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Collaborative video games can benefit coworkers and increase productivity

Collaborative video games which require group effort to overcome problems and challenges can have a productive and motivational effect on coworkers who use them as part of team-building exercises. 

A study was carried out by Mark Jeffrey Keith, Greg Anderson, James Eric Gaskin and Douglas L. Dean for Brigham Young University (BYU). Entitled ‘Team Video Gaming for Team Building: Effects on Team Performance‘, the paper highlights how, due to the speedy nature in which teams are formed and dissolve within a company structure, they need to become productive almost immediately after said formation. Such teams are generally chosen to solve ‘specific problems that require diverse skills and experience.’

Rock Band My Good Planet
Rock Band was one of the titles used in the experiment. (c) EA

Taking this into account, the authors of the study conducted an experiment in which participants engaged in several team-based activities.

When new teammates play a collaborative video game, they engage in cooperative and challenging goals while they enjoy the games,” explain the authors, “Although research has shown that video games can promote learning and recreation, it has not investigated the effects of commercial video games on subsequent work-team performance.

Initially, 352 people were chosen and then randomly organised into 80 teams. It was confirmed that none of the participants knew each other, or had any previously-defined professional relationships. Following the selection and group allocation, each team was required to compete in Findamine, a geocaching competition.

Geocaching is, essentially, a treasure hunt in which players follow clues and coordinates to find landmarks or specific geographical targets. All of the players were offered cash rewards for winning, which served as the primary incentive. The players were then asked to take a break to perform one of three activities:

1) Team video gaming.

2) Quiet homework time.

3) A “goal training” discussion on improving their geocaching results.

These sessions lasted 45 minutes. The video gaming team played titles such as Rock Band or Halo 4 — ‘games selected because they are both familiar and require coordinated efforts among players‘.

When the teams returned to the geocaching activity, those who had participated in the team video game activities performed significantly better than the others.

Street Fighter V My Good Planet
Collaboration over competition seems to be the focus of the study. So titles which focus on indicidual victories, such as Street Fighter V (pictured – (c) Capcom) may not be the best choice for creating a sense of collective progress and motivated unity.

We found that teams in the TVG (team video game) treatment demonstrated a 20 percent productivity improvement in subsequent tasks (in our case, a team-based geocaching scavenger hunt) over teams that participated in traditional team-building activities.” confirmed the authors.

The implications of the study are that an inexpensive and enjoyable task activity such as playing collaborative video games could lead to creating a happier, more connected workforce. Due to the early stages of this area of research, there are still elements to develop and confirm, but the authors are certain that they’ve highlighted something incredibly worthwhile.

To see that big of a jump — especially for the amount of time they played — was a little shocking,” said co-author Greg Anderson. “Companies are spending thousands and thousands of dollars on team-building activities, and I’m thinking, go buy an Xbox.

Team video gaming may truly be a viable — and perhaps even optimal — alternative for team building,” added lead researcher Mark Keith.

Colin J McCracken
Colin J McCracken

Director and Executive Editor

Colin J McCracken is an Irish editor and writer of both fiction and journalism. Coming from a background in education and film, his passions are split between the environmental and the entertaining. Constantly striving for a more sustainable existence and trying to balance it while simultaneously buying too many books.