SoftSkills.Games at 3DWire 2019
Softskills Games workshop.
Assessing soft skills with commercial video games
Since few years GECON.es is immersed in a constant process of research and innovation within softskills.games project. This project is seeking to define the inherent relationships between commercial video games and soft skills development to apply them to the real world in training modalities or skills assessment in sectors such as human resources, training, education and even health.
Over time we have seen the need to reach a wider audience and not only the academic or scientific ones. All those people who work in the world of video games and other sectors that are unaware of the research progress about video games and their inherent benefits. That is why, and thanks to the acceptance, predisposition and work of 3DWire management team, we were involved in a workshop where specifically we were able to transmit this knowledge to profiles of other sectors. In this way we are capable of establishing a bridge between the more academic research and the applications of the project results in a real and everyday context.
This idea has taken shape as a Soft Skills Games workshop of approximately 4 hours, applied on October 3, 2019, in one of the largest international events of Animation, Video games and New Media held in Spain.
The workshop was attended by teaching staff, digital business development teams with game engines, professionals from the video games industry, animation and gamers, also a sociology profile and one more another from UX oriented to video games. This variety helped to energize the workshop with the different points of view involved, which ended up evolving once again the output of information that we wanted to transmit.
The main purpose of this workshop is that professionals from different fields can verify for themselves the potential of video games to cause neurocognitive changes in gamers and how to use this information on their own purposes to highlight the value of the data produced by gamers during their hours of interaction with their favorite (mainstream) video games and how that information can be interpreted and used for a wide variety of applications.
As a general rule, video game designers and developers do not aim to train certain skills with the video games they create. However, in addition of being innovative and attractive products that naturally generate a lot of engagement video games are also excellent tools to develop skills and more specifically, soft skills. Even if they had not been produced for that purpose we can say that soft skills development is something inherent to each game or video game when they are being played.
Let's us share with you in detail the specific objectives and the content of each phase of the workshop as well as the results and the feedback obtained by the participants.
Phase 1. State of the Art
During this workshop we like to show to the audience the potential and benefits that video games have got. Specifically we want people to be aware of the impact of commercial or mainstream video games on a cognitive level and always in terms of soft skills. Within our research we never talk about serious games, we always talk on mainstream video games freely chosen by gamers during their leisure time. With this in mind, we provide enough evidence to show what the scientific community has been researching and revealing in recent years: that video games are more than entertainment, showing what skills are being trained. Although we also show that the current state of the art about this research topic is the tip of the iceberg that relating soft skills and use of commercial video games. Specifically, soft skills trained by a video game usually depend on the genre of the game. So in this workshop we also show several of the most frequent and most potential genres in terms of skills training, investigating even in specific mechanics and trying to explain the relationship they have with soft skills thanks to the achievements provided by them, a bridge between what is happening within the game (mechanics) and the evolution of the competencies on players (soft skills).
Image 1 taken from the Soft Skills Games presentation. Most relevant soft skills according to Future of Jobs and World Economic Forum
During this first phases and before starting with the theory itself, we asked users their gamer habits. This is, if they normally play video games, how often they do it, what kind of games do they play and why, in order to have a clear profile of our audience and thus being able to adjust the speech. In addition, we also asked our listeners what opinion they had about video games and if they believe that playing video games have had or even still have impact and influence on them in some aspects of their daily lives. This last question was answered affirmatively with some personal experiences of personality changes, ways of thinking or ways to do certain things in some of the participants and even about skills trained almost exclusively thanks of using such video games.
In the first part of the workshop we explained how video games enhance cognitive, social and emotional skills by referring to experimental cases of the scientific community that have validated hypotheses in this line. Specifically we exposed and explained the following 4 investigations together with videos and audiovisual material that helped audience to understand the relationship between these video games and the related skills:
Gong, Diankun; He, Hui; Liu, Dongbo; Ma, Weiyi; Dong, Li; Luo, Cheng; Yao, Dezhong. 2015. Enhanced functional connectivity and increased gray matter volume of insula related to action video game playing. Scientific Reports. 2015/04/16/online. Vol.5. Núm. 9763 (2015). DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/srep09763. Consultado en: https://www.nature.com/articles/srep09763#supplementary-information
This paper shows how professional video game action players have improved functional connectivity and gray matter volume in insular subregions.
