Chapter 8: Cooperation enhanced by interactive games

There’s a lot going on in this chapter. I am noticing that chess may have a symbolic role to the terrorists’ impending doom as this game foreshadows how one wrong move could lead to their end. I believe that Messner and Roxanne’s conversation demonstrated this. “Do you realize you’ve told him how to overthrow the government and he doesn’t even know it? It’s all he’s ever wanted and he missed it.” It is ironic how Roxanne’s fame and value among the populace could give General Benjamin the leverage he needs to push his demands on the government, yet he completely misses it because he’s too focused on the chess game. Furthermore, Patchett emphasizes his lack of strategic forethought as he makes the wrong move at chess. Waiting also seems to be a very strategic move by the government. Such that even Messner indicates, “No one moves. I’ve never seen such a stalemate.” because the government is stalling by neither agreeing nor denying the terrorist’s demands.

Despite the obvious strategic value of chess, it also has a positive role. For instance, I see an interesting relationship forming between Hosokawa and General Benjamin as they bond over chess and treat Ishmael with fatherly countenance. It’s even more interesting how chess seems to bring the two groups together and even puts these two intellectual men at equal footing as neither player gets angry about who wins or loses. The focus of my research emphasized on how playing a board game like chess may result in such a bond.

Does playing games promote socialization?

In 1989, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights emphasized the importance of play for children because it contributes to their optimum mental and health development. I found a literature review about the use “play therapy” to help treat young children with mental illnesses or trauma. They found that play effectively stimulates the brain and increases neural activity. Playing games is a form of physical activity, therefore, “playing out” provides better connections between neurons because it increases activity in the frontal lobes where processes such as motor function, problem solving, and decision making occurs. Shaefer also notes that physical and sensorimotor play allows strong and new attachments between the children. “With strong attachment, children are able to enhance relationships. In these relationships, children learn to accept and solidify their sense of self.” [1] I found this phrase very enlightening because it emphasizes how interpersonal relationships do have positive effects. Building different bonds with different people helps broaden the mind because we learn better from each other than from being by ourselves. Furthermore, it allows us to view things from the others’ perspective. Game play seems to hold a significant role in these relationships because of how it strengthens that bond through proximity, physical interaction, and sharing a stress-free fun atmosphere with peers. I believe this demonstrates how playing games allow socialization because the more the children enjoys playing the game, the safer and more comfortable they feel in their environment, therefore, they can open themselves up more freely to interacting with others and forming new attachments.

I also found it interesting that Shaefer noted that game play for older children, adolescents, and adults can be different. He expanded that where the sole purpose of playing is about having fun, game playing is more of a developmentally advanced form of play because it is centered more on “learning to play by the rules, take turns, and be a gracious winner or loser.” [1] Children can do play individually but as they get older and involve themselves in game play, they have to adapt to playing games with other by developing better socialization skills. This idea spurred on my next question.

So does socializing through games improve teamwork or increase one’s willingness to cooperate?

To explore this topic, my research turned towards video games because of how prevalent it has become. Video games are often compared to board games. Board games provide the players with face-to-face interaction allowing a “close relationship between social play and intimacy”. [3] However, technology has advanced so much in the past years that video games are no longer limited to isolation and alienation. The creation of the interactive Nintendo Wii, for instance, promotes greater socialization between family and friends because it now allows them to become active and play games side-by-side. Video games are also becoming more challenging which further enhances the players’ enjoyment.

Now, video games even provide a multiplayer and online option. Greitemeyer discussed a survey of 1,102 teenagers from 2008 with findings that 65% multiplayers play with others in the same room and 27% play with other players whom they have been connected to through the Internet. It can bring players from different countries together and have them play matches as a team. To do so would require socialization and communication for the success of the team. Multiplayers games are played competitively or collaboratively. The aim of cooperative multiplayer games is for players to help each other to attain a common goal. [2]

Numerous studies have observed the effectiveness of cooperative video games on cooperative behavior. For instance, some scholars found that individuals playing a violent video game cooperatively together demonstrated increased cooperative behavior towards each other than they would towards individuals in the same game but they played competitively against. This behavior is attributed to the norm of reciprocity because one is more likely to feel indebted towards someone after they received help from them. Therefore, a person’s behavior is influenced to act more cooperatively while seeking out to return the favor.

Gretemeyer’s study on cooperative behavior measured the degree of cooperation and trust developed after splitting up the subjects into a team-player and single-player game setting. He used the interdependence theory, which suggests that a person’s degree of cooperation is also dependent on the trust they hold for the other person. “If one expects a high degree of cooperation from a partner, one is willing to cooperate.” [2] Developing strong trust therefore results in more cohesive teams. The study found that subjects from the team-player group experienced more trust and cohesion than did those in the single-player group.

