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Game changer as AIS awards its first esports project to Southern Cross

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Published
21 March 2023

Southern Cross University has received the first grant funded by the Australian Institute of Sport into the growing field of esports to develop a model for our future elite players.

Faculty of Health early career researcher Dr Dylan Poulus will lead the $37,000 project investigating the factors associated with success in esports – the competitive playing of video games – so that Australian athletes are better prepared for future international competitions and ultimately be gold medal contenders.

Dr Poulus and fellow researcher Dr Kyle Bennett will collaborate with Federation University, UTAS and the University of Groningen in partnership with Guinevere Esports, the biggest investor in esports in Australia.

‘Preparing the Australian High-Performance system to develop the first gold medal-ready esports athletes’ will learn what factors contribute to a successful performance in esports and develop a model for future success. The team will work with key stakeholders and emerging athletes to identify these key factors so that athletes are better prepared for future international competitions.

They will interview elite esport athletes, coaches, team owners, and support staff both nationally and internationally.

“The project aims to develop a model of esports performance that will inform how the Australian Institute of Sport develops future elite esport players. This is the first time the AIS has funded esports-related research and could reflect the rapid growth of esports competitions and research on an international stage,” said Dr Poulus.

“I have been involved with esports for the past five years and this grant reflects contemporary thinking around the nature and perception of sport.

“Esports continue to grow exponentially, with competition leagues for multi-player games such as League of Legends, DOTA 2 and Counter Strike attracting huge prizemoney and global audiences and fan groups in the millions.

“Luck is not a major element in these games. Like any sport, performance and outcomes are determined by your ability to make complex decisions and perform under extreme pressure.

"We don't yet know what makes the best gamers in the world, so we will talk to the best coaches, players and industry experts to build a model of performance which might then be applied towards Australia's competitive future in esports – perhaps even inclusion in the Brisbane Olympic Games in 2032," Dr Poulus said.

Guinevere Esports CEO, Mr Dave Harris, welcomed involvement with Southern Cross University.

“We’re really pleased to be involved in this important piece of work co-funded by the AIS, framing the requirements for elite esports competition and investigating how talent can best be developed,” he said.

The project will be undertaken over the next 12 months.

AIS Executive General Manager Matti Clements said: “This work aligns with a key priority outlined in Australia’s High Performance 2032+ Sport Strategy to deliver world-leading knowledge, innovation and practice to ensure our athletes, coaches and performance support can work as high functioning performance teams.”

Dr Poulus studied sports psychology at Queensland University of Technology, where he established the first university-supported esports program in Australia. Within a year it became QUT's biggest sporting club. After completing his PhD in esports psychology, he joined Southern Cross University in 2021.

Dr Poulus currently supports and consults to various professional teams in Australia, including Team Bliss (Brisbane) and Dire Wolves (Sydney) that both play in the League of Legends competition. He has previously consulted to international teams.

He also supports HDR (higher degree research) students who are investigating aspects of esports participation and player performance.

Southern Cross University was also successful in securing a second grant worth $49,500 in the same round of AIS funding. Southern Cross researchers led by Associate Professor Christian Swann with Associate Professor Chris Stevens and Dr Scott Goddard will partner with Athletics Australia, University of Wollongong and the University of Canberra to build a research-based framework for understanding the psychology of optimal performance in elite sprint, power, and endurance athletes.

A man in front of screens showing League of Legends esports
Dr Dylan Poulus.

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