Improve your soft skills playing Counter Strike video game

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Author: Sergio Alloza Castillo >> @PsycGamer

Reviewed by: Flavio Escribano >> @ludictador

Spanish version / Versión en castellano: Descargar

Introduction

In this blog we use to talk about the influences of video games in our everyday life. Specifically, lately we have been focusing on the relationship between video games and soft skills. In fact, in one of our last articles we talked about this type of skills and the increasing need of its empowerment to fit in the labor society in Why detecting and training Soft Skills [with commercial video games] is crucial in ICT Society.

Our need to link soft skills with commercial video games is born from the XBagdes project, demonstrating that video games can improve soft skills as you can read in the published results.

We are happy to announce that since today xBadges is no more just a research project but a real implementation within an innovative recruitment platform: Workkola. Workkola started dealing with soft skills some time ago. They identify soft skills through a 360º system among the users themselves and the companies with which they interact and in which they detect, validate and empower personalities, values, talents, attitudes and competences, which together with the hard skills, remain automatically linked to their professional profiles, replacing the curriculum vitae with real metrics, and improving their positioning before job offers where this information becomes the basis of the entire process. We greatly appreciate the opportunity to start this soft skills detection model on the Workkola platform.

Wait a second, was not this article about Counter Strike? It is!

After a lot of research on the topic (among many: Alloza & Escribano, 2017; Triplett, 2008), it´s time to be more specific. Leaving the classic video games and going to the detail with current video games and see how they really influence certain soft skills. In particular we have chosen, fortunately for its fans: Counter Strike: Global Offensive, from now on CS:GO.

 

Image taken from CS:GO – Don’t Go That Way! (CS:GO Funny Moments and Fails!), speedyw03 youtube´s channel at http://bit.ly/2y2EO5k

Counter Strike: Global Offensive

CS:GO is a shooter game in which, in the most common play mode, the user and the rest of his team must meet certain conditions to win multiple rounds to win the game. You can take two sides, terrorist and anti-terrorist (5 members each team). In the terrorist team the objective is either to kill all the anti-terrorists or to plant and activate a bomb and protect it until it explodes. On the contrary the anti-terrorists must eliminate all the enemy members or to deactivate the bomb before it explodes. The game counts with a multitude of weapons and maps in which the players must organize and give the best of themselves to fulfill their objectives, and much more in a professional level.

CS:GO has been chosen because it is the most popular video game on Steam and with millions of players on other platforms, as well as the great community that has been generated over the time around it. Without knowing it, this popular video game has been training a lot of gamers in skills such as hand-eye coordination, reflexes and some of the skills we are talking about in this article, such as reasoning speed. Actually, CS:GO had been studied previously in relation to the stimulation of the player’s creativity (Wright & Boria, 2002).

To date, all this ‘training’ goes unnoticed not only by recruitment companies or educational institutions but also by the players themselves. Now our goal is to extract, synthesize and capture information related to the improvement of these soft skills that are being improved by the current video games in a continuous and massive way. Through this, video games’ users will have more information about their profiles, which may help them to better position themselves in the labor market, in addition to continue training conscientiously.

Image taken from ESPORT at http://bit.ly/2hP4Se7

Soft Skills in CS:GO

Before seeing how some skills are measured through video games, let’s look at some theory behind some of these skills behind Counter Strike and how they are normally measured.

Speed of reasoning

CS:GO is not precisely a slow game. Their games matches, their rounds, are usually fast and involve a lot of actions by the average player. In fact, the player not only has to “do” some actions in the matches but most of the time he will be receiving information. Information about the map, where he is aiming at, if the weapon is loaded or not, if there are enemies nearby, if any, try to dodge them and point them successfully, and all this taking into account the position and actions of the teammates, among many other variables.

Clearly CS:GO has all the elements to be able to shape and enhance the speed of processing and reasoning of its players.

If we go deep into the ability to see what the reasoning speed is and in which set of cognitive abilities it fits, we could write almost an entire thesis, so we will stick to the well-defined definition of Goldhammer and Klein (2011):

“(…)The construct of reasoning speed is perceived as fluidity in the performance of reasoning tasks. From a perspective of individual differences, individuals are not only in their capacity, but also in the level of speed at which they complete the tasks of reasoning.”

As there are also many types of reasoning (context oriented, for example mathematical or spatial reasoning), the speed of reasoning can literally be understood as: speed or fluency in reasoning tasks (for example, quick to say all the solutions that you can think of before a problem) in a limited time (CHC theory, definition project: Flanagan & Dixon, 2013; McGrew 2009; Newton & McGrew, 2010; Schneider & McGrew, 2012).

The important thing here is to know in depth how this skill is usually measured in a traditional way so that we can see how to do it with our system. This ability is relatively simple, so basically its measurement consists in checking the speeds of the people when performing different tests (whether spatial, verbal, etc.), although it emphasizes the joint modeling approach proposed by Klein Entink, Fox et al. (2009), which also measures the accuracy or validity of the responses.

People/team management

This ability is perceived in a global way, because in team management there may be many skills such as emotional intelligence (Goleman, González Raga and Mora, 2009), communication, assertiveness or empathy.

In fact, CASEL (a leading organization in the practice of promoting integrated academic, social and emotional learning) in its competency classification SEL (Social and emotional learning) encompasses team management within an even a larger area: Social skills. Which defines them as: the ability to establish and maintain healthy and rewarding relationships with various individuals and groups. The ability to communicate clearly, listen well, cooperate with others, resist inappropriate social pressure, constructively negotiate conflicts, and seek and offer help when necessary. WEF (World Economic Forum) in its report on the future of work in 2016 more specifically defines team management as ‘motivating, developing and directing people while working, identifying the best people for the job’.

