Esports: Rank Anxiety Can Spoil Your Game, Here's How You Can Shake It Off

Esports rank anxiety
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( Esports games have catered to their competitive player base primarily through the various ranked matchmaking systems implemented. Some games require you to win a specific number of games in order to advanced to the next, higher rank while others use a rating system similar to chess where wins grant you points while losses deduct your points.

Ranks often come with titles and badges to signify your current and/or highest achieved rank. For those who play casually, these titles are of little importance and would often be an afterthought. However, for players that desire a true test of their skill, ranked games are taken as seriously as possible which comes with the added stress.

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The anxiety one experiences when playing ranked games is a strong feeling most gamers can relate to, and so begs the question: Why do players experience ranked or competitive anxiety? One may think that the simple answer is that no one wants to lose, and its not entirely wrong.


What causes rank anxiety in esports?

The concept however can be explored and validated by a psychological concept known as the Social Comparison Theory. In a nutshell, the theory proposes that humans use social baselines to compare themselves with other people.

Players can compare themselves to those of lower rank, thinking that they are leagues better than their teammates or opponents, and thus acting more brazen and confident in game when they win and more frustrated and when they lose. This is an example of downward social comparison.

On the other hand, players can be timid or cynical when playing against others who are of higher skill than they are, upward social comparison. Social comparison then contributes to one’s perception of the self, thus affecting one’s self-esteem, behavior, and performance in game.

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How to overcome rank anxiety in esports

So how can we players manage this anxiety while continuing to grind their skills and improving their rank?

Keep composed and focus on your current game

Thinking about possibly gaining or losing points from a ranked match is a distraction that divides your focus and brainpower that is better spent assessing what you can and should be doing to win a game. This also applies in team games, wherein some of your random teammates may not be having a good game. Focus on what you can control; your own game, and you may perhaps find a way to a win.

Maintain a confident and positive attitude

All high ranked players started from the bottom; they are also prone to making mistakes in game. Therefore, one shouldn’t be as quick at waving the white flag when against better players. The positive attitude especially applies in team games such as Valorant or Dota 2; if your team is playing bad, do not tilt them further by shouting, scolding, or even micromanaging their play to fit yours. Proper teamwork and efficient communication are important aspects of a winning team, which makes any toxic behavior within your own team counterproductive to your goal.


Accept your current rank before you work to rank up

Some players would often be frustrated when they fall to a lower rank or calibrate to a rank lower than they expect. Most ranked matchmaking systems are designed to pair you with players of equal skill, therefore the mindset that you are better than your current rank can be a double-edged sword. It may boost one’s confidence, but it may also jail a player in the thought which causes them to miss out on learning how to improve and instead blaming others for their own loss.

Take a break

Players know well the feeling of “red days”, days where one can’t seem to buy a win no matter how hard or how well you played. When the pressure is too much, there is no shame nor harm in allowing yourself a few hours, days, or even weeks of rest before diving into the grind again. Doing so can offer you a different perspective on your playstyle and reset your mental state into something more neutral, or even positive rather than the heavy thoughts that gather during a lose streak.


Many aspiring esports players turn to competitive ranked games in order to hone their skills and be noticed by the community, perhaps as a starting step towards their esports dreams. While losing is never an enjoyable experience, always put into perspective that one match does not define your whole gaming experience. Ranks are just numbers at the end of the day. The core of the gaming experience is the fun to be had playing with friends and other people sharing the same hobbies and passions, and competitive games are no different.

James Dominic Flores is a lecturer at Far Eastern University Manila, specializing in psychology. He is also a competitive gamer specializing in fighting games.

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