions and standards within the HCI community [69]. While
recognizing various concerns of using the so-called publicly available data such as the lack of
informed consent and community-level harm, Fiesler suggested that these issues be framed
within “the broader context of the benefits of scientific discovery” [19]. The implications are
that the researchers themselves shall be sensitive and reflective in terms of how they interact
with the data and what they use the data for. In this particular research, concrete measures
were carried out, such as the removal of personally identifiable information such as user
account names, as well as the rephrase of quotes to reduce their searchability. In addition, the
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researchers on the team held discussions to deliberate the (possible) harms and potential
benefits of this research. We reasoned that 1) a nuanced report of the range of emotions LoL
players have experienced would help depict a fuller image of the LoL community to the
outsiders, especially when the LoL community is often cited for having a toxic culture [61]; 2)
the outcomes of this research hold important implications for how technologies could be
designed and policies could be made for the wellbeing of eSports players especially professional
players, given that lots of measures and policies with similar goals have already been
implemented in physical sports; 3) the scientific discoveries of this research could advance our
existing understandings of emotion and emotion regulation in eSports gaming and virtual teams
more broadly.
4.4 Limitations
In this study, we only collected data containing explicit emotional expressions where players
clearly stated their emotions or emotional states. Our analysis could not account for implicit
emotional expressions which are prevalent but also difficult to recognize and code in a reliably
way through manual coding. Future research on emotion regulations in eSports gaming could
consider computational linguistic approaches which could help reveal different patterns of
emotion and emotion regulation.
Compared to common empirical methods such as interview and survey that rely on
recollection, online data has the advantage of documenting players’ natural expressions of their
emotional experiences and related thoughts. However, interview and survey are beneficial to go
in depth about the interconnections between emotive situations, decisions, emotions, and
actions about one player. For instance, a player having a rough day might be easier to be
frustrated in game. Our online data might miss such nuances. Thus, future work could use
diverse data sources to verify our findings.
A wide range of factors trigger LoL players’ emotional responses, with some similar to physical
sports, while others uniquely conditioned in competitive gameplay. Players’ emotion regulation
strategies largely resemble the categories of physical sports, with one exception. Their emotion
regulation strategies revolve around emotional self-care and emotional leadership.
5.1 What emotive factors are there in League of Legends?
We identified four primary emotive factors that would elicit player emotions. They are
achievement, teammate, game design, and social identity. These factors are not mutually
exclusive and can work together to induce player emotions. This set of findings resonates with
previous game literature on how video games can evoke or affect our emotions [3,41]. Its
contribution lies mostly in reporting emotive factors in the eSports context of LoL.
5.1.1 Achievement-related situations
Achievement-related situations are moments where players anticipate whether they would
reach or fail to reach certain achievements. Here the notion of achievement resonates with the
categorization by Yee [86] to include players’ in-game advancement such as their progress and
accumulation, mechanics such as numbers and optimization, as well as competition such as
challenging others and provocation. An achievement could be making an impressive move in
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game, winning a match, or reaching a desired rank. Personal performances lower than
expectation could trigger negative emotions such as frustration and anger. Here is an example:
I noticed that almost every game I played the worst. This made me really angry and sad, and I
wanted to quit. Also I was playing a friend, so I felt really bad for holding them back.
Meanwhile, players could experience positive emotions such as happiness and pride when
they made an excellent play in game. Many players made short videos of these moments and
shared them on the subreddit while stating their pleasant emotions.
Players also associate emotions with short-term achievements or unfulfillments. For instance,
a player wrote:
I have been playing alone for the whole day and lost many games. It is really frustrating to
know that I have lost all the hard work and grind.
Like the player described, one match could have high stakes: it takes considerable time and
energy, and for each loss a player needs to have an additional win to keep the same rank, and
even more matches if the player wants to advance. Therefore, even playing a single match could
be anxiety-inducing. A player wrote that “I have moments of anxiety while queueing up for
solo/duo in ranked mode.” Queueing up here means to clicking the ready button and waiting for
a match to be arranged.
5.1.2 Teammate-related situations
Teammate-related situations are moments where teammates in-game performance or behavior
trigger emotions. Players wrote about how their teammates’ poor performances caused
frustrations. Here is an example:
The jungle role tilts me so much. It is so frustrating when my teammates don’t help me even
when I’m being invaded.
In this quote, jungle is one of the five roles. Tilt in LoL generally refers to severe frustration
that negatively impacts the person’s capacity to carry out the optimal performance. The player
expressed their frustration when teammates did not meet their expectation to help them.
Another player described how anger could initiate a vicious cycle when vented against
I get flamed by teammates, I usually could not control myself. I have to type back. I know it is
sad but I can get really tilted. This usually leads to a back-and-forth which makes the atmosphere
even worse.
As the player described, intrateam conflicts like interpersonal insults often engender
negative emotions among players. But players could also obtain positive emotions as they
interact with their teammates. A player wrote:
I really enjoy playing with chill teammates. The game could be even bigger if players just tried
to enjoy the game.
“Chill” describes an easygoing attitude not easily tilted or offended by in-game situations. In
this quote, the player described how they could derive pleasant emotions from playing with
such teammates.
5.1.3 Game design-related situations
Game design-related situations concern the mechanisms or content of the eSports game.
Compared to physical sports, eSports games like LoL change at a much faster rate in terms of its
rules, optimal strategies and tactics, and interactions. LoL for example has nearly 20 major
patches in a regular season. The arrivals of new patches usually trigger emotional responses
where players respond based on how the patches would affect their own gameplay. For
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instance, players could be happy or sad when an in-game character is strengthened or
I am glad that Nunu is finally nerfed… They finally took care of this champion.
Nerf refers to weakening an in-game character, while buff refers to strengthening. The
player perceived the character Nunu as strong and unbalanced. Thus, the player expressed a
pleasant emotion upon learning that balance was restored on the character.
Players also share emotional responses when perceiving fairness issues in game design. LoL
has multiple complex systems that seek to generate “fair matches” for millions of players in an
efficient way; but these systems are nontransparent and sometimes confusing to players.
Therefore, players’ perceptions of unfair matches could easily trigger negative emotions like
frustration and tilt. Here is an example:
It is unfair. It is fine if my opponents are stronger than me. Nothing is tilting about that… But it
is really tilting when I am clearly much better than my opponents, but my teammates are at much
lower ranks. This is especially frustrating when it happens in my promotional matches.
The player described a situation where his teammates’ ranks were significantly lower than
his opponents and concluded that this was an unfair match. Unfairness in game design, to the
player, rendered them powerless.
