Category Archives for Features

Frag at Attention: How Gaming Affects your Visual Awareness

Video games have been increasing your brain's awareness skill this whole time. 

When we’re sitting in class, behind the wheel, or on our phones, our brain is constantly prioritizing the importance of the sights, smells, sounds, tastes and physical feelings of everything that surrounds us. I like to think the information surrounding us is separated into high priority info, low priority info, and no priority info. 

This prioritization happens in your amygdala, a part of your brain responsible for taking in incoming sensory information picked up by your body and its senses. With almost no conscious effort on your part, your amygdala will send signals to your brain telling it how to react (physically or emotionally) to what it detects. Your brain even has built in filters for these high priority items. These filters allow you to notice the high priority items in your environment with almost superhuman ability.

Ever notice how you can hear your name in a crowded room among 20 people murmuring their own conversations? When driving, your brain might sort priorities something like this:

  • Cars on road: High priority
  • Speed odometer: Medium priority
  • Open sign in cafe window: Low priority.

In fact you might not even notice there’s a diner there at all it’s so low. All of these things; the diner, the road, the cars, the odometer, the radio, the street signs, they’re all included in your visual spectrum, but it’s left up to your brain to process how important each one is. This priority order can be altered by things like your mental and physical state, and by new developments and unforeseen additions, like a car that pulls out of a hidden driveway.

Our mental capacity to respond to new distractions and objects, track multiple objects, manage multiple tasks, and be fully aware of our surroundings promotes success in professional, educational, and social environments. Video games not only allow for practicing these skills, they allow us to do so collaboratively, individually, and at difficulty levels suited to the user. But of all the genres, one arena seems to excel at this particular sort of brain development.

In 2010, scientists from the Dept. of Brain & Cognitive Sciences at the University of Rochester, and from the Dept. of Psychology at the University of Minnesota, released a focus article through WIREs Cognitive Science, titled Stretching the limits of visual attention: the case of action video games. They sought to determine if those who habitually played action video games outperformed those who didn’t regarding the gamer’s visual attention capabilities, and if so, to what extent.

Similar to how a driver must pay attention to multiple visual elements while on the road, a gamer must be able to do the same while playing. A player must monitor his character’s surroundings, including enemies and allies, hindrances and boons, dangers, and anything else lurking in the shadows.

Researchers tested those who habitually played action video games versus those who don’t in the Useful Field of View task and the Swimmer task, two tests used to determine how well an individual could search for and find a specific visual element amongst a spectrum of several elements. Think of it as surveying a dance floor of people while trying to find one or two people doing a specific move. In both tasks, action video game players were able to find their targets faster even during tests that featured a higher number of distractors.

Action video gamers appear highly adept at multiple object tracking. Some of the best CS:GO, LoL, and CoD pros demonstrate incredible skill in their ability to tend to multiple objects and interactions at a time while still maintaining a high awareness for other visual elements. Tests revealed that once again, those who habitually play action video games performed better at multiple object tracking tasks, scoring higher in the amount of objects tracked, and in effectiveness of tracking.

The researchers went on to discuss the effectiveness of higher amounts of attentional resources. The perceptual load theory of attention, explained in this University College Dept. of Psychology paper, suggests that those with a higher amount of additional resources have more available to respond to stimuli. That is to say they have higher resources available in addition to what the subject is already focused on. This means you can divert more of your attention to other objects in your visual spectrum without sacrificing attention to your primary objective.

This research is interesting in that it suggests gamers of all genres tested with higher attentional resources than individuals who do not game, with gamers in the action genre scoring the highest marks. If you think of humans as computers, it’s essentially saying that gamers, in general, have better processors. This begs the question: Do these games train their users to develop these skills, or are people who are naturally more skilled at this sort of object tracking drawn to this genre of game? While the answer may very well be ‘both’, we’d love to see future research shed light on subjects like these and more.

Could your gaming habits help you discover skills and cognitive abilities that could help you in the real world? With a bit of self reflection and awareness, we’re betting they just might. That’s something we’re interested in here at Dvsion: understanding how games influence us at a deep level and making the most of it in the real world, in our real lives. With the effect of enhanced visual attention from habitual gaming aiding you, you’re more apt to succeed in the workplace and classroom settings, and could potentially be more equipped to handle specialized jobs that necessitate higher levels of awareness and responsiveness.

