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Million-dollar milliseconds

Posted August 25, 2015

An online video game championship has paid out almost $20 million in prize money — placing it among some of the world’s most lucrative sports tournaments.

Tracking point of gaze using an eye tracker.

Tracking point of gaze using an eye tracker.

But what does it take to play video games at this level?

According to University of Queensland researcher Eugene Poh, from the Centre for Sensorimotor Performance at the School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences, it’s a matter of milliseconds.

“While gaming strategies and tactics are important, the ability to react faster than your opponents can be the difference between winning and losing,” Mr Poh said.

“The eyes take about 200 milliseconds to respond to a stimulus and the time taken to jump around the different targets is around 20-30 milliseconds, depending on the distance between them.

“100 milliseconds later, the fingers respond and activate the muscles in the hand, clicking and moving the mouse.

“Minimising the delay between identifying potential targets and the execution of the movement is critical in video games”

Mr Poh’s research focuses on understanding how visual information is integrated with proprioceptive information to produce accurate movements.

Particularly in how the availability of visual information at different stages of the movement trajectory can affect the ability to correct movement errors.

“In cricket, professional batters can accurately predict where the ball will bounce even before it is released,” Mr Poh said.

”For professional video gamers, it is likely they have more effective visual scanning strategies that can help them anticipate the emergence of potential threats before their opponents. This can help them pre-empt any attacks and effectively neutralise threats when and if they appear.”

DOTA, the free online game which paid out $18.4 million in winnings, now has more than 120 million active users worldwide.

Becoming an elite player takes a lot of practice, and many top teams employ a coach.

“Hand-eye co-ordination for experts and novice performers during sports is very different — gaze patterns of experts tend to be very precise, and they can better utilize cues in the environment to prepare their next movement,” Mr Poh said.

“I think it would be very interesting to compare amateur and professional e-sports players.

“Unravelling the differences in visuo-motor behaviour between experts and novices will have far-reaching implications for the development of training protocols that yield maximal benefits for performance on the pitch and in the digital arena.”

Source: University of Queensland

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