5.1.4 Social identity-related situations
Social identity-related situations are moments where players experience emotions as they
identify or disassociate with a community or a group based on their membership. For instance,
players could experience positive emotions when they identified as an LoL player. Below is an
My jaw dropped when Riot teased the MMORPG (short for massively multiplayer online role
play game). They gave everything the community wanted and more... Never been more proud to be
a part of the League community. They really outdid themselves this time. Many, many thanks to all
the Rioters!
The player referred to the 10-year anniversary celebration on October 15, 2019 where Riot
announced multiple new lines of products in development such as MMORPG, card game, and
anime. They expressed excitement and pride as they identified with the game and the
community more.
5.2 What emotion regulation strategies do players use in League of Legends?
When players seek to manage their own emotions, they use all the five strategies (situation
selection, situation modification, attentional deployment, cognitive change, and response
modulation), plus a new one called social interaction. In teammate emotion regulation, two
types of emotion regulation strategies are used: situation modification and attentional
deployment. This is mostly because other three strategies, including situation selection,
cognitive change, and response modulation, are focused on individual cognitive processes.
Therefore, they do not easily apply to the team scenario where one seeks to affects their
teammates. In opponent emotion regulation, we only found one type of emotion regulation that
is situation modification. This is because all the communication and actions by one player can
be considered to alter the situation of opponent(s). The emphasis is on altering situation, not
specific goals of affecting opponents’ attention or cognitive process.
5.2.1 Emotion Self-Regulation: Situation Selection
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Situation selection is in alignment with Gross’ definition that the person approaches or avoids
certain situations for emotion regulation. If players anticipate that certain situations would
incur negative emotions, they can proactively avoid them. Taking a break” is among the most
frequent strategies mentioned by players. Here is an instance:
When you're tilted, just don't play. Watch videos, listen to music, go out for a walk… Just take a
break… So many players keep playing when they are tilted and they just keep losing the game…
Trust me, don’t play the game when you are angry.
The player identified that playing game itself could be an emotional situation. Therefore, the
player’s suggestion was to avoid this situation to manage negative emotions.
5.2.2 Emotion Self-Regulation: Situation Modification
Situation modification refers to the active modification of elements in a given situation.
Different from the strategy of situation selection, in situation modification players do not seek
to completely reject an ongoing situation or enact an entirely new situation.
Players stressed the preparation of peripheral elements in their gaming situation. An
instance is:
I took a few steps to help alleviate my anxiety… I’d wrap myself in a blanket to keep warm and
relax, put on some soothing music…
In addition, LoL affords various technological ways of modifying situations. Lots of players
mentioned how they maintained emotions upon encountering undesired teammates. A player
If my teammates or opponents say aggressive things or flame anyone or boast, I just mute them
completely, including pings, emotes, and text. I then report then at the end of the match. Sometimes
I feel like I’m playing with bots after muting them, but I am having fun.
LoL supports players to choose between two chat channels: Team Chat that only displays
team communication, as well as All Chat that shows all the teammates’ and opponents’
messages. The “mute” function allows players to no longer see any verbal or nonverbal
communication from any single player, the whole opponent team, or all the players in a match.
In the above quote, severing verbal and nonverbal communication with others became a way for
emotion regulation.
5.2.3 Emotion Self-Regulation: Attentional Deployment
Attentional deployment is to shift focus onto a different goal or aspect of the game. Some
players find that focusing too much on achievements could cause negative emotions. For
example, a player suggested:
Set a goal every match. Every match I give myself small goals such as outfarming my opponents
or ambushing an enemy. These little goals help me feel better, even if we don’t win the match.
The player actively shifted their focus from the outcome of a match (win or loss) to smaller
and more accessible goals. In this way, the player could manage to overcome negative emotions
associated with losing a match, by identifying smaller achievements.
The strategy of shifting focus onto smaller achievements was commonly used when players
anticipated a loss during a match. A player explained:
I just let go of the fear of losing, and focus on playing… Even if I’m losing, I can tell that I’m
getting better. Making improvements means a lot to me.
In the situation of a losing match, the player refocused on how they could improve their
gaming skills, and subsequently adjusted their emotion. Such strategy is to shift focus from
external factors such as match outcome and teammates to internal factors like individual skill.
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5.2.4 Emotion Self-Regulation: Cognitive Change
Cognitive change involves assigning new meanings through reinterpretations, which differs
from attentional deployment that is to focus on a different aspect of a situation. When
performing cognitive change, players usually reflected upon their initial internal reactions to a
situation. One common strategy is to reevaluate the role of the game in everyday life. For
instance, a player noted:
Take a couple deep breaths and realize it's just a game.
“it’s just a game” is a common way to lower one’s expectation and evaluation of LoL upon
anticipating negative emotions. This is to reframe the situation as less important than currently
experienced so as to mitigate negative emotions.
Players could also assign new meanings to their teammates for emotion regulation. For
instance, one player said:
If someone is flaming, it is because they are horrible persons. It is not because of you. So don’t
take it personally.
In this quote, the player talked about how to overcome negative emotions of encountering
toxic teammates. The strategy was to reframe the frustrating situation as teammates being
horrible. In so doing, the player would not need to feel bad for themselves.
5.2.5 Emotion Self-Regulation: Response Modulation
Response modulation is to directly manage how one responds, such as how one expresses their
emotions. It is common for players to lower the intensity of their negative emotions by taking a
break. Here is an example:
Intense games are highly enjoyable. They could be stressful and exhausting. I’d take a break for
at least 15 minutes.
Players additionally described how they regulated their emotional expression. Here are two
If you are mad, don’t type angry stuff… Those will make you even angrier Hide your tilt.
I might type something but would erase it before actually hitting the enter key and sending it. I
only use the chat to communicate about the match or to be nice.
The players discussed how to avoid using the communication channel for negative emotional
expression. This is for emotion self-regulation. However, we discussed earlier that negative
emotional expression from teammates could trigger negative emotions. Therefore, the player
was also engaging in interpersonal emotion regulation by not adding negative emotion in team
5.2.6 Emotion Self-Regulation: Social Interaction
We additionally pointed to social interaction as a type of emotion regulation strategy that has
not been discussed by the sport psychology research. This describes how LoL players turn to
other people in the LoL community for emotional support. Different from physical sports, LoL
players enjoy a large community of people sharing similar interests and experiences and can
use digital platforms to readily offer emotional support. Players highlighted how friends could
help emotion regulation. A player wrote:
Friends don’t care if you do well or badly, as long as you are having fun with them. Just laugh it
off and do your thing… We are your friends, and we don’t care if you suck
In the above quote, the player talked about how friends could help engender pleasant
emotions. Players additionally discussed how friends in game could be a source of emotional
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My friends helped me a lot when I was super frustrated from a losing streak. We just chatted in
discord and even went to play another video game title to relax.
