Improve your soft skills playing Counter Strike video game

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Author: Sergio Alloza Castillo >> @PsycGamer

Reviewed by: Flavio Escribano >> @ludictador

Spanish version / Versión en castellano: Descargar

Introduction

In this blog we use to talk about the influences of video games in our everyday life. Specifically, lately we have been focusing on the relationship between video games and soft skills. In fact, in one of our last articles we talked about this type of skills and the increasing need of its empowerment to fit in the labor society in Why detecting and training Soft Skills [with commercial video games] is crucial in ICT Society.

Our need to link soft skills with commercial video games is born from the XBagdes project, demonstrating that video games can improve soft skills as you can read in the published results.

We are happy to announce that since today xBadges is no more just a research project but a real implementation within an innovative recruitment platform: Workkola. Workkola started dealing with soft skills some time ago. They identify soft skills through a 360º system among the users themselves and the companies with which they interact and in which they detect, validate and empower personalities, values, talents, attitudes and competences, which together with the hard skills, remain automatically linked to their professional profiles, replacing the curriculum vitae with real metrics, and improving their positioning before job offers where this information becomes the basis of the entire process. We greatly appreciate the opportunity to start this soft skills detection model on the Workkola platform.

Wait a second, was not this article about Counter Strike? It is!

After a lot of research on the topic (among many: Alloza & Escribano, 2017; Triplett, 2008), it´s time to be more specific. Leaving the classic video games and going to the detail with current video games and see how they really influence certain soft skills. In particular we have chosen, fortunately for its fans: Counter Strike: Global Offensive, from now on CS:GO.

 

Image taken from CS:GO – Don’t Go That Way! (CS:GO Funny Moments and Fails!), speedyw03 youtube´s channel at http://bit.ly/2y2EO5k

Counter Strike: Global Offensive

CS:GO is a shooter game in which, in the most common play mode, the user and the rest of his team must meet certain conditions to win multiple rounds to win the game. You can take two sides, terrorist and anti-terrorist (5 members each team). In the terrorist team the objective is either to kill all the anti-terrorists or to plant and activate a bomb and protect it until it explodes. On the contrary the anti-terrorists must eliminate all the enemy members or to deactivate the bomb before it explodes. The game counts with a multitude of weapons and maps in which the players must organize and give the best of themselves to fulfill their objectives, and much more in a professional level.

CS:GO has been chosen because it is the most popular video game on Steam and with millions of players on other platforms, as well as the great community that has been generated over the time around it. Without knowing it, this popular video game has been training a lot of gamers in skills such as hand-eye coordination, reflexes and some of the skills we are talking about in this article, such as reasoning speed. Actually, CS:GO had been studied previously in relation to the stimulation of the player’s creativity (Wright & Boria, 2002).

To date, all this ‘training’ goes unnoticed not only by recruitment companies or educational institutions but also by the players themselves. Now our goal is to extract, synthesize and capture information related to the improvement of these soft skills that are being improved by the current video games in a continuous and massive way. Through this, video games’ users will have more information about their profiles, which may help them to better position themselves in the labor market, in addition to continue training conscientiously.

Image taken from ESPORT at http://bit.ly/2hP4Se7

Soft Skills in CS:GO

Before seeing how some skills are measured through video games, let’s look at some theory behind some of these skills behind Counter Strike and how they are normally measured.

Speed of reasoning

CS:GO is not precisely a slow game. Their games matches, their rounds, are usually fast and involve a lot of actions by the average player. In fact, the player not only has to “do” some actions in the matches but most of the time he will be receiving information. Information about the map, where he is aiming at, if the weapon is loaded or not, if there are enemies nearby, if any, try to dodge them and point them successfully, and all this taking into account the position and actions of the teammates, among many other variables.

Clearly CS:GO has all the elements to be able to shape and enhance the speed of processing and reasoning of its players.

If we go deep into the ability to see what the reasoning speed is and in which set of cognitive abilities it fits, we could write almost an entire thesis, so we will stick to the well-defined definition of Goldhammer and Klein (2011):

“(…)The construct of reasoning speed is perceived as fluidity in the performance of reasoning tasks. From a perspective of individual differences, individuals are not only in their capacity, but also in the level of speed at which they complete the tasks of reasoning.”

As there are also many types of reasoning (context oriented, for example mathematical or spatial reasoning), the speed of reasoning can literally be understood as: speed or fluency in reasoning tasks (for example, quick to say all the solutions that you can think of before a problem) in a limited time (CHC theory, definition project: Flanagan & Dixon, 2013; McGrew 2009; Newton & McGrew, 2010; Schneider & McGrew, 2012).

