Revealed: What Really Happens To Your Body And Brain When You Play FIFA

Revealed: What Really Happens To Your Body And Brain When You Play FIFA

Research by Dr Andrea Utley, Reader in Motor Control and Development, University of Leeds, commissioned by Casino.org.

There’s no doubt that anyone who’s played FIFA will have at some point experienced “FIFA rage”, succumbing to the frustration and supposed injustice of the game.

Since the game made its debut in 1993, there’s been significant interest in its impact on players by way of promoting aggression, reducing pro-social behaviour, and increasing sexist attitudes. Other studies have looked at the impact on sleep quality and perceptual, attentional and cognitive functions.

Here at Casino.org, we wanted to dive deeper into the physical and psychological impact of the game on its players, so we partnered with researchers at the University of Leeds school of biomedical sciences who ran a series of scientific experiments to find out.

From spikes in heart rate to fluctuating anxiety levels, we investigated what really goes on inside the mind and body when playing FIFA…

Methodology

A total of 10 participants were recruited for the project, with a minimum of 10 games analysed for each of the participants, and three playing conditions taken into account:

A = Playing against the computer

B = Playing against a player who is known to them

C = Playing against a random player online

All participants were playing the 2020 version of the game, and each game tended to last between 10 to 12 minutes.

Heart rate and blood pressure measurements were taken both pre and post the session.

In addition, participants were asked to complete the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory pre and post the game. The STAI measures two types of anxiety – state anxiety (anxiety about an event), and trait anxiety (anxiety level as a personal characteristic). 

We only measured the State aspect of the inventory, to determine players anxiety directly related to the game.  

Key Findings Of The Experiment

This particular study was interested in the physiological and psychological responses of participants who play FIFA20 on a regular basis.

The game has a reputation of causing high levels of player rage, therefore, by monitoring participants whilst they were playing FIFA20, we aimed to examine how engagement in the game actually impacted them.

Here’s what we found:

Key Findings Of The FIFA Experiment on infographic

Playing against an unknown player who actually exists clearly caused a higher level of arousal, and goals scored against participants in those games had a marked impact on heart rate.

Therefore, there was an increase in emotional responses during those games that was more pronounced than other games in which players knew each other.

It should also be noted that during these games 70% of participants had an elevated heart rate for the duration of the game once the opposition had scored.

Despite this, in line with the findings of Aliyari et al. (2015) and Bediou et al. (2018), players reported a reduction in stress after playing in all three conditions. 

It should also be noted that players did report that the game made them angry at times.

The main causes cited for this were aspects of play that they felt were unfair, and the opposition scoring.

Messages from other players also cause surges of emotion, but despite this all, players felt the game was a good way of relaxing. 

Quote on FIFA results

Full Results

Heart Rate:

The three players shown in each condition below were selected as the most indicative of the wider results. 

It’s worth noting that the age and fitness of the participants, and the fact that the heart rate was taken a few minutes after completion of the game (allowing it time to reduce back to normal levels) is likely to have had an impact on the results.

The monitoring of participants heart rates during the game has revealed some interesting patterns which can be seen in the tables below.

When we look at the impact of heart rate over time in all three conditions, we can see clear fluctuations throughout the game, and in all conditions, we see a spike in heart rate whenever a goal is scored (home or away).

Heart Rate Results - FIFA experiment

When playing against an unknown opponent, participant’s heart rates were elevated even before they started playing, and elevated even higher post-game.

The heart rate spikes from scoring were also much greater – approaching up to 140 beats per minute, indicating a real surge in emotional activity when a goal is scored.  

This kind of escalation in heart rate is comparative to what individuals within our participant age range would see when engaging in a moderate cardio work-out such as a brisk walk (around 135 BPM).

It’s also interesting that in this condition, following a goal from the unknown opposition and the consequential surge in heart rate, the heart rate would remain elevated for the rest of the game.

Overall, these results show that there was clearly a greater level of arousal, rage, and anxiety when playing against a random stranger. 

The other spikes which occurred across all three conditions were indicative of near misses, tackles made in the game, or a decision going against the player. 

Blood Pressure:

Blood Pressure Results - FIFA experiment

Systolic blood pressure: The highest pressure when your heart beats and pushes the blood round your body.

Diastolic blood pressure: The lowest pressure when your heart relaxes between beats.

As can be seen above, there was only a slight elevation in blood pressure pre and post-game when playing against a known opponent or the computer.

However, we can see that when playing against an unknown player there was a more significant rise in blood pressure after playing the game.

This highlights a greater level of anxiety and frustration when playing against an unknown player.

Stress and Anxiety Results:

Stress Results - FIFA experiment

The state anxiety questionnaire tells you about someone’s absolute perception of how anxious they are at any given time.

Despite blood pressure and heart rate results both indicating a surge in emotional activity and rage when playing the game, participants across the board pre and post all indicated a decline in anxiety.

This shows that, despite the commonality of experiencing “FIFA Rage”, playing the game can actually reduce the players’ perception of stress and anxiety.

So, there you have it: FIFA, one of the most rage-inducing games out there, actually reduces stress and anxiety, and it could even help contribute to your weekly cardiovascular workout if you’re playing against an unknown opponent.

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