In this context, we do not talk about work but about team management of 5 people in CS:GO matches. In fact it is very common for players to synchronize with each other and cooperate, agreeing on the point of the map (A or B) to go, selecting the best equipment in just a few seconds or generating strategies among all.

Regarding the measurement, there is no tool that measures the management of equipment as such, but there are many tools that serve to quantify and qualify the levels of these sub-skills in order to establish a certain level in equipment management.

Stress management

More than a skill, stress management is a goal that can be reached in several ways. As Penedo et al. (2003) explained in their research, there are multiple ways of managing stress, such as relaxation, cognitive restructuring, social support, assertiveness, etc.

However, in our case, we will consider it as a skill, as did Murphy (1996): to be able to maintain performance while stressed by certain stimulus. Thus, regardless of the method, we keep the result in focus. That is, while you are playing CS: GO, as a player you are able to remain calm and keep aiming well and hitting despite having the entire enemy team in front of you, for example.

Regarding the measurement in the previously cited research of Penedo et al., they measured stress management with the unpublished Measure of Current Status (MOCS), a questionnaire that asks the user for the perceived capacity (rated on a Likert scale between 1, I can not do it at all and 5 I can doing it extremely well) to respond to the challenges and demands of everyday life or perceived capacity for managing stress. Some of the situations that the questionnaire poses are:

  • “I can easily recognize situations that make me feel stressed or upset.”
  • “I can stand and reexamine my thoughts to get a new perspective.”
  • “I can use muscle relaxation techniques to reduce any stress I experience.”
  • “I can ask people for help in my life when I need them.”

Measuring soft skills with video games

Usually these skills are measured in the same way: simulating situations. This assessment can take several forms: a role-playing in front of your future boss in a job interview, completing one or more questionnaires full of questions or most common in cognitive skills assessment, performing specific tests (spatial, verbal, memory, etc.). The funny thing is that in CS:GO it happens continuously and almost without realizing it. If you have ever played or are even a professional player, you will know for sure.

As we have already seen in the CS examples, in each of the skills explained, the video game puts us in situations in which we have to deploy our full potential to process the information we receive as soon as possible, coordinate with the team or even lead it and, above all, manage tons of stress while playing.

Image by Twinfinite at http://bit.ly/2z0KGKf

In other words, Counter Strike is a video game that (among many others) is designed to entertain. But it becomes an optimum tool to identify, evaluate and even train these skills, since situations in which the player is immersed require high levels of such skills to arrive at a valid problem solving, in this case win the games without dying, make the most kills, etc.

What elements of video games tell us if player has done certain actions within it?

The achievements. The most current video games usually have achievements/trophies that are unlocked when you perform actions in the video game.

Some examples of CS:GO achievements (on Steam) and their relationship with some skills are:

  • Blitzkrieg (Yes, it is an achievement’s name). Description: Win a round against five enemies in less than thirty seconds.
    • The fact that a player has this achievement already indicates that he has been able to win a round (alone or in company) against the total enemy team in a very fast time. To perform this action are quite necessary certain skills such as team management (to be able to synchronize with the teammates or even establish patterns of action like “go B and cover me”, for example), also the speed of reasoning since the object which appears on the screen has to be identified as an enemy and is fired (with success). All this in 30 seconds, and yet it is an achievement unlocked by most of the players (more than 60%).
  • Shrapnelproof. Description: Take 80 points of damage from enemy grenades and still survive the round.
    • This achievement conveys very well the situation of stress that a player can be submitted in a CS:GO match. After receiving almost deadly damage, the player has to manage his stress, among many other things (visual search for enemies, anticipation, etc.) in order to survive until the end. Any player will recognize that he/she “gets a little nervous” when he/she is alone against the enemy team or is being chased. It is this type of stress that can be transferred to other non-play contexts.
  • First Things First. Description: Personally kill the entire Terrorist team before the bomb is planted in Demolition Mode.
    • Not only do you have to win but you have to do it alone. Here we find a very difficult situation where the player must extract their maximum potential to anticipate multiple enemies and to remain calm at all times. Usually this category of achievements is only obtained by professional players due to the immense amount of hours dedicated. 

Achievements like this are very scarce because they are very difficult to get, in addition to the skills needed. Not to mention others achievements such as King of the Kill (Play 5,000 matches of Arms Race or Demolition mode). These are are hard to get, not by difficulty but by time. So these achievements could reflect very high levels of persistence or determination since they require many hours of play overcoming all the emotions associated with a competitive game, for example the frustration by die.

Conclusion

In summary, we see how the GO:GO achievements can help to identify the players’ skills and see how these skills keep boosting while players continues playing.

With this relationship we can establish skill levels, because the processing speed will not be the same in a professional player of CS:GO that of an amateur player. Although both users play the same game. It would also be relevant to take into account the factor of time. If for example a player achieves an achievement that reflects a good level of reasoning speed and the years go by, not because he has achieved that achievement means that he will continue to have the same speed of processing throughout his life. Unfortunately, if skills are not stimulated or trained, they generally decline. Therefore, in this last point, the concept of retraining the achievements should be reinforced so that skills measurement can be more specific.

And how will this work on the Workkola platform?

At the beginning of the article we have cited and thanked our presence in Workkola recruitment platform. We have established a joint collaboration in order to include our soft skills identification and evaluation systems through Steam achievements. Therefore, we will get massive real data from users helping them to acquire consciousness of the very valuable soft skills they are trainning  and how all these soft skills are important to their professional carreer.

One thing has become clear: video games are excellent tools for training and measuring soft skills. Already proven by many and now with mass commercial video games. Is this the future? No friends, it is our present.

Bibliography

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