The important thing here is to know in depth how this skill is usually measured in a traditional way so that we can see how to do it with our system. This ability is relatively simple, so basically its measurement consists in checking the speeds of the people when performing different tests (whether spatial, verbal, etc.), although it emphasizes the joint modeling approach proposed by Klein Entink, Fox et al. (2009), which also measures the accuracy or validity of the responses.

People/team management

This ability is perceived in a global way, because in team management there may be many skills such as emotional intelligence (Goleman, González Raga and Mora, 2009), communication, assertiveness or empathy.

In fact, CASEL (a leading organization in the practice of promoting integrated academic, social and emotional learning) in its competency classification SEL (Social and emotional learning) encompasses team management within an even a larger area: Social skills. Which defines them as: the ability to establish and maintain healthy and rewarding relationships with various individuals and groups. The ability to communicate clearly, listen well, cooperate with others, resist inappropriate social pressure, constructively negotiate conflicts, and seek and offer help when necessary. WEF (World Economic Forum) in its report on the future of work in 2016 more specifically defines team management as ‘motivating, developing and directing people while working, identifying the best people for the job’.

In this context, we do not talk about work but about team management of 5 people in CS:GO matches. In fact it is very common for players to synchronize with each other and cooperate, agreeing on the point of the map (A or B) to go, selecting the best equipment in just a few seconds or generating strategies among all.

Regarding the measurement, there is no tool that measures the management of equipment as such, but there are many tools that serve to quantify and qualify the levels of these sub-skills in order to establish a certain level in equipment management.

Stress management

More than a skill, stress management is a goal that can be reached in several ways. As Penedo et al. (2003) explained in their research, there are multiple ways of managing stress, such as relaxation, cognitive restructuring, social support, assertiveness, etc.

However, in our case, we will consider it as a skill, as did Murphy (1996): to be able to maintain performance while stressed by certain stimulus. Thus, regardless of the method, we keep the result in focus. That is, while you are playing CS: GO, as a player you are able to remain calm and keep aiming well and hitting despite having the entire enemy team in front of you, for example.

Regarding the measurement in the previously cited research of Penedo et al., they measured stress management with the unpublished Measure of Current Status (MOCS), a questionnaire that asks the user for the perceived capacity (rated on a Likert scale between 1, I can not do it at all and 5 I can doing it extremely well) to respond to the challenges and demands of everyday life or perceived capacity for managing stress. Some of the situations that the questionnaire poses are:

  • “I can easily recognize situations that make me feel stressed or upset.”
  • “I can stand and reexamine my thoughts to get a new perspective.”
  • “I can use muscle relaxation techniques to reduce any stress I experience.”
  • “I can ask people for help in my life when I need them.”

Measuring with video games

But how are these skills measured with video games?

Usually these skills are measured in the same way: simulating situations. This assessment can take several forms: a role-playing in front of your future boss in a job interview, completing one or more questionnaires full of questions or most common in cognitive skills assessment, performing specific tests (spatial, verbal, memory, etc.). The funny thing is that in CS:GO it happens continuously and almost without realizing it. If you have ever played or are even a professional player, you will know for sure.

As we have already seen in the CS examples, in each of the skills explained, the video game puts us in situations in which we have to deploy our full potential to process the information we receive as soon as possible, coordinate with the team or even lead it and, above all, manage tons of stress while playing.

Image by Twinfinite at http://bit.ly/2z0KGKf

In other words, Counter Strike is a video game that (among many others) is designed to entertain. But it becomes an optimum tool to identify, evaluate and even train these skills, since situations in which the player is immersed require high levels of such skills to arrive at a valid problem solving, in this case win the games without dying, make the most kills, etc.

And what elements of video games tell us if a player has done a certain action within it?

The achievements. The most current video games usually have achievements/trophies that are unlocked when you perform actions in the video game.

Some examples of CS:GO achievements (on Steam) and their relationship with some skills are:

  • Blitzkrieg (Yes, it is an achievement’s name). Description: Win a round against five enemies in less than thirty seconds.
    • The fact that a player has this achievement already indicates that he has been able to win a round (alone or in company) against the total enemy team in a very fast time. To perform this action are quite necessary certain skills such as team management (to be able to synchronize with the teammates or even establish patterns of action like “go B and cover me”, for example), also the speed of reasoning since the object which appears on the screen has to be identified as an enemy and is fired (with success). All this in 30 seconds, and yet it is an achievement unlocked by most of the players (more than 60%).
  • Shrapnelproof. Description: Take 80 points of damage from enemy grenades and still survive the round.
    • This achievement conveys very well the situation of stress that a player can be submitted in a CS:GO match. After receiving almost deadly damage, the player has to manage his stress, among many other things (visual search for enemies, anticipation, etc.) in order to survive until the end. Any player will recognize that he/she “gets a little nervous” when he/she is alone against the enemy team or is being chased. It is this type of stress that can be transferred to other non-play contexts.
  • First Things First. Description: Personally kill the entire Terrorist team before the bomb is planted in Demolition Mode.
    • Not only do you have to win but you have to do it alone. Here we find a very difficult situation where the player must extract their maximum potential to anticipate multiple enemies and to remain calm at all times. Usually this category of achievements is only obtained by professional players due to the immense amount of hours dedicated.