This is important to take away: don’t think of gaming as the one and only augment to your attention and awareness, and with that, we leave you with an excerpt straight from the conclusion of the article:

Video games should not be thought of as an elixir for all aspects of mental function, but their effects could be useful not only in themselves,...but also as a research tool for identifying the extent to which neural mechanisms governing different cognitive skills are malleable.

Hubert-Wallander, Green, and Bavalier

University of Rochester, University of Minnesota


Scott has been writing about video games for over four years, specializing in news and features regarding esports for the past two and a half. He's written for organizations such as Ninjas in Pyjamas, PGL, E-Frag, and Splyce. He joined Dvsion to help create a service and community that rewards fair play and helps the players grow in more ways than just their in-game play.

Cinematic Mode: The Best Shows and Short Films about Esports

A collection of some of the best shows and short films to grace the big and small screens.

As I emptied the contents of my french press into my mug, I rifled through my esports multireddit. A few things caught my eye: rumors of Hiko not remaining with OpTic’s CS:GO roster, another amazing stream highlight from RTZ, and some very unsettling Overwatch fan art. I dived into the /r/esports subreddit for something good, and I came across an interesting post in the Discussion tab: a presentation from PodCamp: Toronto titled “why esports needs more storytellers.” In the video, Drekken Pownz (yes that’s his real name) of ESChamp discussed the importance of storytelling when it comes to the development and promotion of esports.

I couldn’t help but agree with what he was saying: I think narrative more than anything including production quality or star power drives people to tune into major tournaments and big events. In many examples of film, esports content has been brought to screens both big and small through a combination of all three, with some instances shining brighter than others.

Free to Play: A Documentary

The Valve-produced documentary highlights the first iteration of the Dota 2 International Championships, a tournament that was a landmark for esports events in terms of event scale and prize pool size. The film follows three professional players as they prepare for the upcoming tournament: Dendi, Fear, and Hyhy.

The central theme of Free to Play is development, both professionally and personally. But it doesn’t just show how Dota itself has evolved from a Warcraft mod to a stand-alone game backed by an massive developer, or how the tournament scene developed from basements and classrooms to convention halls and then finally to arenas. It focuses on the development of its protagonists: the three pro players, and their growth as players and people. We watch our heroes, and the not the ones we pick from the champion pool, overcome doubts and obstacles en route towards finding success at the International.

What this accomplishes as a film is the ability to show that esports players are more than just a username with a lot of skill associated with it. Their strengths and weaknesses are not solely tied to their ability to play Dota, but how they use Dota to improve the parts of their lives that don’t involve sitting in front of a keyboard. On top of that, Free to Play demonstrates the strides esports in general had made around this time that it was beginning to surge, serving as a great example of industry growth. While the film may not be the best way to learn about how Dota 2 is played, it’s one of the best ways to show how players live through playing.

TSM: Legends

It was tough to narrow down a top choice out of the multiple self-produced documentary series that esports organizations have been churning out like butter over the past couple years, but I went with TSM: Legends because of my familiarity with it and how deep the show runs.

TSM: Legends brings us inside the huddle and the house of Team SoloMid, an organization that has helped define the North American LCS landscape. Legends allowed the viewers to have an inside look at life inside a gaming house, an idea that has now become a staple of most organizations for a handful of esports scenes. We got to watch the boys in black & white travel from regular season games to LCS championships, from Korean BBQ down the road to Korean bootcamps across the globe.

But the success and intrigue of Legends lies with how the series highlights the members of TSM as human beings first, and players second. Legends gave us a glimpse into the dynamics of the team, focusing on how new players and coaches react to their environment, and how Regi himself interacts with each group. The focus is not so much on how the players interact when they’re playing together, but how they form friendships off the stage and how that companionship creates a better environment. The series follows the members of the team from the house to the practice room to the main stage, and is shot excellently with a high production value. The series is currently in its third season, and just like TSM’s dominance in the standings, there’s no end in sight.

