Tip of the Finger to Tip of the Tongue: The Effects of Verbal Communication on Online Multi-Player Team Performance
Over the last two decades, virtual and online multiplayer gaming has become an everyday activity for millions of individuals around the world. Although research exploring the dynamics of human performance within such virtual and online multiplayer environments has started to increase in recent years, particularly in the areas of perception and action, the role that verbal communication plays in facilitating online multiplayer team performance remains relatively limited. To begin to answer this question, we investigated the verbal and behavioural performance of teams of four participants playing an online multiplayer game that required teams to corral and contain a herd of autonomous agents (small robots) positioned within a large desert area. Each team was composed of three ground players who moved around the game area to corral and contain the target agents, and a fourth operator player, who had various birds-eye views of the entire game area. Team members could verbally communicate with each other via an audio channel. Of particular interest was the degree to which teams utilized verbal communication under various manipulations of task difficulty (e.g., changes to first-person visibility, number of targets to contain). Analysis of the underlying team performance data and audio transcriptions revealed a significant, yet subtle interplay between verbal communication and task performance. Further, the role communication played in shaping online multiplayer coordination and performance was both context and team (player) dependent.