For the past four years at The International, foundry10 has been studying Dota 2, researching the connections between video games and human cognition. It’s an out of the box approach to understanding how humans think and learn, but that’s the kind of philosophy that has guided this local, Seattle organization.
Funded by Valve CEO Gabe Newell, foundry10 researchers experience the kind of freedom and flexibility that Valve employees have with their endeavors. They have delved into how hip hop and dance enhances creativity, expression, and teamwork. They’ve investigated the practicalities of using VR in a classwork setting.
“Our overall goal is having a better understanding of how people learn,” says Michael Scanlon, a researcher and analyst at foundry10.
And one of their latest, ongoing study is examining gamers, namely the Dota 2 community, and what they can teach us about human cognition.
In a previous study about Dota 2 gamers, foundry10 used eye tracking to look at the differences in how novices and experts process information on the screen. As it turns out, experts can better discern abstract information, and they’re less likely to look back at the mini-map after seeing it.
The International provides a ripe opportunity for a study about gamers and cognition. The congregation of people at TI presents “a range of gaming expertise that may not be available when recruiting at college campuses,” foundry10 researchers wrote in a recent paper. They noted that previous studies had only separated gamers into two extremes: non-gamers and gamers, who are classified as playing more than five hours a week. By focusing only on gamers at a tournament, they’re able to address individual differences in gaming skill, ranging from novice to experts.
“MOBAs, in general, have such a high learning curve,” Scanlon says. “There’s some concrete skills you learn as you get better at it.”
That’s the essence for the wide net of foundry10’s research. The classroom is one setting, and learning occurs outside the classroom as much as inside it. Where we learn has as much an impact as how we learn.
Some of the rewards given out for participants of the survey
Foundry10’s booth sits behind the Hall of Heroes exhibit. As incentive to answer their survey, they reward participants with a choice of Dota gear: pins, an exclusive Winter Wyvern t-shirt, or a plushie.
This year at TI, the study’s focus is on your personality. Do people with stronger Dota skills interact differently when compared to weaker players? Does it matter if you’re an introvert or an extrovert? While foundry10 is still strengthening their research on cognition, spatial ability, and its relations to Dota 2 expertise, they’ll be adding your personality as another variable.
“What kind of communicator you are, how you work within a group,“ says Scanlon. ”And that’s really what we’re exploring this year. How people communicate within the game, and how people learn to interact within the game.”
In the future, Scanlon says they’ll be looking into group learning and how people collaborate. Given the success foundry10 has had with their recent studies, they’ll most likely be back in their booth next year. And TI attendees, if studies on their recall is any indication, should be able to find it.