Achievements like this are very scarce because they are very difficult to get, in addition to the skills needed. Not to mention others achievements such as King of the Kill (Play 5,000 matches of Arms Race or Demolition mode). These are are hard to get, not by difficulty but by time. So these achievements could reflect very high levels of persistence or determination since they require many hours of play overcoming all the emotions associated with a competitive game, for example the frustration by die.

Conclusion

In summary, we see how the GO:GO achievements can help to identify the players’ skills and see how these skills keep boosting while players continues playing.

With this relationship we can establish skill levels, because the processing speed will not be the same in a professional player of CS:GO that of an amateur player. Although both users play the same game. It would also be relevant to take into account the factor of time. If for example a player achieves an achievement that reflects a good level of reasoning speed and the years go by, not because he has achieved that achievement means that he will continue to have the same speed of processing throughout his life. Unfortunately, if skills are not stimulated or trained, they generally decline. Therefore, in this last point, the concept of retraining the achievements should be reinforced so that skills measurement can be more specific.

And how will this work on the Workkola platform?

At the beginning of the article we have cited and thanked our presence in Workkola recruitment platform. We have established a joint collaboration in order to include our soft skills identification and evaluation systems through Steam achievements. Therefore, we will get massive real data from users helping them to acquire consciousness of the very valuable soft skills they are trainning  and how all these soft skills are important to their professional carreer.

One thing has become clear: video games are excellent tools for training and measuring soft skills. Already proven by many and now with mass commercial video games. Is this the future? No friends, it is our present.

Bibliography

  • Alloza, S. and Escribano, F. (2017). XBadges. How soft skills are boosted by video games: Improving persistence, risk taking & spatial reasoning with Flappy Bird, Pacman & Tetris. Repositorio institucional ULL. Extracted from https://riull.ull.es/xmlui/handle/915/4764.
  • Flanagan, D. P., and Dixon, S. G. (2013). The Cattell‐Horn‐Carroll Theory of cognitive abilities. In D. P. Flanagan (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Special Education (pp. 368-382). John Wiley & Sons.
  • Goleman, D., González Raga, D. and Mora, F. (2009). Inteligencia emocional. Barcelona: Kairós.
  • Goldhammer, F. and Klein, E. R. H. (2011). Speed of reasoning and its relation to reasoning ability. Intelligence, 39, 108–119.
  • Klein Entink, R. H., Fox, J. P., and van der Linden, W. J. (2009). A multivariate multilevel approach to the modeling of accuracy and speed of test takers. Psychometrika, 74, 21−48.
  • McGrew, K. S. (2009). CHC theory and the human cognitive abilities project: Standing on the shoulders of the giants of psychometric intelligence research. Intelligence, 37(1), 1-10.
  • Murphy, L. R. (1996). Stress Management in Work Settings: A Critical Review of the Health Effects. American Journal of Health Promotion, 11 (2).
  • Newton, J. H., and McGrew, K. S. (2010). Introduction to the special issue: Current research in Cattell–Horn–Carroll–based assessment. Psychology in the Schools, 47 (7), 621-634.
  • Penedo, F., Dahn, J., Molton, I., Gonzalez, J., Kinsinger, D., Roos, B., Carver, C., Schneiderman, N. and Antoni, M. (2003). Cognitive-behavioral stress management improves stress-management skills and quality of life in men recovering from treatment of prostate carcinoma. Cancer, 100 (1), 192-200.
  • Schneider, W. J., and McGrew, K. S. (2012). The Cattell-Horn-Carroll model of intelligence. In D. P. Flanagan & P. L. Harrison (Eds.), Contemporary intellectual assessment: Theories, tests, and issues (99-144). New York, NY: Guilford Press.
  • Triplett, J. (2008). The efects of commercial video game playing: a comparison of skills and abilities for the Predator UAV. Thesis. Air Force Institute of Technology. Air University.
  • World Economic Forum (2016). The Future of Jobs. Employment, Skills and Workforce Strategy for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. REF 010116. Recuperado de http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_Future_of_Jobs.pdf.
  • Wright, T. and Boira, E. (2002). Creative Player Actions in FPS Online Video Games – Playing Counter-Strike. Game Studies, 2 (2).

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.