Gamers: fighter pilot reactions, body of an OAP

A university boffiin, having assessed the condition of a bunch of top gamers, concluded that while some may have the reflexes of a fighter pilot they may also have the body of a sixty year-old chain smoker.

Dr Dominic Micklewright, from the University of Essex, ran a bunch of physical and psychological tests on ''elite cyber-sportsmen'' at the Gadget Show Live in Birmingham back in order to compare them to proper athletes.

He found the psychological traits and reaction skills of gamers could often almost match those of elite sportspeople, but their fitness levels were extremely poor.

One leading gamer in his twenties tested by Dr Micklewright appeared to be slim and healthy with the physique of an endurance athlete. But he also had the lung function and aerobic fitness of a 60-year-old chain smoker.

Dr Micklewright said: "Someone of this age should be much fitter but perhaps this is the occupational hazard of the professional gamer who can spend around 10 hours per day in front of a computer screen practising."

He added: "It is always difficult to say how these things will develop, but it could have long term health implications such as an increased risk of heart disease."

Younger people who dream of become professional gamers are likely to spend too much time practising, Dr Micklewright argued.

"Screen time with children has a very strong correlation with childhood obesity and risk factors with heart disease later in life," he said. However, other tests showed top game players did share characteristics with top athletes.

“When comparing their profile with high performing athletes we did find some similarities. For example, their reaction time, motor skill, competitiveness and emotions were pretty close.

“Elite athletes have unusually high levels of positive feelings and low levels of negative feelings such as depression and fatigue. We saw similar characteristics in gamers, albeit not quite as pronounced.”

But "there is an ine,xtricable link between the function of the mind and the body," Micklewright said. Gamers really need to get out and do a bit of exercise now and then.

On the question of whether video gaming should be classed as a sport, Micklewright was unequivocal: "I would say definitely not," he said. "Gaming shares some characteristics with sport because both are competitive, skill-based and governed by structured rules. But the main distinction which precludes gaming from being a sport is the lack of physical exertion," he said.

“However, in the end sport is socially defined and there are sports, such as snooker and darts, which you might argue are on the boundary. Like video games these require very high levels of skill, but are relatively sedentary and not physically demanding.”

The research forms part of a BBC Radio Four documentary entitled, 'The eSportsmen' which is being broadcast over the new couple of weeks.