You might think that playing video games is just a pastime or a hobby. But there’s actual science behind it, especially when it comes to competitive gaming. But one might ask the question, how can you perform research on a bunch of people playing video games?

If you’re an avid video gamer, you might not know that some developers collect data on how you play their games. There are many reasons why they do this, but the most important is to understand how interaction with their games can be made better.

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Overwatch is a teamwork-based hero shooter.

Some of this information is even publicly available such as rankings, total time played, and so on. To the average person, it might look like just numbers and figures. But to psychologist Evelyn Tan, it’s a gold mine of information and knowledge.

Tan’s study looks not only at team dynamics but how members interact with one another when competing. Based on that, she can better understand how teams function.

Tan said on a post published by 100 Scientists of Malaysia’s Facebook page, “I was really interested in understanding how teams in the workplace work well and what makes those teams work well. But it is hard to get information about real-world teams. It is difficult to collect real-world data, especially when it comes to team interactions.”

Her focus is on games like League of Legends, Dota 2, Portal, and Overwatch as the game data is publicly available and lets her understand how team dynamics can influence outcomes.

 
Dota 2 requires massive amounts of teamwork to win.

Tan said, “In my most recent experiment, I looked at 2-person teams of strangers playing Portal (a puzzle-solving game). I recorded their gameplay, and keyboard and mouse activity of each team. I analyzed the communication between players during the study.

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“Using this kind of dataset, I can ask questions like what was the communication about? How much did one person speak? What was the level of experience of each player and did it affect the way that they communicated? What might that tell us about the climate in the team? Was the interaction between the players, mostly positive, helpful and productive, or was there one person commanding someone else (at the expense of the other player)?”

She believes her research could be applied to the real-world, “Some examples would be emergency response teams and firefighting teams, anything with a fast-paced action-oriented environment. These high-risk teams could benefit from this kind of research because they face similar challenges to teams in video games, especially in competitive team-based games.”

 

Tan also agrees multiplayer games can encourage players to make friends online, especially during the pandemic.

“Multiplayer games can support rich social connections, either through friendships formed through gaming or getting support from the gaming community. We know that strong community support is generally related to better mental wellbeing, and we also see this in gaming communities,” said Tan.

If you’re interested in Tan’s work, check out her website.

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Cover image sourced from 100 Scientists of Malaysia.





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