"Get Good" - A scientific view of how gamers improve

Interesting piece of news popped up in my FB feed today:

https://news.brown.edu/articles/2017...

To wit:

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the research showed that people who played the most matches per week (more than 64) had the largest increase in skill over time. But playing lots of games wasn’t the most efficient way to improve skill. Looking at the data another way — in terms of which groups showed the most improvement per match rather an over time — showed markedly different results. That analysis showed that, over their first 200 matches, those who played four to eight matches week gained the most skill per match, followed by those who played eight to 16 matches.

...and

The study showed that one major difference between more skilled and less skilled players was the effective use of “hotkeys” — customized keyboard shortcuts that enable commands to be given quickly to unit groups. Less skilled players used hotkeys less, opting instead to point and click commands to individual units with a mouse. But all elite players made copious use of hotkeys, using them to issue up to 200 actions per minute during a typical match.

But the important thing wasn’t just the fact that elite players use the hotkeys more, it’s that they form unique and consistent habits in how they use them. Those habits were so unique and consistent, in fact, that the researchers were able to identify specific players with more than 90 percent accuracy just by looking at their hotkey patterns. It’s likely, the researchers say, that those habits become almost second nature, enabling players to keep cool and issue commands when the pressure of the game ratchets up.

So it seems like gamers "get good" in the same way athletes do: by not training excessively and by building efficiency through muscle memory.

In other words, there's hope for multiplayer gamers with less and less time to devote to games. This article spoke to me because I have less time to devote to these games, I'm still able to sit on top of scoreboards in games like Battlefront by playing when I can and embracing hotkeys (alt-a and alt-d forever). The only downside is I have to pick and choose which games I devote time to, because I can't be good at 'em all--at least until my wife lets me be a stay-at-home husband.

Does this match your experiences?

(And hi by the way. It's been a while)

This is interesting, thanks for posting it.

The parts referring to the use of hot keys connects nicely to cognitive psychology research on how people learn things. For example, "retrieval"—forcing oneself to try to remember things you've recently learned—as opposed to review or massed practice, is a key element to effective learning. Ideally, this retrieval happens after a little forgetting has occurred. Learning something, resting a bit so that you've forgotten a bit, then coming back to it and quizzing yourself or forcing yourself to try to remember something, is highly effective.

The people who play four to eight matches per week are likely following that pattern and style more closely than the people who are playing eight to 16 matches per week.

I've noticed that it helps to get a good nights sleep too. Whenever I pick up a game after a long time away I always have to suffer through the initial grind. Everything seems harder than it is and my fingers never quite do what my brain wants them to. But I'm aware that this is a pattern now, so I simply struggle mightily for a few nights in a row, and then one day I'll wake up and suddenly I'm the one who makes things look easy.

Good gawd Grubber, been more than a while.

Grubber788 wrote:

That analysis showed that, over their first 200 matches, those who played four to eight matches week gained the most skill per match, followed by those who played eight to 16 matches.

Makes sense to me, you won't just linearly improve more by playing more, certain points on the way to the ceiling will be more difficult to break through, so the players playing a bit less technically improve "more efficiently", but of course the ones playing more will still be better (most of the time).

Not sure about the study though, I haven't played a Halo game since the first one, so I'm not familiar with how Reach's ranking system works exactly, but basing measured skill in the study on the in-game system seems dubious to me. It's probably the easiest way of measuring it though, I'm not really sure what you would do to measure "skill" more accurately.

Any studies on console players that don't have the luxury of hot key customization?

They got a pretty broad - and known - conclusions: regular practice with breaks to let your body rest/muscles develop memory. Also, warming up? Not sure how many other folks have done any competitive sports here, but that's like some 101 level stuff there.

I interviewed an academic on a related subject

Dr.Tom Stafford is a lecturer in psychology and cognitive science at the University of Sheffield. He explains why the way you practice affects how good you get at something - and he's got 850,000 people to back him up.

http://hatchetjob.libsyn.com/hj106-w...

nel e nel wrote:

Any studies on console players that don't have the luxury of hot key customization?

They got a pretty broad - and known - conclusions: regular practice with breaks to let your body rest/muscles develop memory. Also, warming up? Not sure how many other folks have done any competitive sports here, but that's like some 101 level stuff there.

I'm speculating here, but I imagine the real reason people who use hotkeys improve their skill is that they're "optimizing for action". They're spending less time fighting the controls and more time engaging with the gameplay. So console players who use quick-switch weapon controls and fine-tune the movement inputs probably get the same improvement benefit as PC gamers who are mapping keys.

To your second point, I never really thought of competitive multiplayer gaming as a sport in the sense that rest between sessions is so beneficial.

garion333 wrote:

Good gawd Grubber, been more than a while.

I was in captivity. Damn fish people.

I do agree with the conclusions on hotkey use. I wish they had included one more variable, watching replays. Whenever I hit that plateau, I find it helpful to record and review my games. Makes it a lot easier to spot rare errors, or bad patterns. Or to just sit back and watch for entertainment. I still have a matched pair of replays from the original Tribes because of that.

I agree about the hotkeys, but that study seems to be more directed at RTS style games. I think if it included FPS type games the time allowances would be much different. It takes a lot of time to find those very narrow sweet spots where depending on the feedback you're getting you know to do a specific actions then that much time again to be able to reliably perform the correct action at the right time.