Quo Coffeinum? Coffee and Gaming
It’s International Espresso Day, and that means I’ve come out from under my rock to give you lovely lot the skinny (latte) on just what you do to yourself with that shaker of G Fuel or, if you’re not a total peasant, that quad shot of freshly ground and brewed Arabica.
Thanks to esports and the colossal amounts of dosh floating about, there’s been shedloads of research into how my favourite molecule (C8H10N4O2 for the curious) affects gaming dating back over 20 years, and even further back if you take the recognised effects it has on reaction time and target acquisition that certain militaries have noticed and taken advantage of, ask a US service person what “RIP IT”s are and watch them twitch at the memory.
Alford et al. in 2001, Rao et al. in 2005, and Frazer in 2006 published on the attention, reaction speed, accuracy of target acquisition, and cognitive task performance increases caused by the hot brown anti-murder juice, which all serve to bless the gamer with better performance and fewer “oops” moments in front of Twitch chat.
But there’s a downside too. As with any stimulant, you must be careful with old caffeine, as it’s a love you can lose. A cup of coffee that doesn’t taste like someone else drank it first can contain 60 to 120 mg of caffeine, and a can of RIP IT can kick that up to 204mg. Up to 250mg isn’t going to really be a problem for the normal human, but above that, you are looking at anxiety, modified sleep cycles, and most importantly, those hard-earned improvements in performance being reversed!
According to Sawyer et al. (1982), the precise effect can vary due to adaptation and sensitivity to caffeine, but to feel the side effects, the average person would need to drink two to three cups of coffee a day.
Caffeine blocks adenosine, a brain chemical that drives the sleep response in the brain. This is how it stops you from feeling sleepy when you’re crawling through streets in Escape from Tarkov at two in the morning with a backpack so full you’re just a loot pinata for anyone who spots you. The main factor to consider, though, is how long it takes your poor old meat-sack to process all that chemical wonderment. Usually, you’re looking at six to eight hours for the body to deal with the stimulant effects of all those espressi, and that means if you want peak performance from your cup of Silencer Smooth or Ground Hammer, you’ll need to do some mathematics.
Let's say you’ve got a job to go to and you’re up at seven for the morning commute. You’re going to want a good eight hours of snooze before you drag yourself off to the cube farm hellscape, and that means you should be asleep by 11pm. This means you should stop the caffeine intake at around 3pm. Not doing so could have all those horrible side effects, but if you’re me, you’ll be having a nice big mug of black coffee about 20 minutes before you turn in, all thanks to the drop off in effectiveness over time and withdrawal being a literal pain in the head. It’s amazing what a past in retail, IT and catering does to your body and brain.
To conclude this little piece, we'll say that, like any stimulant, caffeine can be an issue if misused. So go on, grab that quad-shot caramel macchiato with whipped cream, and enjoy. Just don’t go mad, and be aware of your tolerances, and you’ll be able to sink an espresso and a cruiser in World of Warships with equal aplomb.