The Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) wants to know what makes a good gamer, and it’s spending $37,000 to find out more about esports.

Southern Cross University researcher Dylan Poulas has received a grant will spend much of the next year interviewing elite players in esports such as Dota and League of Legends.

Dr Poulus said it was time to move beyond the debate about whether games played in front a computer screen should be considered sport. 

“Regardless of whether we call it a sport or not, hundreds of millions of people are playing it,” he said.

“People are making their careers out if it and it’s captivating the minds of our young people.”

A man in a light-blue shirt sits in front of two computer screens.
Dylan Poulus is studying what makes a great gamer.(Supplied: Southern Cross University)

Dr Poulus said esport tournaments could attract an online audience of 100 million viewers, and some offered prize pools of more than $US40 million.

Consideration is being given to adding esports to the schedule for the 2026 Commonwealth Games in Victoria.

Dr Poulus hopes they might also be on the program at the 2032 Olympic in Brisbane.

“The Olympics are sort of dipping their toe into the waters of virtual sports and moving down the pathway to esport adoption,” he said.

“The AIS has sanctioned this research and is really looking ahead to develop a strong talent development pathway so that we can really help young people who are building their e-sports skills.”

Olympic ambitions

Professional esports athlete Jesse “Chazz” Mahoney, from Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, specialises in the League of Legends game.

He has already represented Australia in international tournaments, but said the prospect of becoming an Olympian was exciting.

“I think having an esports game in there would be a really positive step in the gaming sphere,” Mr Mahoney said.

“Being able to showcase that to the world and the older generations … would mean a lot to everybody.”

A young man wearing glasses and a headset stares intently at a computer screen.
Jesse Mahoney is a professional esports player, specialising in the game League of Legends.(Supplied: Jesse Mahoney)

Mr Mahoney said he wasn’t bothered by people who questioned whether gamers should be considered athletes.

“While it’s not necessarily physical, there’s a lot of mental strength to it,” he said.

“[The games] are very complicated.

“It’s not clicking buttons and things are happening, there’s a lot of thought, you need to be planning minutes in advance.”

Dr Poulus said he was keen to question the nation’s best esports athletes to find out the secrets to their success.

“What are these people doing that is making them so high performing in these video games?” he said.

“Is it a thing like your strength and conditioning program, your sports psych’ that you talk to, your long steady-state cardio that you’re doing, your diet?”

Dr Poulus said the best players needed the ability to make complex decisions under pressure. 

“The way you move the character in the game is determined by your fine motor coordination with your keyboard and mouse,” he said.

“These elite gamers are expert communicators, and young people playing these games are developing teamwork, leadership and communication by proxy by trying to be the best they can at these video games.”