Collaborative Video Games Increase Office Productivity, Study Finds

'Companies are spending thousands and thousands of dollars on team-building activities, and I’m thinking, go buy an Xbox,' says one of the reasearchers.

Sony PlayStation 4 Slim 1Tb revision and two controllers
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'Companies are spending thousands and thousands of dollars on team-building activities, and I’m thinking, go buy an Xbox,' says one of the reasearchers.

In a 2018 essay penned for Psychology Today, research professor at Boston College Peter Gray explained the positive impact video gaming has on the human mind. Cognitive, emotional, social, motivational, and creativity benefits of playing video games have been revealed by numerous scientific studies published over the years.

But little is known about the impact gaming can have on office productivity. A new study by Brigham Young University shows that collaborative video games increase office productivity.

Published in AIS Transactions on Human-Computer Interaction, authored by Mark Jeffrey Keith, Greg Anderson, James Eric Gaskin, and Douglas L. Dean, “Team Video Gaming for Team Building: Effects on Team Performance” adds to the growing body of work pertaining to positive outcomes of gaming in a team environment.

For the study, Brigham Young University researchers recruited 352 undergraduate students via an online university system, organizing the participants into 80 teams. The researchers made sure that the students with pre-existing relationships were not on the same team.

For the initial experimental task, the researchers used a mobile application called Findamine. The geocaching application was successfully used in similar experiments, since instead of giving GPS-based coordinates it gives players text-based clues meant to aide them in identifying landmarks across different locations.

Group of friends playing video games.
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The randomized teams earned points by successfully figuring out the clue, traveling to the landmark, and taking a picture at the location. Findamine automatically uploaded the pictures to a website. Due to the nature of the game, the study participants could identify and visit more landmarks by dividing into pairs. Meaning, they received more points for communicating and collaborating with teammates, and dividing labor among themselves. The winners were rewarded cash.

For the second part of the study, each team was randomly assigned to one of three treatments:

  1. Control — The participants in this group were asked to spend 45 minutes working on homework on their own. They were instructed to not speak with each other until brought back together again.
  2. Goal training — The participants in the second group were given a series of questions pertaining to the first Findamine task. They were then asked to discuss ways to improve their team performance, and subsequently asked to set goals for the second Findamine task.
  3. Video gaming — This group chose between two video games to play: Rock Band 3 and Halo 4. The games were selected because of their popularity — students are likely familiar with them — and because of their multiplayer and interdependent nature.

After the treatment, all groups were asked to play another round of Findamine.

The third video gaming treatment was found to be significantly more effective than both the goal training treatment and the control treatment. The video gaming treatment had a significant impact on team cohesion. Video gamer group increased the Findamine performance substantially, raising average scores by 20 percent.

Study co-author Greg Anderson said the following in a press release.

“To see that big of a jump — especially for the amount of time they played — was a little shocking.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,” lead researcher Mark Keith concluded.