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The Meteoric Rise of Gaming Supplements

For years in gyms and fitness centres around the globe, people have looked upon the toned and muscular with a particular thought in mind; I wonder what they’re taking. Supplementation has been regarded as that extra edge that can take one’s performance to the next level, however today, people’s curiosity about what someone is taking is no longer confined to sports and exercise.

The gaming industry is enormous and the global video game market is expected to be valued at $268.81 billion by 2025. The gaming equivalent of professional athletes, known as e-athletes or esports athletes, now receive similar questions to their sporting counterparts. What are they taking? Being a professional gamer requires commitment, talent and lots of hard work, and the emergence of gaming supplements during the past decade is attributed, rightly or wrongly, as giving pro gamers a leg up over their competition.

Brands such as G Fuel, Noob Energy and Advanced.gg sell a variety of flavoured drinks and powders that supposedly give you the boost that’ll take your gaming to the next level. These ‘nootropics‘, otherwise known as ‘cognitive enhancers’, are big business that make use of carefully calculated sponsorships. G Fuel, for example, sponsors PewDiePie and MoistCr1TiKaL, who have 124.8 million YouTube subscribers between them.

However not everyone is too happy with the prevalence of gaming supplements. What is the impact of this relatively new subset of supplementation?

G Fuel Divine Peach flavour, inspired by MoistCr1TiKaL
G Fuel’s Divine Peach flavour is inspired by MoistCr1TiKaL

To some, the existence of gaming supplements is questionable to begin with. What do they actually do? Are they really helping? Razer Respawn, a gaming drink described by Razer as a “mental performance booster drink”, met a lot of scepticism by The Verge, which likened it to the gaming industry’s very own Goop. Redditors have felt the same way, pointing out that gaming supplements make unsubstantiated claims and are too expensive.

A critical comment about gaming supplements by a user on Reddit.
A critical comment about gaming supplements by Reddit user Null_Fragment_000.

Myprotein, a sports nutrition supplier that originally built its brand by selling whey protein powders and now sells its own line of gaming supplements, lists the following benefits of gaming supplements:

  • Improved memory
  • Improved focus and energy
  • Better decision making
  • Faster reaction speed

But many people question whether these products, produced by Myprotein or otherwise, have any noticeable benefit. Just as with health supplements, pills and powders cannot replace a bad diet and unhealthy habits. If you are sleeping 4 hours a night, a supplement can only do so much to help you with focus, energy and memory. If you don’t exercise and lack sufficient rest, you aren’t managing your stress properly. A gamer’s skillset can be improved by simply living a healthy lifestyle. And if you need a bit more focus and energy, a cup of coffee will do the trick.

A bigger problem is who gaming supplements are being advertised to.

A criticism of gaming supplement companies’ marketing practices is that products are being advertised to children. The mentality that so often accompanies supplementation that ‘more is better’ can have dangerous consequences, particularly in the highly charged atmosphere of competitive gaming. And there’s a dangerous precedent. A United States Senate Report published on July 31 2013, Energy Drinks: Exploring Concerns About Marketing To Youth, made some damning accusations at energy drink companies. As advertising to children had increased, so too had the number of emergency room visits associated with energy drink consumption. The American Academy of Pediatrics have said that energy drinks have “no place in the diet of children and adolescents”, and despite some energy drink companies making a commitment not to market to children, what they’ve really meant is that they won’t market to children under 12 years old. Similar commitments towards 12-18 year olds, where a large chunk of sales come from, hadn’t been made. The Senate report dug even further, giving examples of how even though commitments were made not to market to children under 12, there were still cases of energy drink companies using children as young as 7 to promote their drinks.

As a result, people are wary about what’s actually being put into energy drinks. It’s not a coincidence that in G Fuel’s FAQ page, the first question is “What’s in G Fuel?” even before “What is G Fuel?”.

Screenshot of G Fuel FAQ page that asks "What's in G Fuel?" before "What is G Fuel?"
“What’s in G Fuel” is placed higher up than “What is G Fuel?” on G Fuel’s FAQ page.

Given the growth of the gaming industry, gaming supplements seem to have a solid position in the market. Public pressure will hopefully mean that they continue to be produced to safe standards. However much like their health and fitness supplement counterparts, it’s likely there’ll be a greater understanding that gaming supplements will only provide marginal benefits, and are unlikely to be that secret sauce that’ll transform you from a hobbyist to a pro.

And perhaps gaming supplement companies are aware of this public perception. A gamer didn’t win an esports competition because of a drink. They won because they practiced for hours a day, for months on end. As such, one notes that gaming supplement companies don’t confine their products to gaming alone. NOOB Energy says its products are “formulated to create a synergistic effect to enhance your gaming, studying, or working experience” and G Fuel says its drinks can be used “as an early-morning pick-me-up, a study buddy for final exams, a road trip co-pilot or anytime during the day you’re looking to up your game! ”

And with that said, who knows what the hook will be around the next generation of energy drinks? Maybe content creation drinks… Synergistically working ingredients especially picked to enhance your creativity and give you the energy to pump out five videos a day (or more!) on TikTok!

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