Players also acknowledged the value of the LoL community in helping them manage
5.2.7 Teammate Emotion Regulation: Situation Modification
Situation modification is the most common category of strategies we observed in teammate
emotion regulation. For example, players talked about warming up the teamwork atmosphere as
a strategy to set a positive tone when five strangers were arranged together and first met for a
match. A player wrote:
I recently began every ranked match by saying "Hey team, good luck have fun, we got this! :)" I
hope this will help keep my teammates’ mood up and play better.
The player believed in the benefits of using friendly messages at the beginning of a match.
The friendly messages were new elements actively added into situations that could discourage
negative emotions while bring up positive ones.
Players also mentioned using encouraging words to engender positive emotions in team
communication. An example is:
I typed “gj” or sent out an emote whenever my teammates got a kill or an objective. This is
effortless but could encourage them.
Emote is a sticker that players could display above their character for a short period, visible
to both teammates and opponents. The player talked about how they modified the situation by
adding in their positive response to their teammates’ small achievement in game.
Lastly, a few mentioned apologizing, to claim responsibility for a mistake and thus appease
the potential anger of their teammates. A player explained:
Apologizing costs nothing but eases a lot of tension within the team. It’s the worst if you deny
and argue with your teammates, and all of you ended up tilted… Just apologize and it makes
everything easier.
Apologizing was to alter a potentially negative situation by modifying how one is perceived
by other teammates. Like in-person situations, apologizing could ease interpersonal tensions.
5.2.8 Teammate Emotion Regulation: Attentional Deployment
Players resort to attentional deployment if their teammates are experiencing negative emotions
not productive for teamwork. For example, they stressed the importance of supporting
teammates when a teammate is experiencing unpleasant situations. For instance, a player wrote:
Our top was harassed by the jungler because the top was behind in cs and died a few times. The
top was apparently tilted. I told the top he was doing fine… and that he should mute the jungler and
chill and play… We eventually won the game.
Top and jungler are the player’s two teammates. The player observed that the top teammate
was experiencing negative emotions and possibly did not focus on playing the game. Thus, the
player verbally supported the top player to shift attention to their own gameplay.
5.2.9 Opponent Emotion Regulation: Situation Modification
When players attempt to regulate their opponents’ emotions, they mostly seek to inflict
negative emotions and hinder their performances. These attempts are conscious moves that are
intended to be felt by the opponents. Thus, the attempts could be broadly viewed as modifying
the situations of their opponents, where players serve as influential elements of these situations.
Functionally speaking, the actual strategies we found are aimed at disrupting opponents’
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attentions and cognitive thinking and inciting negative emotional expressions. For example, a
player talked about taunting as a strategy:
Whenever I made a successful move and caused losses on the opponent team, such as stealing
their objective, invading, or killing an opponent, I will spam an emote. This is tilting.
The player wrote about how they would capitalize on the opponents’ negative experiences
by taunting them. In so doing, the player expected to trigger the opponent team’s negative
emotions. Non-verbal communication techniques like emote here played a mediational role in
such interpersonal emotion regulation.
Players additionally noted how certain gameplay strategy could be emotive too. An example
If I’m laning against a Yasuo with bad stats, I’d ask my jungler to camp him and kill him
repeatedly. This often ends up in the Yasuo flaming at his own teammates.
Yasuo is a character in game. The player talked about how they would intentionally create
frustrating situations for the Yasuo player, in order to inflict negative emotions on the player
and even fuel conflicts within the opponent team.
5.3 How do players use emotion regulation in their competitive gameplay?
Players use emotion regulation in two primary ways: emotional self-care and emotional
leadership. The first endeavor is carried out inwards to take care of players’ own emotional
wellbeing, while the second is to actively influence their teammates’ emotional state, for the
sake of winning competition in League of Legends.
5.3.1 Emotional Self-Care
Emotional self-care manifests as players’ conscious efforts in identifying and coping with
emotional challenges in the game. They recognize that competitive gameplay in LoL entails
multiple emotive factors at work, and that their emotions must be monitored and managed in a
methodical way. Players generally pride the effective control of emotions. Here are two
You don't let a game decide your emotional state.
Normal people won’t be upset at their teammates not doing well. Only emotionally immature
players decide to be negative and rage in chat.
A common theme among these two quotes is the cautious and somewhat contemptuous
attitude towards LoL as a game. In this context, a game framed as merely an object or a tool for
humans to use; and an inanimate object should never be able to impact a person’s emotion,
unless the person is “emotionally immature. Such sentiment is common in our dataset when
players responded to questions about emotion regulation in LoL. It suggests players’ strong
desire to sort out the relationship between their emotions and the game.
Meanwhile, players acknowledge the competitive aspect of LoL gameplay. One player noted:
We encounter countless occasions of competition in our life. We must learn to control the stress
and anxiety that come with it. The first occasion is oftentimes the academia.
In the above quote, the player acknowledged how the competition embedded in LoL offers a
chance for players’ emotional development against competition.
Emotional self-care involves reconstructing the meaning of playing LoL in terms of its
significance and relation to other life priorities. Meaning reconstruction could be viewed as a
meta-level cognitive change emotion regulation strategy. Many players admitted being highly
emotional prior to their adoption of meaning reconstruction. Here is an example:
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I used to get very angry when I played too much League. My mood remained bad for hours even
after finishing the game, and this worried my friends. Then I realized that playing League is not my
life priority. Or at least it is not that important. Now I’d just close the client and do something else
with my life.
The player’s self-description of their past echoes previous research that among
inexperienced athletes, intense competition is often associated with negative emotions such as
anger and stress [32]. In a similar vein, the player described how they transitioned from being
inexperienced with handling competition-induced emotions to being experienced. A key
moment, as the player noted, was to reconstruct the meaning of playing LoL in their life
deprioritizing it was to regard it as less consequential than other activities in their life. Such act
of meaning reconstruction is considered a primary way of coping with stress [58], and the
emotion regulation strategy of cognitive change. It is how players reconsider the significance of
playing LoL in relation to their personal life. Subsequently, the player could deploy the strategy
of situation selection by closing the game client and avoid future emotional disruption.
Meaning reconstruction also happens at a smaller scale, in relation to an ongoing match
where players are experiencing emotive situations. A player wrote:
Support main here... If my AD starts to be really annoying and nothing I say or do could calm
him down, I will mute him and focus on enjoying the game in other ways, like starting to roam or
helping other teammates.
The player described their way of assigning new meanings to what they ought to do in an
ongoing match, or more specifically the strategy of attentional deployment. Although Support
and AD, two roles in a team, are supposed to stay together, the player actively sought
alternative ways of playing the game. By setting new goals and actions in game, the player was
able to remain unaffected by the AD player. In addition, the above two examples showed that
meaning construction could be done preemptively to eliminate sources of negative emotions or
reactively to reduce the impacts of negative emotions.
