Leadership emerges spontaneously during games

Apr 29, 2013

(Phys.org) —Video game and augmented-reality game players can spontaneously build virtual teams and leadership structures without special tools or guidance, according to researchers.

Players in a that mixed real and online worlds organized and operated in teams that resembled a military organization with only rudimentary online tools available and almost no military background, said Tamara Peyton, doctoral student in information sciences and technology, Penn State.

"The fact that they formed teams and interacted as well as they did may mean that should resist over-designing the leadership structures," said Peyton. "If you don't design the leadership structures well, you shouldn't design them at all and, instead, let the players figure it out."

Peyton, who worked with Alyson Young, graduate student in information systems, and Wayne Lutters, associate professor of information systems, both at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, said that the players quickly adopted a that resembled the U.S. military's leadership hierarchy.

"One of the surprising things is that although the people in the game were not related in any way to the military, many of the teams organized along military lines, from designations to filing situation reports," said Peyton.

The researchers, who presented their findings at the 2013 Annual Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Paris today (April 29), examined 54,000 posts of 2,500 players who took part in the I Love Bees game. Microsoft released the game in 2004 as part of a viral marketing campaign to promote the release of the company's Halo 2 video game. The object of the I Love Bees game was to decode messages from a beekeeper's website that was supposedly hacked by aliens. The coded messages revealed of real pay telephones situated throughout the United States. Players then waited at those payphones for calls that contained more clues.

Because the game did not have a leadership infrastructure, players established their own websites and online forums on other websites to discuss structure, strategy and tactics.

A group of gamers from Washington, D.C., one of the most successful groups in the game, established an organization with a general and groups of lieutenants and privates. The numbers of members in each rank were roughly proportional to the amount of soldiers who fill out ranks in the U.S. military, Peyton said.

The assigned their own ranks, rather than have ranks dictated to them. The general oversaw the strategy, while lieutenants mostly handled specific tactics for accomplishing the strategy. The privates carried out orders from the lieutenants.

As the game progressed, members researched military terminology and frequently used terms, such as armies, platoons and companies, in their message board posts. Peyton said that the increased militarization after 9/11 may have influenced this choice in terminology.

"The concept of militarization is more of a part of the collective imagination now, post 9/11," Peyton said.

Peyton said the study also shows the power of games to inspire people to work.

"These people did all of this work with no tangible reward, no promise of a free game, or anything," said Peyton. "The strict line between work and leisure is disappearing."

Explore further: Four questions about missing Malaysian plane answered

Related Stories

'Civilization' lets Facebook players rule world

Jul 07, 2011

Facebook friends will be able to conspire together to rule the world in a free version of blockbuster "Civilization" strategy videogame crafted for the online social network. ...

China's army develops 'online war game'

Jun 29, 2011

After setting up its own cyber-warfare team, China's military has now developed its first online war game aimed at improving combat skills and battle awareness, state press said Wednesday.

Iconic computer game 'Civilization' joins Facebook

Jul 06, 2011

(AP) -- Long before "FarmVille" there was "Civilization," the iconic computer game in which players build a civilized world over thousands of years. Now, the game's designer, Sid Meier, is bringing his creation to Facebook.

Recommended for you

Four questions about missing Malaysian plane answered

20 hours ago

Travelers at Asian airports have asked questions about the March 8 disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Here are some of them, followed by answers.

Under some LED bulbs whites aren't 'whiter than white'

Apr 18, 2014

For years, companies have been adding whiteners to laundry detergent, paints, plastics, paper and fabrics to make whites look "whiter than white," but now, with a switch away from incandescent and fluorescent lighting, different ...

Freight train industry to miss safety deadline

Apr 16, 2014

The U.S. freight railroad industry says only one-fifth of its track will be equipped with mandatory safety technology to prevent most collisions and derailments by the deadline set by Congress.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.

Health care site flagged in Heartbleed review

People with accounts on the enrollment website for President Barack Obama's signature health care law are being told to change their passwords following an administration-wide review of the government's vulnerability to the ...

A homemade solar lamp for developing countries

(Phys.org) —The solar lamp developed by the start-up LEDsafari is a more effective, safer, and less expensive form of illumination than the traditional oil lamp currently used by more than one billion people ...

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...