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Games Science

Playing With Friends Makes You a Better Gamer 63

An anonymous reader writes "Computer scientists at the University of Colorado and the Stevens Institute of Technology have shown that gamers that play with friends play better. The study used the blockbuster FPS Halo: Reach as a testbed, and combined ground truth data on friendships from an anonymous survey with data about the multiplayer competitions extracted using the Reach Stats API. They found that the more friends you have on your team, the more assists, the fewer betrayals, the more you score, and the greater the probability your team wins, and that this 'friends for the win' effect goes above and beyond the benefits of playing with skilled strangers. (They also show that older gamers are statistically better than younger players, contrary to popular opinion.) Study lead Prof. Aaron Clauset, writing on his blog, says that friends 'may be able to effectively anticipate or adapt to each others' actions or strategies without an explicit need for verbal (and thus time consuming) communication or coordination,' and 'these effects may be fairly universal, and not merely limited to the traditional domains like sports and war, where practicing together has a long tradition.'"
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Playing With Friends Makes You a Better Gamer

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 15, 2012 @07:11AM (#39362353)

    This just in: teams of people with mutually-known skillsets perform better than teams of people with no mutually-known skillsets. Film at eleven.

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      11pm or 11am? What time zone? What channel? Don't they have an online feed? Why film?

      • by Fluffeh ( 1273756 ) on Thursday March 15, 2012 @07:37AM (#39362455)

        11pm or 11am? What time zone? What channel? Don't they have an online feed? Why film?

        See, if you knew the other AC personally, you would know that it was 11PM, on 102 and it was EST. You would also know that there is no online feed and that it is a film because it is film night - time to cozy down on the lounge with the significant other.

        However, seeing as you are new to the team here, keep wasting time asking those stupid questions and making our team lose. Thanks for you effort.

      • ask your friends, they'll know.
    • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

      Now we know where Captain Obvious went to school -- undergrad at University of Colorado and grad studies at the Stevens Institute of Technology.

      People who know each other play as a team better than complete strangers? Whoda thunkit?

    • Something like that (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Thursday March 15, 2012 @12:12PM (#39365411) Journal

      Something like that. Though actually, i'd say it's not even just KNOWING the skillsets, but being used to doing certain things as a group.

      It's something that's been known in the army for example for, oh, maybe a couple thousand years now: a legion of 5000 people acting as a group and already being used to act as a group, beats a horde of 10,000 uncoordinated barbarians any day, even if maybe individually they're better warriors.

      Furthermore, that as long as a unit stays cohesive, it has a fighting chance, and when it lost cohesion it's pretty much already defeated. They just may or may not know it yet.

      I wouldn't even necessarily write it under "being a better gamer". It's more just about the group. If everyone is used to the rest of the group acting in a certain way, and viceversa, essentially they've formed some group tactics. It doesn't even have to be stated, and in fact it's even better if you don't have to. You just already know that that guy will try to flank, that other guy prefers to keep the distance and snipe, etc, and most importantly you found SOME way to do all that, that SOMEHOW works. And that by itself will beat the same number of uncoordinated players, even if maybe individually they can aim better or react faster or whatever other "good player" criterion one may take.

      And it's not just about "knowing" that that guy's skillset includes sniping, or that other guy can sneak around, which might still leave one wondering if they will. It's already being used to what each of those will do, and already being used to dash in a certain situation because you're already used that there's someone counter-sniping for you while you do that.

      That said, if army taught me anything, I'd say that limiting their conclusions to "friends" is misleading. Sure, you want bonding between them and all, but ultimately what matters even more than friendship is exactly that being already trained to apply the same group tactics as a group. If I had to go to war and had to choose whether to entrust my life to my best buddy who can't tell a gun's butt from its muzzle, or to that guy I thought to be the biggest douchebag in the company, I'd pick the douchebag any day. Because friendship is grrreat, but already having the reflex to provide cover fire and when to provide it is better.

  • by RivenAleem ( 1590553 ) on Thursday March 15, 2012 @07:18AM (#39362381)

    I honestly believe that I would have been faster at playing through the co-op modes of these games with a stranger than with one of my best friends. The number of times I dropped him (and him me) into the acid, grinding machine, flames or caught him (accidently!) with a rocket launcher is phenomenal.

    We engage in friendly competition to find extremely creative ways of killing the other person that I'd never do to a stranger.

    • But the primary goal changed. Generally with a game you have two goals: entertainment and completing the game. The primary goal with the stranger was to complete the game. With the friend your primary goal became entertainment and it was more entertaining to kill each other within the game.

