In some first person shooters such as Socom 4, there is a phenomenon of group behvioural synergy experienced during gameplay. When people are playing a game together, even remotely, in different countries, across different cultural parameters, there is a naturally occurring group-action phenomenon in effect. People are acting together towards a common goal and their play depends on a certain amount of cooperation. I suspect that an increase in cooperation corresponds with an increase in game success ie. beating the computer but i have no data on this as of yet. In this particular game, there seems a prefect balance among the goals of 1) playing longer 2) staying alive while in play and 3) acquiring more points for killing enemies and saving friends. These goals are both personal and collective. Staying alive longer and remaining in game play could be considered a personal goal while beating the computer requires that each player works with the group, so cooperating is a collective goal. There is a balance between what each individual player wants and what the group wants. Beyond merely playing together, i have observed a few things. ..
It seems that it is possible to observe the learning process in real time. I have observed that when a group of 4-5 players is experiencing difficulty on a map they will gain efficiency through repeated gameplay of that map. This is no surprise because we have long known that certain kinds of learning require repetition and this is illustrated by the old saying: "practice makes perfect". Learning has occurred because with practice, we have better memorized where obstacles lay on the map. We can better anticipate where we went wrong in the past and how we can project our actions into the future in order to be more successful. This is one of the wonderful things that memory does for us. Call me crazy, just go ahead, you would not be the first! But seriously, i feel that beyond the cognitive process of learning, our minds are somehow fused when the game is running smoothly and we are being most successful at completing the map objectives. Beyond being able to observe learning in practice, i believe there is another phenomenon taking place. I believe it is what Csikszentmihalyi calls flow. During Socom 4 gameplay, i believe that flow is basically being experienced collectively and that collective flow can be a rare and life enhancing experience. Examples of collective flow might be a shared musical experience. Dancing is basically described by Ravers as a collective flow experience. Group sex and meditation participants also tend to describe their experiences in ways which resemble what Csikszentmihalyi described as flow. Perhaps the experience of group flow which i am hereby inventing is more spiritual than cognitive, more about the mind than the brain, more about the soul than the body. If you are a hardcore scientist, unplug now because this is going to sound like noise to you. Let me think here: "Dancing, sex, meditation...umm..Yeah, definitely more spiritual that cognitive".
Game play takes us into a cognitive type of activity where we are learning a map, but we are also learning about the gameplay tendencies of other players, enabling us to better predict what they are going to do in given situations. We are using using visual spacial abilities to search, aim and shoot at targets and we are working our hand eye coordination as we manipulate the "joy" stick. We are using the somatosensory motor cotex to receive and the primary motor cortex to output sensory signals. The amygdala is on the lookout for threats and opportunities, Dopamine levels increase as we experience the thrill of this hide and seek game. Hide and seek being the basic cross cultural game played by children to pass the time and increase the dopaminergic activity which is related to thrill seeking behaviour and consequent feelings of wellness. The frontal lobe is assessing, planning and forward thinking strategy for how to win the game. Basically, playing a military game like this entails the implication a specific and predictable cognitive processes and their neural substrates.
There is a moment within the game, which i have experienced several times. In this experience, there is a group synergy at play which seems to be occurring on a mental level. Because there is usually no verbal exchange during the game i can conclude that the phenomenon under observation is occuring subliminally in spite of the fact that i appear to be observing it and talking about it right now. As i sense this synergy of minds, it appears as though each of us knew where the other was going to be before he got there. A kind of déjà-vu as it were. It was as though our strategies were not individualized to our personal needs but rather collective as though we were of one mind. As though our movement were synchronous. We are behaving in a kind of way illustrated by the fictional star trek concept of "the borg".
Now, if the ps3 is harvesting data on cognition, (which is not only likely but probable) what would they be using this kind of data for? Did i mention the game is funded by the U.S military? Perhaps my conclusion here is paranoid. Whatever the case, it is not the point of this post. So before i completely leave the intention of economical speech behind, let me give you my conclusion: Our minds are fused when we engage in a game such as Socom 4 and this is what i define as a collective flow experience in which thought, behaviour and emotion are not only aligned within an individual but within a community as well. Finally, this information, being of the utmost value to certain groups of individuals is being logged. Your thoughts?