One day, quite some time ago, a lucky individual sat down to enjoy a brand new video game on their PlayStation console, or perhaps on the original Xbox, who really knows what console or system was popular at the time. The point is, this individual kicked his feet up, lit up a joint and popped in the disc to his favorite game in an effort to relax after a long, trying day. Like most wonderful things, word began to spread quickly with a close circle of friends realizing how much better a video game is when you’re high. Then, as the phenomenon began to spread across the country, professional gamers decided to pick up the substance where they could hone their gaming skills and make a few bucks through tournaments. Some considered this to be an unfair advantage, while others claimed that cannabis would only hinder players’ abilities, not actually improve their cognitive response times or hand-eye coordination. Since that time, medical doctors and gaming professionals sought ways that cannabis would be helpful in the gaming industry.
This begs the question: Does cannabis make you more efficient at video games?
The Science Behind the Myth
There are quite a few researchers across the world who truly believe pairing cannabis with video games is a good combination. Video games often provide the ability to improve your hand-eye coordination on their own, while cannabis is known to significantly increase anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties within the human body. During lab studies, combining the two proved to offer extreme therapeutic benefits to the player in regards to stress and exercising the brain.
A test study conducted by the Groningen Mental Enhancement Department in the Netherlands discovered that using cannabis while playing video games—even casually—led to increased memory retention within a group of Alzheimer’s patients.
“The Groningen Mental Enhancement Department in the Netherlands recently conducted a one-year study to see how gaming and cannabis can affect the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. All the test subjects played increasingly challenging games each day, but half the group was also administered smoke. Would you believe that the marijuana test group scored 43 percent better memory retention than the control group? It was a far greater benefit to the marijuana-administered group than we could have imagined,” according to Ewoud Joost, the study’s organizer.
The aforementioned benefits are wonderful for those who are simply playing video games of their own accord. For those who are playing for massive cash prizes—some of which are worth tens of thousands—the rules can become a bit gray. The Electronic Sports League (ESL), the largest eSports league in the gaming world, recently made it mandatory for all professional players to undergo a saliva-based drug test before they were cleared to compete in the gaming tournaments. According to Anna Rozwandowicz, ESL’s head of communications, the tournament organization is simply adhering to the list of prohibited substances put in place by the German agency Nationale Anti-Doping Agentur and the World Anti-Doping Agency.
“Upon further investigation and consultation with the authorities, we came to the conclusion that saliva tests are a better fit,” according to Rozwandowicz. “Tests will be performed at our discretion at any time during tournament days, and will take place in a designated testing area. Naturally, players’ privacy comes first.”
Any player caught using cannabis immediately before the event would be effectively banned from competing for the duration of the tournament. Some players who were caught smoking cannabis were banned for upwards of two years. These professionals, who spend hours every single day practicing their abilities and roles, turned to cannabis for a reason. The substance, which is still illegal in most states across the country, offers enhanced abilities and functions.
That being said, the ESL does not care if a professional player uses the drug a few days prior to the start of the tournament. In fact, they clearly stated in their announcement that players could still smoke if they chose, but they could not do so at the ESL competition itself. “Marijuana is on the list of prohibited substances for during the competition,” says the ESL. This means from the first day of the games to the final, no one can smoke or consume an edible to acquire an unfair advantage over the other competitors.
This testing lends a hand towards the credibility of recent tests and studies pointing towards improved abilities in those who smoke and play video games at the same time.
Let’s be real here, any gamer smoking in their off-hours while enjoying their console or computer is probably doing so as a way to relax, not to enhance their gaming abilities. Now, that’s not to say that both won’t happen, of course.
Studies suggest cannabis has the unique ability to improve vision, relax muscles, reduce anxiety and alleviate stress. If you’ve played a video game recently—Call of Duty, Battlefield, No Man’s Sky—then you completely understand that stress, anxiety and your relaxation levels all have a major impact as to how well you perform in-game. In a first-person shooter, part of doing well is knowing the map and the tactics, but having some self-confidence vastly improves your abilities. Cannabis is known for improving self-confidence.
Besides performing more efficiently in a game, there is one aspect of smoking and playing that many tend to overlook: the emotional connection. Those who are stoned tend to find themselves more emotionally engaged in a good story, which is why pairing cannabis with a movie or soothing music does wonders to our psyche. The same can be said about an intense video game with a compelling story. Players who smoke report feeling more engaged by the tale, and their emotions are not running wild in relation to their in-game performance. Instead, the users find themselves relaxing more and really immersing themselves in the story.
There are many who are stuck in their old way of thinking. These individuals are quick to dismiss cannabis as an illegal substance that is harmful and leads to a life of vegetation on the living room couch.
In the early ʼ90s, a government-issued anti-marijuana PSA known as “Pete’s Couch” advocated that those who smoked cannabis regularly were at risk of becoming couch potatoes. The same goes for a government-created advertisement stating marijuana will hurt your video game skills. Yes, they truly attempted to reach the gaming audience in such a way. Unintentionally, the PSA had the reverse effect—gamers began smoking more than ever before. The bans at the ESL and the Australian World Cyber Games are not because of the substance itself but because of what it can do to a player to offer an unfair advantage over other tournament participants.
The End Results
The question as to whether or not cannabis actually does improve gaming capabilities appears to be quite clear. Yes, smoking cannabis before playing a game will make you more focused, adept and stable to perform better in-game. The difference may not be immediately noticeable, or noticeable whatsoever for some, but those playing at a professional level are taking advantage of those few extra seconds before an enemy jumps them.
Gaming art by FAILE & BAST.