      Anyway, I have no problem with screwing with friends doing that. Witness Tetris & Dr. Mario.

  • TeamSpeak etc? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Thursday March 15, 2012 @07:20AM (#39362385) Homepage

    If you got friends or clan buddies on your team, chances are huge you also have them on audio coordinating what you do. That hugely increases your odds and is something most don't do with random strangers.

    • Religion is the anthropomorphization of reality, that behind it all there's an invisible man pulling invisible strings..

      Corollary: Conspiracy theories are the anthropomorphisation of history...

    • Yeah... I'd say it can go the other way too. Having used Xbox Live, I'm quite sure I game much better when I don't have Timmy Powergamer screaming at me from his mother's basement about how I'm definitely using hax to achieve a positive K:D ratio.
      The study is a total waste of time because it proves the freaking obvious. It's why the best teams in ALL gaming leagues are not random pugs from IRC recruiting, it's why pugs in MMOs have a much higher failure rate than guild groups.
      • You get those two?

        I remember at the launch of BF3 I had done the coop to unlock all the weapons through it. Then I would hop on servers using those weapons (since they were better than the default kit weapons). I had people bitching about how I must be a hacker because there was no way a Rank 1 could have such advanced weapons.

    • by Xest ( 935314 )

      Agreed - does this study take into account whether people were speaking to each other? In my experience of playing Halo: Reach you're far more likely to be using voice comms with a friend than with randoms, I've played countless random games where there's been nothing but silence on voice chat.

      Though I suppose you could argue that that's just part of the equation in terms of playing with friends, I do think it puts a different spin on the study - the study implies there's some magical link between friends,

  • Seems obvious (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 15, 2012 @07:27AM (#39362407)

    Anyone who games any amount should not be surprised by the "friends ftw" factor.

    However, as for the younger games being better than older debate: my experience is that their reflexes are generally superior (see citations below) and they have a lot of time to practice, but their ability to think strategically can be pretty limited and consequently it is possible to outmaneuver them.

    I'm not that old yet at 29, but I'm definitely noticing I'm not as good as I was at 15.

    Citations: It looks like late 20s might be the fastest age group due to a superior combination of youth + experience: [] []

    Can anyone find any other sources on this? I used to believe teens had the fastest raw reaction time of any age group, but I'm unable to find any support for this.

    • Re:Seems obvious (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Fluffeh ( 1273756 ) on Thursday March 15, 2012 @07:49AM (#39362503)

      Can anyone find any other sources on this? I used to believe teens had the fastest raw reaction time of any age group, but I'm unable to find any support for this.

      I don't have any links to references, but I can tell you that my mindest has changed competely in gaming from when I was a youngster in the early days, to now when I am in my early thirties. In terms of game theory, you might say that as a gamer I have become more "FTW". If I see someone in a group, be it a party in an online game, or a teammate in a fps, who is doing something stupid and will die - but not cost the team too much, I will let them die, happily knowing that their death didn't cause the group to fold, where in my youth I would have probably gone running off to save them - and likely cost our group/team two members.

      I used to think that a successful raid/game was one where no teammates died when I was young. Now I look on a successful raid/game as one where my side meets the objectives (whether it be killing all the other players or performing the right strategy to kill the boss encounter). Yes, somewhat older folks have a different outlook - I think we play the game to win the game rather than being so engaged in the game to be emotionally connected enough to do dumb shit.

      Full Disclosure: I was part of a server leading World of Warcraft guild for a number of years (I have since quit to focus on the real world), I played Conan Online, LoTR Online, Warhammer Online. Star Wars Galaxies, D&D Online, Ultima Online, Quake 2+ Unreal + UT and have been a developer working for Epic designing environments.

      Older is colder, but often better and almost always craftier. Younger is faster, but often doing dumb shit - and unpredictable. If you learn that for yourself, you will do well in life.

      • “There are old pilots and there are bold pilots; but there are no old bold pilots.”

        Pretty much applies to everything in life. No?

    • by bipbop ( 1144919 )

      My reaction time isn't quite as good anymore at 30, but every time I play games against teenagers, they're overconfident and kind of terrible. Clearly that's not universal, but I wonder how many kids have grown up thinking they're good at video games because they've grown up with easy games. That is, it's not a matter of reflexes most of the time, but skill.

      Sorry, I have no sources to add--only anecdata.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 15, 2012 @07:28AM (#39362411)

    Most of the "older" gamers got tired of teenagers shouting abuse at them and generally sucking the fun out of multi-player FPSs. Those that remain often do so for the pleasure of being able to beat the annoying little twerps. Now get off my lawn .......