Kühn, S., Gleich, T., Lorenz, R. C., Lindenberger, U., & Gallinat, J. (2014). Playing Super Mario induces structural brain plasticity: Gray matter changes resulting from training with a commercial video game. Molecular Psychiatry, 19(1), 265-271. doi:10.1038/mp.2013.120.
Players training for 2 months for at least 30 minutes per day with a set of platforms suffer a significant increase in gray matter (GM) in the formation of the right hippocampus (HC), right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) and bilateral cerebellum in the group of training. Which indicates an improvement in spatial learning, working memory and cognitive flexibility, among other things.
Image taken from the Soft Skills Games presentation. How to play Super Mario 64 (3Ds) impacts the brain.
Quiroga et al. (2016). The Measurement of Intelligence in the XXI Century using Video Games. The Spanish Journal of Psychology (2016), 19, e89, 1–13. © Universidad Complutense de Madrid and Colegio Oficial de Psicólogos de Madrid doi:10.1017/sjp.2016.84
Forty-seven young participants played "Professor Layton and the Curious People" for a maximum of 15 hours and completed a set of standardized intelligence tests. The results show that the time required to complete the game interacts with intelligence differences: the higher the intelligence, the shorter the time (d = .91). In addition, a set of 41 puzzles showed excellent psychometric properties.
Barr, M. (2017). Video games can develop graduate skills in higher education students: A randomised trial. Computers & Education. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2017.05.016
The large effect size and the statistical importance of the results of this paper support the hypothesis that playing video games can improve self-reported graduate skills (critical thinking, organizing ideas, finding information, time management, etc.). The results suggest that such game-based learning interventions have a role to play in higher education.
In parallel, we also talked about the tools that are currently being used to evaluate and identify soft skills. The standard tests that were created decades ago and are still used to try to find out what happens in the user's mind, elaborated from perception questions that must be answered by the subject itself in contexts over which, in most cases, that user doesn't have too much control. At that time these tests were useful because they provide an approximation of the measurement of skills, but today, when the measurement needs to be much more precise, they appear as inaccurate in some selective processes.
Video games come here as a measurement methodology based on actions and not exclusively on user perception, which eliminates several biases, including the well-known Hawthorne Effect where user -knowing that she is being evaluated- can modify the response, or even the social desirability pushing over that user can force her to skew the results in a try to please the evaluator. We also discussed more advantages of games as a measuring tool, for example the Stealth Assessment. The high demand for mental energy of video games playing and the fact that players enter in very demanding game worlds and mental statement called “Flow”, makes them ignoring the fact that they may be being evaluated with all the benefits associated to this statement in terms of assessment.
We finished the first section of the workshop showing the first research conducted from GECON.es that catapulted us to the current project, in order to understand the basis of the research, also explaining how much demand exists from development, international policy makers, trade and education organizations for that people who are going to integrate into the world of jobs in the coming years to develop these specific skills.
The result of this phase was very positive. We did not expect attendees to be so aware on the influence of video games on their lives. As soon as we started asking and generating the initial discussion about whether or not they were aware that video games are more than entertainment, they immediately began to provide personal examples and experiences about how the games had changed them, exposing cases on how more planners or more accurate in the use of their resources they are now thanks to playing strategy video games.
Phase 2. SKG Project
After the exposure of the information in the first phase of the workshop, we wanted to land on something closer and tangible. Here we shown the Soft Skills Games project with the aim of capturing -in a clear process- the application of everything exposed in the previous phase, this was: how can you take advantage of the huge amount of data that video players generate when they play and for which purposes.
Showing the first experiment of the project, we jumped to the next section of the course: teaching what is the Soft Skills Games project, the web platform, how it works and what features it has, what information it shows, with some examples of current users graphics in the platform, what games are currently being used to assess the soft skills and how this measurement is carried out. Finally, we commented the following versions of the project and future subjects of research.
We also briefly explained the technical communication through consultations to the Steam API and the relationship with the Achievements, that is, how we take the achievements from video games as indicators, disengaging every action (or group of actions) necessary to get a certain achievement and associating soft skills to this. We also reviewed the possibilities to integrate data from video game studios outside of Steam.
While all the attendees present were on the opinion of the relationship between games and skills is immutable in the first phase, when entering the debate about the use of the data generated by the player some discrepancies arose. Although the project was well received in its entirety, highlighting the usefulness of playing video games, the possibility that some players would stop playing video games if they knew it had a serious purpose behind was also commented. "Maybe it would stop being fun if I know I'm being evaluated". On the other hand, they also recognized that it would be a more accurate evaluation methodology and closer to the new generations of employees than using the current ones (standard tests) and that finally if it was established as a standard measurement parameter, it would certainly be accepted for the entire community of gamers as a standard way of highlighting their resumees skills over non-gamers resumees.
