In an episode of Humans+, Motherboard meets with professional gamers Ben Watley and Alex Novosad, whose eSports team Gankstars was officially sponsored by Nootrobox, a Bay Area nootropics company startup. Can smart drugs be a game-changer and give gamers a competitive edge? Here are some excerpts from the video:
Nootropics or smart drugs are an emerging class of compounds that encompass everything from pharmaceuticals like Modafinil to especially formulated supplements that target the brain in order to enhance cognition. While traditionally popular among biohackers and online communities, nootropics have been gaining traction in mainstream society, especially in esports, an industry with the projected revenue of 1.1 billion dollars by 2019 where enhanced cognition could become a competitive advantage.
While nobody knows what the exact effects these nootropics will have on eSports competition the future implications of these early partnerships between eSports teams and nootropics companies are potentially enormous.
Ben’s team plays Vainglory, a MOBA or multiplayer online battle arena game played on mobile devices. Although less than two years old, the game has quickly become the most popular of its kind in the world.
Ben, Alex and the rest of the Ganktars team have been taking Nootrobox smart drug stacks to see if they can improve their gameplay. The Nootrobox stack consists of four products called Rise, Yawn, Sprint and KADO-3 which are taken daily. These stacks contain numerous compounds and extracts such as Alpha GPC, L-theanine and melatonin, which are designed to target and enhance the brain’s cognitive abilities.
While nootropics consists of a wide array of compounds, they target the brain in three main ways:
1 – Increasing neurotransmitter levels;
2 – Increasing vasodilation or blood flow to the brain; and
3 – Protecting neurons from dying.
Geoffrey Woo (co-founder of Nootrobox): “I think that it’s the fundamental human desire to want to be better. The notion of, ‘hey, can we enhance our cognition with different regimens, different nootropics. It seemed like a very natural way to make a difference in and get in there.”
“If your basketball player has, like, your Gatorade and your protein powder, what’s that analogy to your eSports gamer. Well, that would be like nootropics.”
While the effectiveness of nootropics is difficult to analyze, the members of Gankstars have been taking online tests to log their progress. Team manager Alex Novosad collects his team’s results on a weekly basis.
Alex has his team using a series of online exams called the Cambridge Brain Sciences Test. These weekly assessments measure memory, reasoning, attention, planning and problem solving.
The nootropic space is fairly new and research on the effectiveness of different stacks is limited. We also don’t know the long-term risks of taking smart drugs and, in eSports where the players are young, this is a concern.
Ben: “Look at the numbers, over half of Americans have tried some sort of antidepressant. A quarter of college kids have tried Adderall. This notion that we’re not comfortable with manipulating our own brain state is just kind of untalked about like an open secret. So let’s like take it out from being something that we’re talking about and let’s a talk about it like adults and let’s figure out the right way to do it. With every innovation in this area, we also have to always have someone there next to us tapping us on the shoulder, reminding us there are some consequences that come from this kind of thing. But people have to be pioneers in this world, and then some of us like to take the risks and I’ve always been someone who likes to be there first and this is an area that I’m willing to to be in.”