However, many players acknowledged that meaning reconstruction during intense gameplay
is a difficult task. One player noted:
I try my best to play with no emotions. Tilt means I will play poorly or be mad at my teammates.
But it is very hard because in the end I still want to win and am emotionally involved.
Here the player highlighted the challenging part of cognitive process reigning over emotions.
Even as players are fully aware of the downsides of negative emotions and their goal to be
emotionless, meaning construction in a fleeting moment still proves difficult. Players are
constantly wrestling with the tension between their negative emotions that come with intense
competition and their goal of containing negative emotions.
Therefore, emotional self-care is seen as a constant learning process instead of a one-time
effort. A player explained:
We have to make efforts to think about what is the best course of action to avoid being tilted
which leads to taking bad moves and blaming teammates. We need to keep thinking and
challenging our own instinctual tilt-related thoughts.
Recognizing that emotions are “instinctual” demonstrated how the player drew a distinction
between how one thinks and how one feels. Emotional self-care entails constant introspection
where players examine their own thoughts and make corresponding changes.
While emotional self-regulation focuses on concrete acts that could regulate emotions in a
specific moment, emotional self-care concerns a holistic trajectory where players make efforts
to cultivate their emotional wellbeing. Therefore, there is not a final state to reach when players
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engage emotional self-care. Rather, emotional self-care is a constant practice that players need
to carry out.
5.3.2 Emotional Leadership
Emotional leadership describes conscious efforts that players make to influence their teammates
in light of emotions. Emotional leadership manifests as active interpersonal actions to mitigate
emotional challenges or facilitate positive emotions within a team. Emotions are perceived as
critical to teamwork in LoL. Importantly, emotional leadership is a choice that certain players
consciously make to manage their teams’ emotions. For instance, a player explained:
Everything could go downhill if someone on your team is tilted starts to rage. Suddenly no one
wants to work together anymore… You have to care about your teammates’ emotions because
League is a team game.
The player described an undesirable situation of teamwork being harmed by negative
emotions and highlighted the importance of attending to teammates’ emotions. In a similar
vein, another player added:
It's like once I press play, I'm suddenly responsible for the emotional stability of the rest of my
Vigilant players are emotionally active in the interpersonal context of LoL. They are usually
proactive in emotional communication prior to actual gameplay. A player said:
Don’t stay silent when you are selecting champions. You can start talking to your teammates.
You can say funny or even stupid things to lighten their moods… if everyone thinks you are weird,
you are successful at breaking the ice! Then both you and your teammates will enter the game
feeling pretty good.
The player advised against silence in team communication and advocated a proactive role in
shaping the collective emotions of the team. The strategy the player promoted is a situation
modification one, denoting an active effort to modify the emotive situation. This was echoed by
many other players on the forum. Another example is:
Keeping your teammates in a good mood helps you win way more than a lot of things. I won’t
prop someone up if they’re losing hard, but It’s important to realize how much of a boost in morale
it is for your team to get objectives and such.
Proactive emotional communication is mostly preparatory prior to the actual gameplay.
Emotional leadership also takes effects upon emotive situations, including both positive and
negative ones. Players emphasized compliment as beneficial even in positive moments. A player
I never type unless I’m asking for swap of picks or “cheering” my team when they do something
good. Players like to get recognized for a good play or good solo kill throwing out a nice or some shit
will only boost ur team being positive.
If emotional communication in positive moments appear accessory, then emotional
communication in adverse situations takes a pivotal role. Adverse situations include both
gameplay-related failures and frustrations as well as negative team emotions. Here are two
examples for gameplay-related failures and frustrations:
As a matter of fact, when people died very early, I encouraged them and say dumb shit like
"shake off that death we'll get em back" and stuff like that. I’ve actually noticed a lot more
comeback wins since I started with the positive banter.
Instead of flaming the person who's doing poorly, give him/her some tips, encourage him/her to
not give up and play his/her best despite a bad start.
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Facing adverse situations, players sought to lend emotional support and spread positivity
through emotional communication (e.g., “positive banter” and “encourage”). The player noticed
the actual effects of their emotional communication.
Emotional communication also matters when players themselves are the cause of adverse
situations. A player admitted:
Don’t need to apologize excessively. Just type “shit mb” will probably do and make your
teammates much less tilted. They won’t be angry at someone who genuinely apologizes and just
tries their best to win the game.
Negative team emotions, where the whole team is experiencing negative emotions, are
among the most challenging situations in League of Legends. In these situations, emotional
leadership becomes most evident where certain players could stand up and lead their team. A
player wrote:
When winning, I try to not talk or do the bare minimum. When losing, I try to encourage
everyone to change the objective of the game from "winning" to "pissing them off one last time".
This alleviated the tension in most cases and sometimes I've even seen my team come back from the
The player in this example demonstrated how emotional leadership rose to an impactful role
when necessary, to take care of the negative team emotions. The actual emotion regulation
strategy that the player brought up is attentional deployment. The actual work the player needed
to do involved overcoming their own negative emotions, identifying plausible strategies, and
articulating them in team communication. In a similar manner, another player described a
match where they were able to lead:
I just finished a game, where a guy lost his shit and left the game, because he was mad,
triggered, spammed ff, etc. Guess what? WE WON THE GAME 4v5. The game was odd, because we
had some spicy picks, and some situations were wacky, mostly in decision making. But i just asked
my teammates to follow my lead, and we won.
Emotional leadership also entails strategically impacting opponent teamsemotions. In fierce
competition, competing teams could strive to bring down the opponent team’s morale. Inter-
team emotional communication is used to induce negative emotions within the opponent team.
A player explained:
I think of it more of a mental battle. Team with more mental frustration usually implodes.
Thus, experienced players can capitalize on their knowledge about team emotions and cause
frustrations within their opponents, similar to teasing and taunting in physical sports like
basketball or soccer. Another player highlighted how they usually performed this strategy:
As a form of psychological warfare on the opponent, I’d trash talk the opponent before the
match. Like, I could tease the opponent if he has a low win rate on his champion.
In doing so, the player employed the situation modification strategy, to bring in emotive
factors into the situation of the opponent player.
We reported emotion regulation (ER) in the competitive gaming context of League of Legends,
detailing players’ concrete ER strategies and situating ER in competitive gameplay. The emotive
factors are triggers of players’ emotional experiences. Cognition and emotion are related but
distinct mental processes [59]. Emotions can occur beneath the consciousness level (cognitive
process), so it is not always easy for a player to identify and articulate their experienced
emotions. The awareness of emotions allows one to utilize ER strategies.