Phase 3. Video game analysis
In this phase we wanted to transfer the scientist lab gown to the audience, so they playing the role of thinking on video games the same way the project does. The most practical part of the workshop helped listeners to understand the video games-soft skills relationship, in addition of triggering discussion and learning about.
The dynamic was to give the participants the opportunity to make the video game-soft skills relationships analysis. To do this, they had to think about a video game (or several) of their choice to be able to break it down into mechanics and elements that individually or collectively would be able to be linked to the training of one or several soft skills (they had a list with soft skills taxonomy that we use within the project). Subsequently, we invited the participants to present the results of this research on a small scale and debate all among.
Workshop participants exposing the results of the practical part.
The dynamics were well received, groups of 2 people were set and immediately they started working with interesting results. We highlight a couple of examples in which 1 group of participants chose Brawl Starts (Supercell, 2017) analyzing it exhaustively and linking this game with multiple skills such as Spatial Reasoning or Goal Setting. The other group chose several video games, associating one or two skills with each: Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Siege (Ubisoft, 2015) with Coordination with Others. In this way users reached a true understanding of the relationship between video games and the presence of soft skills in players.
Final Phase. SKG Seal
With this last phase of the workshop we want to generate a debate about the possibility of a "SKG seal" that helps to give more visibility to games that meet quality and playability criteria, containing specific information about the skills that train, that is, to find out the opinions of the professionals of the sector on ways of collaboration with the project and perception of the impact.
From this discussion a secondary objective is derived: to find out the interest that video game studies could have in highlighting the new qualities of their games in some way within their marketing and sales campaigns, thus collaborating with the project and even acquiring associated services and competitive advantages. In this way the game would be evaluated and qualified with a soft skills development seal that validates the acquisition of certain skills, thus launching the market as a differential element from the very beginning.
Risa Cohen talking about the possibility of involving the project with video game development studies.
We concluded this workshop with the explanation about how much impact could have this kind knowledge on the game design decisions, how this could affect both the video game's marketing and the present and future of gameplay and even the formation of the own video game industry professionals. Subsequently we gave a way to a discussion process about the suitability of establishing a seal for video games that contemplate returning relevant information in the form of soft skills training to the player, as well as the challenges of re-positioning them in the market and opening up new markets that are not still contemplated for commercial video games but now they would be. We also discussed more uses of the project in terms of player profiling to help game designers and publishers to be more effective in sales or even in game testing topics to identify what skills are needed to play them or detecting bugs. The challenges to be overcomed are also studied to make this concept reaching the market and looking for sectors where the use of video games for training and detection of soft skills, such as Human Resources, Education and Health, is more relevant.
Finally we can not forget other profiles that are very involved in buying video games, these are the parents of children who play video games today. This target is also interesting since today the world of video games has to reach the gap between those who have the responsibility of their kids entertainment. In addition, in many cases the video game is perceived as a barrier in communication between parents and children. A compelling argument such as soft skills training and the preparation of players for the labor market, could help to reach this target with the aim of bringing knowledge closer and building a more complete picture of the most important leisure tool of our present.
The applications of data generated by the players to be used both within the video game industry and within outside sectors such as education or human resources was well understood. In fact, from these points a discussion was generated about the ethical use of all these data, where ideas of illusion of privacy appeared. Some people think that their data is not being used in social networks (pe.) and yet it is, and comparing this uses of data, the use and aim of data from video games would not be such an exorbitant idea.
Specifically, on the one hand there were users who considered that it was unethical to use that data when the players were generating it without any intention of providing data on their abilities or without having authorized such use, and on the other hand we found users who would not mind receiving a credential or some recognition of their own skills thanks to the use they have made of their favorite video games. They explained that they were going to play anyway because it is something they like to do and if they could make use of that data they would benefit themselves twice.
As general conclusions we detected a great acceptance on the concept of the relationship between video games and soft skills, as well as a great participation and positive feedback. The diversity of the profiles involved helped us not to focus the workshop towards a single profile, so in the end all the different opinions and ideas that came out helped us to a better understanding on the perception of the project and possible strengths and weaknesses that we had not taken into account when applying it in certain contexts.
We thank the 3DWire (now Wired) again for allowing us to make real the Soft Skills Games workshop.