Soft skills and video games: love at first sight

Education has undergone many changes throughout history, influencing what each person knows and even how they think. These changes can be observed anecdotally in the table games of the Trivial Pursuit series, specially if the players are from different generations. These games consist in rounds of questions about knowledge or general culture of various areas, and the differences of performance between generations are massive. Thus producing a cohort effect because the older generations were formed and educated to enhance crystallized knowledge (Horn and Cattell, 1966), which means to memorize the knowledge or data about the world.

With the ICT age arrival any data is available to anyone so memorization of information becomes less important and other types of skills have gained relevance. These are the soft skills required in jobs now according to OECD report (2015), giving a new and necessary dimension to our professional curriculums. For example, if we have received an official certification of we have a very high psychomotricity level, there will be more possibilities to be hired in a job position which driving in extreme situations is required.

What is also undeniable is the evolution of the video game market and the significant increase of players volume (1,8 billion in the world), with an economic increase in a sector that already reaches the number of $ 99.6 billion worldwide. So, under our perspective there are millions of people training themselves even without knowing they are doing.

This is how the XBadges project was born, we intend to bring together both the rise of videogames and their followers and the current need to strengthen and measure the aforementioned soft skills. To do this, the relationship between the use of video games and those competences must be investigated.

In a previous research on the current literature about the possible effects of video games on human cognition (Aldrich, 2009, Abbot, 2013 and Green and Bavelier, 2006 among others ), we consider -based on Triplett (2008)- a study about the effects of video games on transversal capabilities. In this way we will soon be able to offer a product that allows the user to enhance and improve those capacities through the use of the favorite video games of players and also certify both the acquisition and evolution of their skills personally and professionally.

Main hypothesis

The research that we are currently carrying out focuses on testing the following hypotheses:

  • Our main hypothesis is that the use of video games significantly improves certain soft skills. After a selection of competences we select the games with which we could test the hypothesis mentioned in relation to those competences. Specifically, we study the relationship of:
    1. Persistence and Stress Control with Flappy Bird.
      These capabilities gain a lot of relevance in contemporary environment where things may happen differently the way we expect and that is why we need tools to control and manage stress, as well as having an attitude that motivates us to move forward and try to succeed despite the failures. Flappy Bird was chosen due to its simple mechanics that incite the player to continue trying to arrive as far as possible despite dying (and failing) repeatedly.
    2. Spatial reasoning with Tetris.
      This skill is highly demanded today for a multitude of jobs that have to do with physical space, such as architecture, engineering and even driving. Tetris is our referenced videogame, since its positive influence on the development of spatial reasoning has already been shown repeatedly.
    3. Risk taking and Adaptability with Pacman.
      With the constant change happening around us, the risk is more present than ever. Therefore, the profiles with adaptability, flexibility and measured risk taking (derived from decision making) skills are gaining weight in the market. Pacman was chosen to enhance these abilities given his continuous variation within the game, putting at risk the player being chased by ghosts and forcing him to take increasingly risky decisions.
  • Thanks to an emotion recognition system, we can observe the players mood (joy, frustration, boredom and concentration) while playing and we will be able to study their relationship with the skills acquisition. From this the following hypothesis is derived: the emotions general percentage  correlates with the subjects scores:
    1. Overall Joy percentage correlates positively with high scores.
    2. Overall Boredom percentage correlates positively with low scores.
    3. Overall Concentration percentage correlates positively with high scores.
    4. Overall Frustration percentage correlates positively with high scores.
  • Another research hypothesis is how thanks to telemetry applied to video games we may be able to synchronize emotional tracking with skills acquisition in a timely manner. Therefore, the premise is the emotions generated in specific moments vary according to the scores obtained:
    1. Tetris Indicator number 2 shows high joy percentage.
    2. Pacman Indicators number 2 & 3 show high joy percentage.

Example of emotion data from one of our subjects

  • Finally we would like to check the sample interest towards video games as a tool or concept of “skills gym”.