The King's Avatar (in production)

While not expected to release until later this year, the expectations for The King’s Avatar, or Master of Skill, are so great that it earns a spot on this list. The King’s Avatar is based off a manga of the same name, written by Chinese writer Butterfly Blue. The series follows Ye Xiu, a 10-year veteran of the popular MOBA Glory, with its own thriving competitive series similar to League of Legends. After Xiu is forcibly removed from the captain’s position and starting lineup spot of the roster Excellent Era, he asks that his contract be terminated rather than stay on as a substitute. He finds work at an internet cafe as a night-shift network manager, but vows to return to the scene to reclaim his spot as the best player.

The anime will be produced by Chinese mega media corporation Tencent, and it doesn’t take a lot of research to see why they’re set on doing so. Tencent also owns Riot Games, the developer of League of Legends, and it’s safe to say that the explosive growth of the LoL competitive scene is an indicator that The King’s Avatar will be received well. Based on the story and animation trailers that have come out so far, the series will be split between animating the interactions between characters, as well as highly-choreographed fight scenes that will represent Glory gameplay.

With eight volumes and hundreds of chapters of literature and story, the show will certainly not lack in source material, and the production value looks sky high. With the success of sports-themed anime such as Yuri!!! On ICE and Kuroko no Basket, an esports themed show was due, and if The King’s Avatar can deliver like these other shows have in terms of interesting characters and moving narratives, than its inaugural season will surely be the first of many.

Image credits: TSM, Tencent, Valve


Scott has been writing about video games for over four years, specializing in news and features regarding esports for the past two and a half. He's written for organizations such as Ninjas in Pyjamas, PGL, E-Frag, and Splyce. He joined Dvsion to help create a service and community that rewards fair play and helps the players grow in more ways than just their in-game play.

First Blood: MOBAs That Tried to Compete and Died

LoL and Dota have ascended to the top of the MOBA mountain. Some games never made it out of base camp.

When you logon to Twitch and sort by games, you almost always see at least two MOBAs in the top five. The origins of the Multiplayer Online Battle Arena game began with a mod of Blizzard’s real-time strategy game Warcraft III, called Defense of the Ancients. Taking the heroic characters from the Warcraft universe and dropping them into a three-lane 5v5 arena, the original Dota was received exceedingly well by Warcraft players, and was already featured in gaming tournaments less than two years after its release.

Since then, the MOBA genre has grown to unimaginable heights, with the most successful versions being being Dota 2, developed by Valve after Blizzard sold them the rights, and League of Legends, developed by Riot Games. The two stand near the top of list of the most influential gaming titles, having spawned many spiritual successors and imitators.

While Dota and LoL stand at the top, other MOBA titles have had measures of success as well, with most finding a niche that helps it stand out amongst the others. This list includes SMITE, a third-person variant with playable gods, goddesses, and mythical creatures, Awesomenauts, a 2D platforming take on the MOBA, and Heroes of the Storm, Blizzard’s return to the MOBA genre that features heroes from all of their franchises. Even games like Overwatch have aspects of MOBA in them, with each hero having abilities and ultimates similar to characters in either Dota or LoL.

But few have soared to heights that League or Dota have achieved. In fact, some haven’t even come close and are either dead or have a sliver of health left. And here they are..

Dead Island: Epidemic

The Dead Island franchise hasn’t exactly had the most stellar track record. While the original Dead Island was released with a ton of hype, technical difficulties soured the launch and many fans felt the game didn’t live up to expectations. The stand-alone expansion Riptide did little to fix previous issues, and the survival adventure spin-off Escape Dead Island felt like a comic book brought to life that should have been put to sleep.

Enter Dead Island: Epidemic, a game that never made it out of its beta phase, and for a lot of good reasons. First of all, they neglected to include the standard MOBA gameplay mode of the 5v5 base destruction race, a mode that’s been a staple of all successful games within the genre, and instead put all their chips on what they called a “PvPvPvE 3-team 12-player scavenger mode.” In this game mode, three teams of four players would compete against each other and against AI-controlled zombies to control checkpoints and resources around the map. The mode was an absolute mess, and on top of that, impossible to unlock without spending several hours doing the co-op modes vs just AI. Additionally, they tried to incorporate Dead Island’s weapons crafting system into Epidemic, but provided no rhyme or reason for equipping certain weapons to certain characters, and failed to highlight the end-all purpose for crafting weapons.

