A Qualitative Exploration of Factors Affecting Group Cohesion and Team Play in Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas (MOBAs)
Authors: Taylor, J.
Editors: Sutherland, M.
Journal: The Computer Games Journal
Previous research examining the social psychology of video-gaming has tended to focus on Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) environments, such as World of Warcraft. Although many online group processes have been examined using this game, this genre does not enforce cooperative play and studies tend to be based on very large groups. Newer genres are being developed and played which have so far not been studied. The genre known as Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas (MOBAs) are attracting large numbers of players and success depends on effective team playing within smaller groups. The study reported here explores team play within MOBAs. Due to the lack of literature examining this genre, Corbin and Strauss’ (2008) Grounded Theory was used to analyse participants’ subjective experiences of playing MOBAs to create a conceptual model. A focus group pilot study informed the development of questions and then semi-structured interviews took place with twelve participants; 1 female and 11 male students aged between 18-21 years. Participants were required to have recent and frequent MOBA exposure, but with different preferences regarding roles and experience. Data was analysed using open, axial and selective coding and the resulting model depicts a scale, as optimal team performance was linked to a balance between factors. The core category “Communication” was heavily influenced by the relationship between teammates (friends or strangers). The balance of “Communication” affected the balance of the final three categories: “Team Composition”, “Psychological State” and “Level of Play”. The conceptual model is critically linked with traditional group processes, such as Belbin’s (1993) team roles, Tuckman’s (1965) model of group development and the perceptions and behaviour during the state of deindividuation (Taylor & MacDonald, 2002). The model has real-world application in both social and professional virtual environments, whilst contributing more broadly to research in Cyberpsychology and Social Psychology. Further research is suggested which will test predictions based on a predictive model.