    • Eh... older gamers tend too play on PC more than younger ones, and I've yet to have annoying teenagers on PC, while PS3 has them every match (BF3 on moth platforms).
      • by xhrit ( 915936 )
        >I've yet to have annoying teenagers on PC.

        I guess you have never seen the playerbase of F2P Steam games. A few of those PC only Steam games are outright shameful. Global Agenda in particular has the worst community I have ever seen. Every time I turn on voice chat in that game I instantly regret it. Buy2Play games like BF3 at least have that initial barrier to entry that keeps the most degenerate people in line.

        In my experience it doesn't matter what platform, it is accessibility. PS3 has some bad
        • The only F2P Steam game I play is Team Fortress 2, and the server I usually play on has QuickPlay disabled. Still, there's probably a good 100 regulars for a 24-player server.

          I find it perfectly normal to let my character die if it's useful to my team.

          My main class in TF2 is Spy, a specialist class that has a revolver, electronics sapper (disables the Engineer building it's attached to and starts draining its health), Knife that does instant-kill backstabs, a cloaking device (prevents you from attacking wh

    • And older gamers may be a more filtered population. Those who still game at 30 don't include those who always sucked. Poorer strategists and people who are slow probably lose more and quit before they reach the older gamer category. Its not as fun if you mostly lose.

      • by trongey ( 21550 )

        I'm way (way) past 30, and a blind bonobo could slaughter me in any FPS even when I was a lot younger. It's still totally fun to play. It only quits being fun if you actually care whether you win or lose (hint: you don't actually win or lose anything, it's just a game).

  • - Be a better gamer.

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      But don't forget - Life begins here, so twist the cap to refreshment and open happiness!

  • This seems plausible (Score:2, Interesting)

    by masteva ( 996554 )
    I've noticed while playing TF2 with some people who don't chat or speak during the game that they just... adapt. They know when you want that uber charge, they know when to sap the sentry, they know where they are needed. Granted this is with people I play with often and not new players, but it's rather neat seeing how they just seem to fit in where they need to without instruction, therefor, a better gamer.
    • There are also lots of useful short voice message built into the game, like the 'e' button to call medic. Valve just did a great job making people's instincts and scores match up with being a good team player.

    • by Reapy ( 688651 )

      This. Good players are good players, they know what needs doing the same as you, when both people understand that they can take stock of the situation and take the most obvious path, supporting one another without needing to talk at all. Still if people play together often you can get the teamwork without as much skill.

      On the age bit...some people are always bad at games no matter their age. The skill of the player base also collectivly goes up the longer a game is out...if you stop a while, more people get

  • This is common sense, established teams working together will always perform better than random teams. Especially when established teams balance roles and such... (MEDIC!!!!!)

    Most multiplayer matchmaking systems have/had provisions for ages to match pre-arranged teams with other pre-arranged teams to avoid 'gank fests' for that very reason
  • by Anonymous Coward

    This study was not peer reviewed so it should be taken with a pinch of salt.

  • by dskoll ( 99328 ) on Thursday March 15, 2012 @08:55AM (#39362795) Homepage

    Because playing with yourself makes you blind.

  • Their results would have been different had they chosen EVE Online instead of Halo...
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Their results would have been different had they chosen EVE Online instead of Halo...

      Researching this in EVE would be pointless. There are no friends in EVE, just killmails about to happen! :-P

  • I'm a lot more likely to troll a friend than I am a stranger.

    In Halo 2, I use to always shoot my brother in the foot until he was near death. One time I didn't realize he was already near death, I shot him in the foot and he died. Now every time we play a shooting game together he says "Don't shoot me in the foot!" ...So I shoot him other places.
  • Does it make you a better friend?

  • the fewer betrayals,

    Obviously you didn't poll my friends. It's a freaking TK fest with the group I know.

  • Clearly you've never played League of Legends.

  • Gaming with friends... real friends.... not your (xbox live or PSN friends... because we all know how true those friendships really are) can help with some gaming skill. I have found they are more willing to stand idlely by if you are attempting maneuvers and try new things... and that's great and all, but you tend to pick up on your friends' maneuvers, hiding/camping spots... so then, they're much easier to predict. We all have our own style of playing and when you play with the same people, it becomes p
  • ....likely to make you laugh a lot more during the game (especially when you TK them)
  • Playing without friends makes you a real gamer.

"I'm not afraid of dying, I just don't want to be there when it happens." -- Woody Allen