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PowerUP: Should gamers abstain from sex before competing?

Does real life "Coop" before a big match kill your edge, or is Single Player Only an outdated mode? I break it down for you in this edition of PowerUP.

Welcome back to PowerUP: your source for every tip, trick, news piece, edge, and expert I can find to give you a spotter in your grind to the top. It's a rough world out there in the new competitive gaming scene, and as new science and research are coming to help many of the more successful eSports teams stay successful, sometimes the rest of us could really use someone in our corner... or, as we're about to learn, in our beds.

Thankfully, real world sports has actually done a lot of good work for us here - this question dates back essentially as far as the actual concept of sports. For a long time, professional athletes were encouraged to avoid sex before competing - it was believed it would make them slow, distract them, and generally cut down on that "aggressive edge" a lot of traditional athletes rely on. Even teams competing at modern day Olympics, arguably some of the most competitive athletes on the planet, are often instructed by their coaches and management personnel to avoid any "Multiplayer" while they're at the event. 

But the questions remain - does sex before an event hurt performance? Does it hurt our performance, as gamers? Should we, or should we not, avoid sex before major competitive matches?

The answers (thankfully) are: "depends on how soon before is, but not particularly", "again, not usually", and "probably avoid it right before, but otherwise it's actually beneficial".  

Now, I get it. I know exactly what many people reading this just thought, so go on. We're all going to take a moment and get as much of the "hurr, durr, gamers don't have sex" jokes out of our systems as we can.

I'll wait. 

Once we're done that, we're going to realize that video games have grown into as much of an adult market as a children's pastime, that the gender ratio of gaming is up to beyond 50/50 in favor of women by many reports, that the modern gamer is as likely to be a sexually or romantically active young adult as any alternative, and that the "basement dwelling neckbeard" stereotype (if it was ever true, which is doubtful) is a thing that belongs in a trash can tucked firmly in the past.

With that out of the way, let's go over a few of the dos and don'ts when it comes to boosting your game with a little romantic sidequest action.

So what's the power up?

Generally, sex is a pretty overall positive experience in terms of health - long periods without it can drastically lower levels of testosterone, a hormone that helps both focus and reflexes, and this particular brand of Co-op Mission (or Mario Party, if that's more your speed) releases endorphins and a bunch of other hormones great at relieving stress. Anyone that's played competitively knows intimately just how much of a game-killer stress (and the resulting trip on the Tilt-a-Whirl or down to the Salt Mines) can be. 

"So what about the traditional athletes for hundreds of years? If sex is so good for you and your game, why did/do they avoid it?"

Largely? "Common wisdom" says so - and if you're familiar at all with common wisdom's track record, you can probably see where this is going. 

Telling players to abstain before competition is actually more about making sure the players get enough rest to recover and prep for their game (at least, when it's not total misinformation). "Casey" Stengel (a former coach of the New York Yankees) said it best:

"It isn't sex that wrecks these guys, it's staying up all night looking for it"

Meaning that as long as you're not out hitting the local singles scene until the sun comes up, or tangled in a Konami Code of limbs and blankets until 6 in the morning, you'll probably be alright. At least, you will be according to a wide range of experts and practitioners like Pliny the Elder, Joe Namath, Ronda Rousey, and "almost any scientist that has studied this".

So what's the catch? 

Hopefully, everybody involved is going about this safely so the only thing anyone is catching is a good time and positive experience - but I know what you mean. Up above, there were those "depends on when" and "maybe not right before" bits that probably put a damper on everyone's birthday suit party plans, so let's break it down before we all get hot and bothered about it. 

Generally, sexual activity the night before your esport match isn't going to hurt your game - but a trip to the dragon's lair (or whatever you call your bedroom) right before the match might.

The reasoning behind staying off everyone's favorite sidescroller right before hitting the competitive esports stage is pretty simple - sexual intercourse (and the hopefully attached orgasm/s) lights up your brain and floods your system with a ton of hormones and chemicals that, while they relieve stress, probably aren't the best for keeping a competitive edge in the next few hours. Oxytocin and Dopamine, particularly, can keep a player distracted, hungry, sleepy, or otherwise "fuzzy" and off their game. The good news is, these all fade rather quickly. The even better news is that their benefits (stress relief and positive hormonal boosts to focus, concentration, and mood) tend to last much longer

So if you're not due to crush the competition at your local Fireside Gathering or Fighter bracket until the next day, go ahead - make like Starfox, and do a barrel roll or two through the sheets as long as you can get your rest. When you're waking up a few hours before the event, though, you might want to leave that specific XP grind for after you've brought home the trophy.  

Above: Graphical representation of your brain during and after sex

Now that you know this particular "AO" rated title is a solid boost as long as it's not right before your rounds, go on and shoot for the high score. Be sure to stop by later, though, and let me know if you have any prep or pre-game rituals you'd like to see covered in PowerUP. Until then -

Go on, gamers. Show 'em your moves.

Published Sep. 1st 2016

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