Warming up for gaming

Ben Wisbey
3 min readJan 30, 2022

If you want to play a ranked online game such as League of Legends, how can you maximize your chance of winning? Just like you might queue dodge in champion selection if you feel your team is weak, there are things you can check with your mental performance to decide if you should play ranked or not.

MaddCog has recorded thousands of games of League of Legends accompanied with mental performance data. So, the first thing we looked at was a simple comparison of the first and second games in a playing session. Should you just jump straight into ranked, or do you need a warm-up game?

Let me start with a boring clarifier. There is no one size fits all approach or recommendation. Everyone is different so there are differing impacts on performance. With that in mind, let’s look at the outcomes.

Should you warm up with an unranked game?

We looked at eight League of Legends players who had all played more than 100 games while tracking their mental performance. Of these eight, five showed a better mental performance in their second game when compared to their first. In this case, ‘better mental performance’ means they had higher levels of flow, and a higher win rate and game grade.

Graph showing the increase in flow in the second game, compared to the first game. Seven of the eight players had higher flow in the second game. This was considered substantially higher for five players.

This is far from compelling. Five out of eight is not a clear recommendation. But for these 5 individuals, it is meaningful. They are best to play an unranked warm-up game prior to moving to ranked, while there was minimal difference for the other three players, so they could go straight into a ranked game.

Should you even play if fatigued?

We then moved on to look at the importance of fatigue at the start of a gaming session. We already know that fatigue can have a significant impact on gaming performance, but if you sit down to play and are already fatigued, should you even start a ranked game?

The graph below shows the increase in win rate when fatigue was not high.

Graph showing the increase in win rate when fatigue is low or moderate, compared to high.

We found that four of the eight players had substantially poorer performances in their first game when they were fatigued at the start. The win rate for these players dropped by at least 5% when they started a game fatigued. This becomes an easy test. Using MaddCog, when you sit down to play, you should check your mental fatigue before deciding if you should play ranked or unranked. It only takes 5 minutes to get this feedback, which is less time than it takes to get into a game.

And what about flow?

Of the eight players, half showed a substantially higher grade and win rate when their flow levels were high in the first 5 minutes of the game. This isn’t completely surprising given our research has shown a strong relationship between flow and game performance, but it was surprising that the first 5 minutes of a game was enough to be meaningful for half the players.

Unfortunately, this finding isn’t very practical. You can’t play 5 minutes of a game and then decide if you want to quit. However, it does mean that these players need to pay added attention to their pre-game routine, as achieving the right mindset will have a large impact on whether they win or not.

I hope you have found this article beneficial. The key takeaways are that for some players, having an unranked warmup game is recommended, and as a general rule, you should avoid playing ranked if they are already fatigued when they sit down to play.

Based on these findings, the MaddCog app assesses the importance of these factors for you as an individual player and lets you know any relevant recommendations.