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We pointed to commonalities and differences between LoL players’ ER strategies and those
in physical sports [56]. Mostly, LoL players’ ER strategies include not only the five key
strategies proposed by Gross [30], but also social interaction. Different from athletes who
usually belong to a small group of people with similar interest, LoL players enjoy emotional
support from a much broader community with shared interests and similar emotional
experiences. The five ER strategies are defined by psychologists based on the five distinct
mental stages of emotional development, from a situation triggering emotion to an emotional
expression. However, we found that the actual ER actions that players perform could be a mix
of several ER strategies. For example, upon encountering a toxic player, a player could try mute
the toxic teammate (situation modification) and focus on a new in-game goal (attentional
deployment). The mixes of ER strategies are best understood in terms of their orientations: self
or others. When one utilizes their cognitive efforts inwards, they take care of their own
emotions (emotional self-care). When one utilizes their cognitive efforts outwards, they seek to
manage other people’s emotions (emotional leadership). Based on these findings, we discuss a
situated understanding of emotion regulation, how digital technologies mediate emotion
regulation in LoL, as well as how emotion regulation constitutes an important expertise in
eSports gaming.
6.1 A Situated Understanding of Emotion Regulation
We started the paper from a psychological interpretation of ER, drawing from rich sport
psychology literature on athletes’ ER strategies (e.g., [32,52]). Yet the empirical evidence has
amounted to a situated understanding of ER. We consider ER as practice, drawing from the
practice lens [53]. ER practices are socially situated in the context of LoL players perform ER
not in a vacuum, but in networks of people and technologies. A wide range of human and non-
human actors could be emotive. For instance, our findings showed players’ emotional reactions
to their teammates’ performances, the game platform’s content, as well as the community.
Sport psychologists have discussed whether to study emotion and emotion regulation
together or separately in physical sport [66]. Our research suggests that emotion and emotion
regulation are intricately connected at multiple cognitive, physiological, and affective levels.
Disentangling and delineating each’s realm would be conceptually and methodologically
challenging. First, when study participants report their emotional experiences in either
interview or online data, they are already employing emotion regulation strategies (response
modulation). Second, Emotion and emotion regulation are closely intertwined. For instance, one
player’s negative emotion could spread to a teammate; A second teammate might try ER
strategies, which could either worsen the negative emotion and subsequently frustrate the
second teammate, or mitigate the situation and restore the team emotion.
Emotion and emotion regulation do not necessarily have negative connotations. Isbister
already argued that games do not lead to emotionally numb and antisocial gamers and can
evoke strong, positive emotions [41]. We similarly reject the simplistic assumption that
competitive gaming makes players angry who become more likely to inflict violence, online and
offline. Rather, we see regulation as a neutral verb, meaning to exert agency and conscious
efforts to manage emotions. First, negative emotions can have benefits. For example, we showed
how players acknowledge the learning opportunity yielded by competition as they exercise
emotional self-care. Second, emotional support, a form of emotion regulation, seeks to promote
positive emotions or reduce negative emotions among others. This is why players devised social
interaction for emotion self-regulation. Third, negative emotions can be beneficial in building
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teamwork. Several players mentioned that they would step in and play a leadership role only
when their teams experienced negative emotions. Similar phenomena were also reported in
physical sports [24].
Different from previous CSCW research that has focused primarily on long-term teams such
as guilds in World of Warcraft [4,6], our study is about the socio-emotional dimension of
temporary teams. Temporary teams are rich in both social interactions [47] and emotional
interactions. Our findings included how players developed emotions from their interactions
with the game, expressed emotions through their social interactions, and sought to manage
emotions in social interactions.
Additionally, we showed that the temporary team setting yields unique emotional challenges
to players. On the one hand, they encounter and struggle to manage negative emotions such as
anxiety and frustration induced by the lack of common ground with strangers. On the other
hand, players might need to carry out extra emotional work to manage their teammates’ and
opponents’ emotions. Compared to emotional leadership in long-term teams [4], emotional
leadership in temporary teams is emergent because there are no designated leaders, and has
unreliable effect because players can attempt but cannot reliably predict strangers’ reactions.
6.2 Technology-Mediated Emotion Regulation
Extending previous research exploring emotions evoked by games [3,9,41], we argue that
eSports gaming technologies offer categorically richer emotional experiences than physical
sports: People can experience emotions related to socializing, teamwork, coordination, and
communication, similar to physical sports. In addition, game design as an emotive factor in our
findings could also evoke player emotions that is rare in physical sports that have consistent
rules. In addition, we showed that the massive player community allows players to share
positive emotions, such as LoL players sharing positive emotional experiences on the subreddit.
The player community also offers emotional support to players who experience negative
emotions, as demonstrated by our findings.
The team-based competitive setting of eSports gaming gives rise to deliberate ER actions
upon teammates and opponents that are implausible in physical sports. In physical sports, the
physical proximity allows players to easily sense or observe their opponents’ emotions or their
opponent team’s emotion regulation activities [55]. In LoL, emotional expressions are
technologically mediated, and players can make conscious choices about whether to reveal
emotions to others. Our findings showed that players preferred to use Team Chat to resolve
intrateam conflicts, as using All Chat would expose such information to the opponents. On the
other hand, they use All Chat and Emote to evoke negative emotions on their teammates. The
term used by one player, “psychological warfare,” highlights the value of emotion-related
information in the intense competition of LoL. This goes both ways: on the one hand, players
desire more information about their opponents’ emotions; on the other hand, they try to conceal
their own emotions to the opponents.
The communication channels in LoL support the core mechanism of ER leveraging
cognitive processes to reign over emotions. Players rely on those communication channels to
carry out ER work. Our findings showed numerous instances where players used text-based
chats or emotes for emotional expression with their teammates and opponents. They must
control their own negative emotions (if any) and verbalize reasonable and convincing points
that can persuade emotionally affected teammates, to create a “positive atmosphere” [47]. All
these efforts require players’ cognitive processes in analyzing and framing the situation and
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creating a narrative that is acceptable to emotionally affected teammates. Our findings included
instances where a player wanted to redirect the attention of their emotionally affected
However, existing design support for emotion regulation is limited. LoL offers limited ways
for players to either share their positive emotions or control their negative emotions. At the
individual level, many players’ ER practices revolve around disengagement, similar to how
players cope with streakiness in LoL [50]. Our study showed that when they experienced stress
and burnout related to the competitiveness of the game, they disengaged from the game,
frequently by taking a break. When they encountered a toxic teammate/opponent/team, they
disengaged from communicating with them.
At the team level, ER relies on emergent emotional leadership. The current technological
solution of letting players to completely cut off communication may have ramifications (i.e., the
mute option). Consequently, current design solution to this emotional challenge is at the
expense of sociality. Technologies for opponent emotion regulation present another
conundrum: On the one hand, the game design of LoL needs to do more to support ER and
especially positive emotions. On the other hand, any ER technologies such as emote could be
strategized by players to induce or exacerbate negative emotions among their opponents. A
balance between these two ends remains challenging.