Method

To test the hypotheses, a procedure is applied that includes the telemetry of the video games mentioned, the results of the standardized tests as an internal control measure and the data obtained through the recognition of emotions.
The indicators of each video game have been created on the basis of an existing bibliography about the measurement and description of the different objective abilities of study (Balleine, Garner, González and Dickinson, 1995, Honig and Staddon, 1975, cited in Hernández et al. 2011).

In particular the indicators and the tests which serve to extract the soft skills data are:

  • Flappy Bird:
  1. Indicator 1. Number of games.
  2. Indicator 2. Game time.
  3. Reference test: sub-dimension Perseverance of the “Big Five” questionnaire.
  • Tetris:
  1. Indicator 1. Deployment token time or time between the tokens appearance.
  2. Indicator 2. Line completed.
  3. Reference test: Fibonicci spatial reasoning.
  • Pacman:
  1. Indicator 1. Time between Big Dots.
  2. Indicator 2 & 3. Ghosts eaten in vulnerability modes A and B.
  3. Indicator 4. Closeness to the Ghosts.
  4. Reference test: Domain-Specific Risk-Taking (DOSPERT).

Finally, the method (Okagaki and Frensch, 1994) was established based on 3 sessions of 40 minutes each, on separate days, in a maximum of 1 week, to measure the influence of video games on the skills evolution of 15 subjects (5 per video game) and to proceed with the corresponding statistical analyzes for the hypothesis testing.

Image by WikiHow

Conclusion

With the experimental design performed, applied and tested, we hope we will have good indicators that video games can effectively be used as a tool to promote certain skills  by February. Thus, XBadges will be transformed into a way to train soft skills, in a graphic, entertaining, fun and intuitive way by using the favorite video games of each player. Our goal is to provide the player a way to learn, grow and certify his/her evolution by doing what he/she likes the most: playing video games.

Bibliographic references

  • Abbott, A. (2013). Gaming improves multitasking skills. Nature, 501(7465), pp.18-18.
  • Aldrich, C. (2009). Learning online with games, simulations, and virtual worlds. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Balleine, B., Garner, C., Gonzalez, F. and Dickinson, A. (1995). Motivational control of heterogeneous instrumental chains. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 21(3), pp.203-217.
  • Green, C.  S., and Bavelier, D. (2006). Enumeration versus multiple object tracking:  the case of action video game players. Cognition, 101 (1), pp. 217–245.
  • Hernández, J., Lozano, J. and Santacreu, J. (2011). La evaluación de la persistencia basada en una tarea de aprendizaje adquisición-extinción. Escritos de Psicología / Psychological Writings, 4(1), pp.25-33.
  • Honig, W. H. and Staddon, J. E. R. (1997). Handbook of operant behavior. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.
  • Horn, J. and Cattell, R. (1966). Refinement and test of the theory of fluid and crystallized general intelligences. Journal of Educational Psychology, 57(5), pp.253-270.
  • Triplett, J. (2008). The Effects of Commercial Video Game Playing: A Comparison of Skills and Abilities for the Predator UAV. Thesis. Air Force Institute of Technology. Air University.
  • Trousselle, R., García, N., Alcántara, E. and Gutiérrez, A., (2016). Tetris y el Razonamiento Espacial. [Prezi] Available at: https://prezi.com/g11n_a4nqetm/tetris-y-el-razonamiento-espacial/ [Accessed 25 Oct. 2016].
  • OECD. (2015). OECD Skills Outlook 2015: Youth, Skills and Employability. Paris, France: OECD Publishing. doi:10.1787/9789264234178-en.
  • Okagaki, L. and Frensch, P. (1994). Effects of video game playing on measures of spatial performance: Gender effects in late adolescence. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 15(1), pp.33-58.

About the author: Sergio Alloza

Blood Elf lvl 110, brain wizard and god gamer. Sometimes I think why things are the way they are.

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