The game was also, as is Dead Island tradition, riddled with bugs and graphical errors, even more so than a closed beta should have, and the developers announced in 2015 that they were shutting down Epidemic before it would even leave open beta. The Dead Island developers rebounded with the game Dying Light earlier in 2015, with many including myself hailing the game as what Dead Island should have been all along, and thank god they put down Epidemic with a bullet to the head shortly after.

Lord of the Rings: Guardians of Middle-Earth

The relationship between the epic Tolkien saga and its video game counterparts has been up and down to say the least. For every decent or stellar game like Shadow of Mordor, Battle for Middle-earth or The Third Age, there have been duds like War in the North, and outright catastrophes like Conquest.

Another down for LOTR games was Guardians of Middle-earth, which released for consoles in 2013, then for PCs a year later. While initially viewed as a more-than-solid MOBA for console gamers to get into, the PC port proved to be the game’s downfall, as it suffered from a severely cluttered screen covered in UI elements, as well as a general feeling of awkwardness controlling the camera and your character. Many outlets recommended the use of a controller over mouse and keyboard, but that’s a recommendation that really can only aid a PC sports game or action-adventure game, and is more of a detriment to a MOBA.

On top of the issues with gameplay, pricing a MOBA on PC at $20 when there are better games out there that are free can only hinder a game’s success, and we can see the results today. The game is still on Steam for the same price, alongside an astoundingly high $80 special edition that doesn’t even include all the DLC (Smaug’s Treasure is an additional $10). The game has averaged less than three players (that’s right, three) over the past thirty days, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it pass on to the Grey Havens in 2017.

Infinite Crisis

The third installment of this list is yet another game that's basically an established franchise plastered onto a MOBA. It just goes to show that despite the popularity of the genre, you can’t just copy and paste characters from other games and franchises onto a MOBA and expect it to sell. Infinite Crisis is yet another of example of this, taking the standard MOBA formula of lane turrets, jungle enemies and a primary core to destroy and sticking the heroes and villains of the DC Universe in there in a 5v5 format.

The developer, Turbine, made a few mistakes that would result in the game’s servers shutting down just months after its official release in 2015. Rather than focus on promoting and improving the game in its beta stages, they instead devoted a lot of resources trying to kickstart the esports scene in order to compete with the likes of LoL and Dota. In doing so, they put a lot of money toward getting tournaments hosted by names like ESL and Major League Gaming, but couldn’t attract enough players, or get their player base to pony up via microtransactions. It had also spent so much time in beta that a lot of the initial buzz wore off by the time it released, and simply put, there wasn’t nearly enough money coming in to justify keeping the servers up.


While the moral of the story is clearly not to copy and paste an established franchise onto a MOBA and expect it to succeed, Dawngate showed that even with a big time developer in EA and some fresh IP, sometimes it just doesn’t work out. And this is perhaps the saddest tale of a MOBA that died, as the game definitely had the largest number of players and buzz at the time of cancellation, and didn’t particularly do anything wrong like any of the previous entries on this list. The gameplay was above decent, with interesting characters and rich lore, and an amount of character customization and optimization options that were unique compared to other MOBAs at the time.

But unfortunately, with not enough to make it truly stand out relative to Dota or LoL, EA didn’t see enough progress in the year and a half in beta, and pulled the plug in November of 2014. What’s most confusing is that no one really knows what EA’s progress goals were when they were developing it, only saying that what they achieved wasn’t enough when they announced the shutdown. A few community-run renewal projects have popped up here and there over the past year or so, and many names from the company that developed Dawngate are now with Spiritwalk Games, who are currently developing a new game called Shardbound, currently in alpha. So not all is lost.

Agree with the list? Any game we missed? Leave a comment or tweet at the author @scottraid.


Scott has been writing about video games for over four years, specializing in news and features regarding esports for the past two and a half. He's written for organizations such as Ninjas in Pyjamas, PGL, E-Frag, and Splyce. He joined Dvsion to help create a service and community that rewards fair play and helps the players grow in more ways than just their in-game play.