6.3 Emotion Regulation Expertise in eSports Gaming
Previous game research has found two forms of expertise in LoL: 1) Mechanics that denotes
how players physically interact with game mechanics such as maneuvering keyboard and
mouse together; and 2) Metagame that denotes general knowledge about in-game strategies,
game updates, and teamwork [16]. Our study points to emotion regulation as a third form of
expertise that has been understudied. Our findings have already showed the importance that
players have attached to emotion regulation. Because intense competition is associated with
intense emotional experiences which in turn affects player performance, players have the need
to acquire more skills and knowledge in regulate emotions in the eSports gaming context. Many
of the player quotes mentioned how they ought to learn ways to regulate their emotions.
ER expertise’s emphasis on emotion differs from mechanics’ focus on physicality and
metagame’s focus on cognition. But ER expertise is also linked to players’ mechanics and
metagame expertise. First, emotions are associated with player mechanics. Sport psychologists
already demonstrated that athletes’ emotions are correlated with their performances [44]. This
is also echoed in our findings, such as player discussions of tilt. Second, as cognitive processes
take control of emotions, players’ accumulated knowledge about emotion and ER could become
new forms of metagame expertise. For example, if a majority of players agreed that it is
important to initiate early, positive communication, such action would become part of the
metagame knowledge.
Like physical sports where inexperienced athletes struggle to regulate their emotions [75],
LoL players also need to cope with negative emotions caused by in-game failures and
frustrations. Different from prior work that stressed how game design can evoke player
emotions [41], our work showed that players are not passive consumers of emotional content,
and possess agency in recognizing their own emotions and developing expertise in ER. ER
expertise is learnable. Our findings showed how LoL players gradually acquire ER expertise
through their engagement in ER practices, so that they become better at recognizing the
emotions that they are experiencing, as well as recognizing and managing the emotions their
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teammates are experiencing. Gamers’ learning of mechanics and metagame involves locating
learning resources such as online guidelines and tutorials and a community [16,17]. This also
holds true for learning ER expertise. For instance, LoL players visit online venues such as the
‘/r/leagueoflegends’ subreddit to share emotional experiences and seek ER suggestions.
6.4 Design Implications for Emotion Regulation Technologies
LoL players make use of both verbal and nonverbal communication channels to perform
situation modification. This suggests rich design opportunities for supporting ER. In a
technological context, there are various ways people might be able to communicate with each
other. Even simple action could be used to communicate a message to other people. Therefore, it
is first important to be mindful of the emotional consequences of interaction and action. Second,
in line with channel expansion theory [13], diverse communication channels could be designed
to allow rich emotional communication. For instance, visual forms of communication such as
emoji, emoticon, and meme have already become prevalent on social media [76,85]. These
strategies could be considered in the eSports gaming or virtual team contexts.
Digital platforms like LoL could also consider ways of fostering newcomer socialization,
especially in terms of emotion regulation. For instance, specialized social venues could be
designed to allow players to share emotional experiences, seek emotional support, and learn
emotion regulation skills. Currently LoL players could also come to the subreddit, a third-party
online community, to seek such help.
We also resonate with Costa et al.’s suggestion that technologies could help people reflect
about their emotional experiences by providing feedback [15]. Right now, the game client does
not detect or document player emotions. The designers could consider mechanisms that could
detect emotional languages used by players, and provide in-time interventions.
Lastly, we consider distributed emotion regulation. We found many interpersonal ER
strategies, but almost all of them were initiated and managed by players individually instead of
collectively. For instance, players mentioned how they themselves needed to exert efforts to
calm other teammate(s). This points to opportunities of considering what are the ways of
enabling distributed emotion regulation, where technology could help two or more players
could work together to manage emotions. A first step is to reframe the interpersonal ER
strategies we discovered in collaborative terms. For example, a collaborative way of warming up
the communication atmosphere is to design humorous messages at the beginning of a match to
uplift the team emotion and possibly engage the team in chatting before the match becomes
intense. A collaborative way of verbalizing strategic goal is to provide strategic suggestions at
critical moments in a match to facilitate a team to refocus.
Drawing from the sport psychology research on emotion regulation while considering the
unique context of eSports gaming, we reported LoL players’ rich emotional experiences and
emotion regulation practices in the eSports gaming context. eSports gaming engenders intense
competition and subsequently intense emotional experiences. We call for a situated
understanding of emotional regulation that differs from the traditional psychological
Much more research should be done to understand eSports game players’ emotions and
emotional wellbeing. For instance, technical approaches such as computational linguistics could
be employed to understand the linguistic patterns of emotional expressions in the subreddit, as
Proceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction, Vol. 4, No. CSCW2, Article 158, Publication date: October 2020.
well as how those linguistic patterns are related to our findings. The situations and emotion
regulation strategies in LoL could be examined in other eSports games such as DOTA 2 and CS:
GO to cross-compare findings and yield more generalizable results. Novel technologies such as
wearable devices with sensors could be used to detect eSports players’ physiological responses
and correlate them with their emotional responses, or to facilitate their reflections on their
emotional experiences. Large scale, longitudinal studies could be deployed to understand
eSports game players’ emotional developments, identifying general patterns of community
Many thanks to the anonymous reviewers for their insightful and constructive feedback.
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Received January 2020; revised June 2020; accepted July 2020
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... Therefore, differences in stressors, perceived stress responses and coping strategies between LoL and CS:GO can be expected. In comparison to previous studies (Poulus et al., 2020;Smith et al., 2019;Kou & Gui, 2020), this present study will focus on both emotional responses and perceived stress responses (i.e., psychological, physical, and behavioral responses to stressors). Therefore, the main aim of this present qualitative study is to provide new insights into stressors experienced by professional LoL players, perceived stress responses and coping strategies. ...
... Similar coping strategies were also reported in previous studies with esports players (LoL: Kou & Gui, 2020;CS:GO: Smith et al., 2019) such as communication and focusing on game play. In addition, both professional LoL players and CS:GO players in Smith et al.'s (2019) study seem to apply avoidance coping strategies (e.g., not playing aggressively) during competition. ...
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... Imagery training may improve athletic performance and help fin swimming athletes achieve positive results. Although many studies have applied imagery training to other sports and investigated its effectiveness for improvement in sports medicine [19,29], sports performance [20,30], and psychological aspects [26,[30][31][32][33], most studies in the field of fin swimming have only investigated sports physiology [11], psychology [5], exercise dynamics [3,7,11], and sports behavior [2]. Therefore, to address this research gap, the present study analyzed the effects of imagery training on the imagery ability, physical anxiety, and sports performance of individual fin swimmers during the competition and its effectiveness for optimizing fin swimming performance and achieving the goal of the internationalization of fin swimming. ...