There is a constant need in mankind to survive. From a more evolutionary standpoint, I believe that cooperative behavior is something our species adopted in order to survive. In working together, mankind has proven that there is more that can be accomplished than together than from being alone. I am constantly surprised by how much our society has advanced forward. We are all aware that this is a result of the gathering of creative minds brought together by their similar interests and collaborating on new initiatives. Furthermore, we have seen how collaborative games are also being applied in the workplace and in any group setting. For instance, the UHP encourages collaborative games during team building exercises because of all the positive effects it has on breaking the ice and building interdependence among the members.

Some further studies I would like to get into is the emotional aspects of collaborative game play. Collaboration is often due to necessity. Oftentimes we are motivated to join forces with others if we see how it benefits ourselves. So how can we utilize collaborative game play to increase empathic concern and motivate greater initiative to help others? Does collaborative game play also produce feelings of warmth and compassion towards others?

It would also be interesting to learn if there are specific studies with findings on how having similar interests in certain games further establishes altruism. I believe that having shared interests would promote further socialization and play if there is greater acceptance in a group based on their commonalities.


  1. Greitemeyer T, Cox C. There’s no “I” in team: Effects of cooperative video games on cooperative behavior. European Journal of Social Psychology. 2013; 43(3): 224-228.
  2. Homeyer LE, Moorison MO. Play Therapy: Practice, Issues, and Trends. American Journal of Play. 2008. 211-220.
  3. Thompson JC, Ouellette MA (editors). The Game Culture Reader. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. 2013. Print. 221-223.

3 thoughts on “Chapter 8: Cooperation enhanced by interactive games

  1. sariegel says:

    Hannah, your research on how interactive game play can affect socialization and cooperation is interesting. As I read, I was reminded of team building games I’ve participated in. I have never come away from a team building game without feelings of comradery or collaboration with my teammates. I also think this aspect of socialization, learning to play by agreed-upon rules and to work with different people, are why team sports are so widely advocated for children. Your findings that game play can enhance children’s cognitive development, therefore, doesn’t come as a surprise to me. I find it interesting that elderly adults are often also encouraged to play mentally stimulating games to prevent mental deterioration.

    While you focused generally on the cooperation that games can encourage, I wonder about whether games can also foster more competitive instinct. You hit on this somewhat on your discussion of videogames. First of all, with all of the bad press videogames have gotten in regard to promoting violent behavior, I thought it was refreshing that you were able to find information supporting the theory that videogames can be used to advance cooperative behavior based on scientific principles. However, you drew the comparison between people who played team videogames and those who played competitive videogames. As such, I wonder whether it’s the type of game and how it’s played that really determines whether socialization occurs. One interesting line of inquiry if you were going to continue in this topic would be to compare the psychological effects of team and individual sports.


  2. slaudeman says:

    Your research has taken you down a very interesting path this week, Hannah. I think that it is important to discuss the importance of social interaction in both the novel and in reality. The aim of your topic seemed very broad at first, but it narrowed considerably when you turned your focus towards video games. On that topic, I think that you make some very good points. Video games are often seen as antisocial and isolated, but this idea is increasingly untrue. Most of the more popular video games have a multiplayer capability or require multiplayer interactions to succeed at the game. This is encouraging another kind of socialization all together. I think that it could be very interesting to pursue the idea of culture within video games as a subset of “American” culture. Do the interactions found within different video games create their own cultures, or is it a general culture that covers the entirety of the gaming community? How do the players interact with one another and create pseudo-social ties? Are these ties actually interpersonal bonds, or are they figments of the game environments? I think that you make a very good point at the end of your post, when you comment on the necessity of cooperation. In many ways, I wonder if video games actually create a more realistic portrayal of society than people think. Humans are not meant to live in isolation, and our culture frowns upon that. However, we have developed such a sense of independence that it creates a kind of paradox, how can we depend on one another and still be independent? How can we collaborate while still doing everything ourselves? I think it could be interesting to see how video games offer a mirror or satire of our communities in reality.

    -Sara Laudeman


  3. Colin Murphy says:

    Hi Hannah,

    You always write such excellent posts!

    I really like how you split your post into very distinct sections: introduction, research question one with research, research question two with research, and your conclusion. This does a great job of conveying your thought process as you consider an idea, research, and then question the conclusions your form. In other words, you’re doing a fantastic job of journeying through Slow Research in this regard.

    After reading your post, looking over your research sources, and pondering for a bit, I’ve thought of another avenue you might choose to go down in a later stage of the process. Are games (video, board, etc…) ever used in the workplace as team-building exercises? It would make sense for them to – for employees to bond with one another to strengthen cohesiveness and professional relationships. This isn’t much different from how the Japanese often bond with one another by drinking together and sharing stories (while spending more time at work with coworkers and less at home with family members). If you’re able to find some studies on this, you might be able to analyze which types of companies use this more than others and examine the productivity based on occupation. This brings me to my next point.

    Don’t be afraid to tie completely different areas of research together to form your own unique conclusions! The goal of this process, after all, is to one day be able to conduct some broad research of your own, draw a conclusion, and contribute to other researchers’ papers.

    Again, really great work here! You definitely seem to have a firm understanding of the Slow Research process, and I can’t wait to see what you’ll conclude from your research next week.

    – Colin


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