For a while now, having spent the majority of my career in video games, and the past several years working with some form of esports event, team or organization, I’ve heard this term come up time and time again: vision training. ‘Vision training’, or ‘vision therapy’ is quickly becoming a popular topic of discussion within esports circles these days, and has actually been a ‘thing’ in traditional sports training for about a decade now. But what is it exactly is it and how can it benefit our visual system and help our performance overall?
What Is Vision Training?
It’s actually a fascinating topic! After doing some research, I found that various forms of visual therapy have been in use since the late nineteenth century (who knew?!), specifically to treat defects in visual function, and other problems with how the eyes work together (also known as ‘convergence insufficiency’). These types of vision training programs are what GUNNAR’s consultant Dr. Miki Lynn Zilnicki specializes in at her practice, Twin Forks Optometry & Vision Therapy, in Riverhead, NY.
Vision Therapy for Athletes
For competitors at the highest levels, training every component of an athlete’s ability is key, and in some arenas, visual abilities can be just as important as flexibility, if not more. The various applications of visual therapy have evolved a great deal over the years, and today, as ‘vision training,’ they can be used as part of an athlete’s overall holistic approach to training. In traditional sport performance training, think of things like improving a baseball player’s depth perception in the batters box.
Like any other part of the body, the visual system can be trained to help athletes perform better, and some esports organization are investing in this type of training as part of their team’s daily health regimen. Gone are the days of the old stereotype gaming athlete, who sits at his screen for 8-10 hours a day practicing his ‘craft’, fueled by energy drinks, fast food and sour patch kids!
Vision Training in Esports
In esports, there’s no better example of a player who used vision training to improve his game than Travis Cochran. Travis attributes his early career success as an esports athlete to the intensive neurostimulation training he did with Neurotracker technology, and was one of the first players to undergo this training. It changed his whole outlook on the subject.
He quickly saw significant improvement in his performance, which helped him rise to the top of his profession (placing 2nd in the world for the Masters Division of League Play for Call of Duty: Black Ops II and ranked 1st in the world for sniping in Battlefield 4). Travis tells his story in a recent Vision is More Than 20/20™ Podcast, in which he and sports vision training expert Dr. Jeff Klosterman talk to Dr. Miki Zilnicki about what visual skills are needed to be a successful gamer. Travis went on to play an integral role in the business development at Senaptec Int., a company that devises esports training modules (in addition to other traditional sports) to optimize in-game performance for esport athletes. You can find out more about the products and modules they offer by visiting their website.
Performance Analytics You Can See!
Another interesting set of tools currently in the early stages of development are eye-tracking systems that help players measure their performance statistics and compare them to the pros, so they can learn how to improve their game. Forbes ran an article early last year, “The Pro Gamer’s Secret Training Tool? Eye Tracking.”, about startup company, Mobalytics, which developed eye tracking software being integrated into eye tracking hardware, like Tobii in laptops! The founders at Mobalytics claim that “The best players [succeed] because they’re looking for the right information and anticipating things at the right time.” Which makes sense — peripheral awareness and the ability to rapidly process information, however visually complex, can give any gamer an edge in the heat of battle. Dynamic visual acuity, or the ability to see objects clearly while they’re in motion, is another one of the more interesting aspects of vision training for esports athletes as well.
So, you may ask, what does this have to do with me? Well, in simple terms, there are certain eye exercises you, me, and in fact anyone can do, to help their visual performance and overall eye health — whether we play video games or not! Whether you’re looking to improve hand-eye coordination, peripheral vision, or visual reaction time, there a several online sites that have a list of exercises to explore. One that I found quite interesting and easy to follow was this article about sports vision skills you can practice at home. Check it out if you have the time!