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... While they highlight several challenges in designing chatbots, their results provide initial evidence that chatbots could support ER at a team level. Taking a more reflective approach, Kou and Gui (2020) analysed forum posts of a popular competitive online game and mapped player utterances to ER strategies. Their results indicate that it is not just the gameplay that affects players' emotions but, in particular, their cooperation with teammates. ...
Technology plays an increasingly prominent role in emotional lives. Researchers have begun to study how people use devices to cope with and shape emotions: a phenomenon that has been called Digital Emotion Regulation. We report a study of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic upon young people's digital habits and emotion regulation behaviors. We conducted a two-wave longitudinal survey, collecting data from 154 university students both before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. During the pandemic, participants were subject to increased emotional distress as well as restrictions on movement and social interaction. We present evidence that participants' emotion regulation strategies changed and became more homogeneous during the pandemic, with participants resorting to digital tools when offline strategies were less available, while also becoming more emotionally dependent upon their devices. This study underscores the growing significance of the digital for contemporary emotional experience, and contributes to understanding the potential role for technology in supporting well-being during high-impact events.
... Vitamin E has antioxidant activities [108] that exert a positive influence on cognitive functions [209,210]. Thus, the diets of e-athletes should be rich in vitamin E due to stress, which is a common factor among athletes. Research results indicate that low vitamin E concentrations in the elderly reduce memory performance [109], but another study did not show a significant effect of vitamin E on the cognitive functions of middle-aged and elderly people [99]. ...
Factors influencing brain function and cognitive performance can be critical to athletic performance of esports athletes. This review aims to discuss the potential beneficial effects of micronutrients, i.e., vitamins, minerals and biologically active substances on cognitive functions of e-athletes. Minerals (iodine, zinc, iron, magnesium) and vitamins (B vitamins, vitamins E, D, and C) are significant factors that positively influence cognitive functions. Prevention of deficiencies of the listed ingredients and regular examinations can support cognitive processes. The beneficial effects of caffeine, creatine, and probiotics have been documented so far. There are many plant products, herbal extracts, or phytonutrients that have been shown to affect precognitive activity, but more research is needed. Beetroot juice and nootropics can also be essential nutrients for cognitive performance. For the sake of players' eyesight, it would be useful to use lutein, which, in addition to improving vision and protecting against eye diseases, can also affect cognitive functions. In supporting the physical and mental abilities of e-athletes the base is a well-balanced diet with adequate hydration. There is a lack of sufficient evidence that has investigated the relationship between dietary effects and improved performance in esports. Therefore, there is a need for randomized controlled trials involving esports players.
Emotion dysregulation in early childhood is known to be associated with a higher risk of several psychopathological conditions, such as ADHD and mood and anxiety disorders. In developmental neuroscience research, emotion dysregulation is characterized by low neural activation in the prefrontal cortex during frustration. In this work, we report on an exploratory study with 94 participants aged 3.5 to 5 years, investigating whether behavioral measures automatically extracted from facial videos can predict frustration-related neural activation and differentiate between low- and high-risk individuals. We propose a novel multi-scale instance fusion framework to develop EarlyScreen - a set of classifiers trained on behavioral markers during emotion regulation. Our model successfully predicts activation levels in the prefrontal cortex with an area under the receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve of 0.85, which is on par with widely-used clinical assessment tools. Further, we classify clinical and non-clinical subjects based on their psychopathological risk with an area under the ROC curve of 0.80. Our model's predictions are consistent with standardized psychometric assessment scales, supporting its applicability as a screening procedure for emotion regulation-related psychopathological disorders. To the best of our knowledge, EarlyScreen is the first work to use automatically extracted behavioral features to characterize both neural activity and the diagnostic status of emotion regulation-related disorders in young children. We present insights from mental health professionals supporting the utility of EarlyScreen and discuss considerations for its subsequent deployment.
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Driven by the need to inform evidence-based intervention strategies for performance and health promotion in esports, this thesis aimed to provide a starting point for future research on esports and, in particular, psychophysiological stress in esports. To this end, this work began by addressing why and how sport and exercise psychology could research esports. Following this, a systematic review of the literature on stress in non-competitive and competitive esports was performed. The results indicated that playing esports in competitive settings–in contrast to non-competitive settings–seems to be related to psychophysiological stress responses, and also highlighted a number of theoretical and methodological limitations with research in this area. To build on this initial understanding of stress in esports, a qualitative study was conducted that explored the subjective experiences of professional players. Here, a variety of stressors, perceived stress responses, and coping strategies were identified. To complete the work, a different perspective and approach was taken, using an online questionnaire to investigate perceived performance factors and stress management strategies utilized by sport psychologists and performance coaches in esports. Overall, this work provided a number of implications for future research and applied practice that are addressed in this thesis.
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Videogames evoke emotions that have implications for in-game performance and enjoyment. However, no measure currently exists to assess discrete emotions in videogame contexts with evidence of validity. The current study tested the factorial and construct validity of responses obtained with a modified version of the Discrete Emotions Questionnaire (DEQ, Harmon-Jones et al., 2016) and tested measurement invariance across player-versus-player-oriented and player-versus-environment-oriented videogame types (DEQ-VG). To ensure the factor structure held across both positive and negative emotional experiences, a total of 2994 participants were asked to recall one positive and one negative emotional experience stemming from a videogame they had recently played and completed the DEQ-VG in reference to each recalled experience. Separate confirmatory factor analyses were conducted for the two recalled emotional events to assess factorial validity. Construct validity was assessed by comparing DEQ-VG scores between positive and negative emotional events. The results supported a 9-factor solution (anger, happiness, fear, excitement, sadness, relaxation, desire, anxiety, and awe), and the responses were invariant across game types. Construct validity was demonstrated by the DEQ-VG scores significantly differing in the expected directions between positive and negative events. These findings support the usefulness of the DEQ-VG for assessing discrete emotions stemming from videogame experiences.
This study investigates placebos and video games’ usefulness as psychological research tools. One proposed underlying mechanism of the placebo effect is participants’ expectations. Such expectation effects exist in sports psychology and healthcare domains, but inconsistent findings have emerged on whether similar effects impact a participants’ cognitive performance. Concurrently, using video games as task environments is an emerging methodology relating to expertise and large-scale behavioral data collection. Therefore, this study examines the expectancy effect induced by researcher instructions on in-game performance. The instructional expectancy condition for this study is in-game successes framed using emoting (e.g., emoting under the pretense of subsequent performance increases) versus a control group. Preliminary results showed no evidence of different in-game performance between expectancy conditions. Potential mechanisms that could have led to a lack of effect were discussed.
