The lowdown on Nootropics “Smart Pills” in eSports

Written by Kevin O’Connell

Until recently I never paid much notice to “Smart Pills”, or Nootropics. I knew it was a bunch of people experimenting with different compounds to improve their focus, reactions, memory and more. Sounds all good right? Not really, when you could just buy coffee for the same effect as most of them, and the rest don’t really work. But those commercially available, for the most part, were harmless, so I paid no attention to them.

What did get me interested was when I learned companies have been trying to promote this in eSports and to gamers. So, what are they? And do they give us an edge?

Smart Pills were already gaining popularity among tech companies, even in Silicon Valley. With claims of improving focus, reaction times and more, it was only natural eSports and gamers would be a fit for their product. Brain enhancers are nothing new in eSports, with many professional teams in the past accused of using Adderall, a central nervous system stimulant used to treat ADHD to increase focus. The biggest team accused was the Cloud9 CSGO team, with even former Cloud9 player Michael “Shroud” Grzesiek admitted that he had taken adderall in the past, but claims it was never during a game. Former teammate Semphis says otherwise, saying the team were all on Adderall during ESL One Katowice in 2015. Many eSports organisers later banned the use of non-prescribed Adderall, with ESL promising to be stricter on any performance enhancing drugs.

Nootropics for gamers are a little different. While Adderall is known to be effective, hence its use for people with ADHD, these nootropics claim to improve much more. Focus and attention, working memory, mental energy, strategic thinking, stress resistance and creativity are all benefited with one Nootropic called Mind Lab Pro. If this is true, then Nootropics would be a miracle drug. But when a company says, “Level up with (legal) Nootropics”, most people would ask the question, “why do you need to point out this is legal”? Well, because the claims they make haven’t been evaluated by the FDA, which Boss Level Labs make a point of at the end of their website for their product “GodMode”.


Source: Boss Level Labs

The most popular Nootropics are L-theanine and caffeine, which have evidence supporting their Nootropic status, but these are found in coffee and green tea. These Nootropics contain many other ingredients, and the science behind them are foggy at best. Companies often test on rodents with one ingredient and not human trials to prove their products’ effectiveness. All the ingredients I’ve researched so far appear to be safe for human consumption, but many never had any long-term studies done, so whether some of these ingredients are causing long-term damage is hard to say. What we do know, is that there’s a lot of misinformation on what these products can actually do, which Boss Level Labs got caught out by when they asked Eurogamer to try out GodMode.

Chris Bratt, of Eurogamer’s video team, did a great job investigating and even tried out a month’s supply of GodMode so he could see the effects himself. During his investigation, he researched many of the claims made by Boss Level Labs on GodMode, but many of them fall short of what’s promised. Testimonies the website has listed from many big names in the gaming industry are also questionable at best. Out of 18 people, only one answered positively about the product. Two of them had never heard of GodMode, one of whom later asked to remove him from their site. Another said, after taking it for three months, he never noticed any effect, despite knowing the Boss Level CEO for years. The other 14 either could not be contacted, or just stopped replying as soon as GodMode was mentioned.

Later Bratt questioned the CEO Scott Miller on “Yamabuskitake”, an ingredient in GodMode. The company claimed that it reduced “depression and anxiety”, but during the interview Miller went from “it could have” a positive effect on depression and anxiety, to “let me see how that looks on the site”, to saying how he’s redesigning the site anyway and will remove that claim.

You can watch all of Chris Bratt’s experience with GodMode here:

Don’t expect this to be just a fad that will go away soon though. Companies like Boss Level Labs are actively trying to sponsor eSports teams and have done in the past with Gankstars’ former VainGlory team and Nootrobox back in 2016. Having a professional teams’ support is massive, especially as they were a big team, playing one of the fastest growing and most watched games at the time.

While I have been writing very negatively about Nootropics, they aren’t something I have tried. My experience is just my research into them, which was hard because nearly every site I find is either selling them or clearly has something to gain. That said, there are a lot of people saying that Nootropics were great for them, with some going as far as saying it changed their lives.

But considering there are many people with negative effects like insomnia and diarrhoea, and many of the more positive effects are just placebo or have the same effect as caffeine, I’ll just pass on them. Rather than doing poorly tested Nootropics, I think I’ll just stick to what I know helps increase my focus and reactions: good old-fashioned coffee.

Lead image: Copyright: ESL/Adela Sznajder

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