Cooperation in video games goes beyond what one might think.
If you’ve ever scored a fabulous team goal Missile Leaguedetected a site with surgical precision in counterattack or wipe out your enemy with a ruthless collaborative combination Multi-meetingyou know very well that coordination is essential in team video games.
And if you sometimes feel like you’re one with our playmates, it’s not just because you’re used to playing together; according to the Finnish researchers, it is also because the players’ brains are physically in tune.
The brains of living beings, including humans, exhibit rhythmic electrical activity. When the intensity of these signals is measured, they can be broken down into different patterns that repeat over time; we’re talking about brain waves.
Their study is very interesting for clinicians. This neuroelectric activity, in fact, is an excellent indicator of the patient’s physiological and psychological health. Analyzing it through an electroencephalogram, it is possible in particular to identify some neurological disorders such as epilepsy.
Brain waves, the mysterious “language” of the brain
But the interest of these waves is not limited to diagnostics. The processes involved remain rather mysterious; but it has already been shown that they are directly related to many phenomena not necessarily linked to a pathology.
For example, researchers already demonstrated more than a decade ago that the brain waves of different subjects tended to synchronize during certain social interactions. Since then, other studies have shown that this synchronization is relationally significant. The more the neuroelectric activities of two individuals are synchronizedthe more I am able to do it showing empathy between them or work effectively in a team.
Until now, all this work had a common denominator. They were always based on interactions between subjects physically present in the same place. However, this new study was built on a different approach. It made it possible to demonstrate for the first time that this phenomenon was absolutely not dependent on the physical proximity between the two partners.
Brains synchronized remotely
To reach this conclusion, they selected 42 Finnish students who were asked to play a game where cooperation was essential. They had to drive a car together; the first member of the duo was in charge of the direction, while his colleague had to manage the speed. The roles were reversed after each round.
This is typically a situation that promotes the synchronization of some brain waves between the two players. Or at least they do when they play side by side. But here, the researchers were curious to see what would have happened on a neurological level if the players had engaged in the same activity while they were apart.
Each player was placed in a separate, soundproofed room. They were also deprived of headphones, and therefore could not discuss verbally during the experiment at all. The only form of communication they had access to was the behavior of the car they controlled at the same time.
And it turns out that despite this separation, the researchers observed significant synchronization of some brain waves (the alpha, beta and gamma waves). The more synchronized the gamma waves were, the more impressive their short-term performance was. Statistically, it was the teams that showed strong alpha wave synchronization that achieved the best overall performance.
However, they had to make sure that it was not an anomaly in the procedure or a statistical bias. The researchers then formed new pairs with participants of comparable level, but who had never played together. Synchronization here was nonexistent or very weak.
Implications still unclear but already fascinating
These elements show that a team gradually builds this brain synchronization over the course of a common experience. It is therefore not a kind of “innate understanding” between two players of the same level.
” This study shows that brain synchronization also occurs in the context of online cooperative games and can be reliably measured. says Valtteri Wikström, a neurobiologist at the University of Helsinki and lead author of the study.
By admission of the researchers themselves, the concrete implications of this discovery are still rather vague. But knowing the profound implications of this synchronization on social relationships, they could be quite advanced. Scientists believe their work is a promising start; could allow the development of technologies with a positive impact on human bonds. And this also outside the video game world.
” If we can build interactive digital experiences that stimulate fundamental mechanisms of empathy, we can lead to better social relationships, well-being and even better online productivity. “, Explain the authors.
We are not there yet; it will now be necessary to determine precisely which precise mechanisms favor this synchronization and under what conditions. But it’s still a fascinating research horizon in our time where online social relationships have become the norm. Above all because science still lacks the perspective to adequately study the psychological and relational impact of these technologies.