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LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) individuals are at significantly higher risk for mental health challenges than the general population. Social media and online communities provide avenues for LGBTQ+ individuals to have safe, candid, semi-anonymous discussions about their struggles and experiences. We study minority stress through the language of disclosures and self-experiences on the r/lgbt Reddit community. Drawing on Meyer's minority stress theory, and adopting a combined qualitative and computational approach, we make three primary contributions, 1) a theoretically grounded codebook to identify minority stressors across three types of minority stress-prejudice events, perceived stigma, and internalized LGBTphobia, 2) a machine learning classifier to scalably identify social media posts describing minority stress experiences, that achieves an AUC of 0.80, and 3) a lexicon of linguistic markers, along with their contextualization in the minority stress theory. Our results bear implications to influence public health policy and contribute to improving knowledge relating to the mental health disparities of LGBTQ+ populations. We also discuss the potential of our approach to enable designing online tools sensitive to the needs of LGBTQ+ individuals.
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Researchers have examined some of the psychological aspects of competing at a high level in esports. The present study aims to build on this literature by examining the various stressors faced and the associated coping strategies employed by seven esports competitors. The interviews were inductively analysed, and the findings illustrated a range of internal (e.g., communication issues, lack of shared team goals) and external (e.g., event audience, media interviews) stressors that the participants faced. Following this, the coping strategies used to deal with these stressors were deductively analysed. A number of emotion- (e.g., breathing, relaxation), problem- (e.g., intra-team communication after matches), and approach- (e.g., team camps, delegating roles) coping strategies were described by participants. Avoidance coping strategies were predominantly highlighted as being used during games. Results are considered in line with how applied practitioners might support players to develop strategies to deal with stressors, which might in turn lead to performance enhancements.
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Quantification is a process that produces and communicates numbers, imbued with the expectation of generating knowledge and optimizing human behavior and social process. In this paper, we explore how quantification mediates virtual teamwork through an ethnographic study of quantification in League of Legends, a popular team-based online game with a highly competitive culture. In the game, rich statistics about each individual player's gaming history and performance are publicly available, analyzed and displayed on numerous third-party sites. We describe how players were entangled with numbers. They derived knowledge from numbers but struggled with proper ways of interpretation. They utilized numbers to quantify teammates and opponents, but in-game tensions and conflicts easily ensued. They noticed how quantification became burdensome and stressed the importance of proper use. We discuss how this case of quantified self and others manifests complex relationships between self-knowledge, numerical authority, and virtual teamwork. 1
As the process of creating and sharing data about ourselves becomes more prevalent, researchers have access to increasingly rich data about human behavior. Framed as a fictional paper published at some point in the not-so-distant future, this design fiction draws from current inquiry and debate into the ethics of using public data for research, and speculatively extends this conversation into even more robust and more personal data that could exist when we design new technologies in the future. By looking to how the precedents of today might impact the practices of tomorrow, we can consider how we might design policies, ethical guidelines, and technologies that are forward-thinking.
The subreddit r/RoastMe presents an intriguing case of how alternative norms can emerge in subversive online communities, allowing behaviours conventionally condemned as inappropriate to be reframed as acceptable. In this community, users post photos of themselves with the explicit expectation of being mocked or ridiculed by others. This mixed-methods, within-subjects experiment explores the influence of three factors that allow negative comments to be framed as acceptable and appropriate within RoastMe: humour, a mean (but funny) normative tone, and explicit articulation of these norms. 117 participants read, rated and reported their intended responses to humorous and non-humorous comments presented as being from RoastMe (explicitly mean but funny), ToastMe (explicitly positive), and two fictionalised communities where the normative tone was not explicitly defined (the mean but funny RateMe, and the positive DescribeMe). Results indicated clear interaction effects between community tone and norm explicitness, whereby comments from RoastMe were consistently rated and responded to most positively, and separate effects of humour on comment ratings and responses. Individual-level moral disengagement appeared central in allowing participants to excuse negative comments in humorous or permissive contexts. Consistent with benign violation theory, the explicitly negative tone of RoastMe was seen to create a shared understanding that users posting photos would expect and not be harmed by comments, allowing participants to reframe interactions as safe, acceptable and funny.
Conference Paper
An ongoing challenge within the diverse HCI and social computing research communities is understanding research ethics in the face of evolving technology and methods. Building upon successful town hall meetings at CHI 2018, GROUP 2018 and CSCW 2018, this panel will be structured to facilitate audience discussion and to collect input about current challenges and processes. It will be led by members of the ACM SIGCHI Research Ethics Committee. We will pose open questions and invite audience discussion of practices centered on recent "hot topic" issues. For this year's town hall, the primary focus will be on paths to balancing the often-competing regulatory frameworks under which we operate (some of which having recently undergone significant revisions) with our community's efforts to reveal ethical challenges posed by new interactive technologies and new contexts of use. We will engage the audience in discussions on whether there is a non-colonial role for ethics education within the broad HCI community, how that may capture the cultural and disciplinary differences that are woven into CHI's fabric, and how research ethical issues should be handled in SIGCHI paper submission and review process.
Objective People often feel anxious prior to performance situations, and this can lead to performance decrements. Thus, applying effective emotion regulation strategies could be crucial for achieving maximum performance. Method We investigated the relation between dispositional precompetition emotion regulation and competition performance. Participants were 310 table tennis players (240 men, Mage = 39.07, SD = 15.99). Self‐reported emotion regulation behavior was matched with objective performance data. Results We found that positive cognitive change strategies were positively related and negative cognitive change strategies were negatively related to winning in competitions. Furthermore, athletes with a higher performance status more often used situation modification, positive cognitive change, and response modulation strategies. Conclusions Our findings contribute to personality research by providing evidence for the (non)effectiveness of certain emotion regulation strategies. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
While video games provide different Player Experiences (PE), some genres can provide particularly unique PEs driven by their particular features. Such is the case of MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) games, currently led in number of players and popularity by League of Legends. In spite of this popularity, PE in MOBA games remains largely unexplored. We aim to explore this gap by presenting a PE study that focuses in League of Legends and its player base. After surveying more than 400 players in the database of the largest eSports organisation in Spain, a series of tests were run from multiple perspectives using the PENS (Player Experience of Need Satisfaction) model and the SPGQ (Social Presence in Gaming Questionnaire) as response variables. Among our findings, we show how PE differs across different levels of competence (or rank) inside the game. When looking at how team play impact PE, results show how PENS dimensions remain unaffected while empathy is driven by playing with known teammates. Role selection, on the other hand, has an arguably insignificant impact in PE. Last but not least, an invariant behavioural engagement across all dimensions shows how players perceive team collaboration as an essential factor for success.