PROVO, Utah — Video games and productivity are rarely mentioned in the same breath. If anything, playing video games is usually thought of as an activity that decreases productivity. Surprisingly, a recent study finds that collaborative video games played among new co-workers can increase office productivity. After newly-formed groups played video games together for just 45 minutes, their productivity surged by 20%!
“To see that big of a jump — especially for the amount of time they played — was a little shocking,” says study co-author and Brigham Young University associate professor Greg Anderson in a release. “Companies are spending thousands and thousands of dollars on team-building activities, and I’m thinking, go buy an Xbox.”
Over 350 participants were gathered for the research, and separated into 80 teams. While forming these groups, the researchers made sure not to place any pre-existing friends or acquaintances on the same team.
As an initial task, each team participated in a geo-cacheing competition called Findamine, in which players are provided with clues to find different landmarks in a certain area. All of the study’s subjects were incentivized to take part in the competition with cash prizes.
Then, all of the teams were randomly assigned to one of three different tasks: playing video games (either Rock Band or Halo 4), completing homework in a quiet setting, or a training discussion on how to perform better at Findamine. All three of the tasks took place for 45 minutes.
While the team that engaged in training discussions ended up reporting a higher uptick in team cohesion, the teams that played video games actually saw their performances improve significantly during a subsequent second round of Findamine. Compared to the first round of geo-cacheing, the video game teams saw their average scores improve from 435 to 520.
“Team video gaming may truly be a viable — and perhaps even optimal — alternative for team building,” says lead researcher Mark Keith, associate professor of information systems at BYU.
Researchers also noted that one doesn’t have to be an experienced gamer in order to reap the productivity benefits of video game team building. In fact, more novice players in the study tended to establish lines of communication and working relationships with their teammates faster than more seasoned gamers, in an effort to pick up on the smaller details of the games.
However, these results may have differed had the groups included friends and acquaintances. Researcher theorize that video gaming among people who already know each could possibly lead to the reinforcement of pre-conceived negative biases and opinions.
The study is published in the scientific journal AIS Transactions on Human-Computer Interaction.