Effects of task information on multi-player coordination and team performance
In team sports, players search their environments to gain situational awareness regarding the current context. Detecting task-relevant information is necessary to effectively work with others and facilitate task success. This study explored how changes in access to task-relevant information influenced the performance and behavioural coordination of participants performing a complex, online multiagent herding task. The task required teams of three players to work together to locate, corral and contain a herd of autonomous target agents in a desert-like environment. Teams had a maximum of five minutes to complete the task, with task success achieved if a team corralled and contained all target agents within a defined containment region for five seconds. Task manipulations included whether participants' local field of view was obscured by fog (present vs. absent) and whether they had access to global information via a heads-up display (HUD) (Local vs. Global), as well as the Number of Target agents to be corralled (9 vs. 18). Thirty (16 Females) participants ranging in age from 18-45 (Mean = 23.19, SD = 4.71) were recruited for the study and were combined into ten, three-person teams, with participants playing the online game remotely (at home) using their own personal computer. Each team completed four 90-minute sessions, with each session involving 16 five-minute trials per session – two trials for each 2 (Visibility) × 2 (HUD) × 2 (Number of Targets) configurations. Here we explored and compared team performance between Sessions 1 and 4 only. As expected, the results revealed that teams achieved higher levels of performance and behaved in more coordinated and prospective manner when they had greater access to either local (first-person) or global task information. Furthermore, team performance improved over session, with players better utilising the different sources of task information across session. We also found that when teams' access to information was severely impoverished, a 'Sentinel' role emerged to accommodate for the information gap and facilitate the maintenance of teams' situational awareness. These findings are discussed with regard to how task information constrains the behavioural movements and search strategies of players during cooperative online multiplayer team gaming settings.