In Chapter 4, interviews with students involved in the game-based intervention are summarized. Each participating student was first asked if they felt that playing the selected video games over the course of the semester had helped develop any useful skills or provided useful experience. Following this open question, each of the graduate attributes under examination was considered in turn. The participants were able to articulate, to varying degrees, how playing the games had exercised all of the attributes, including communication skill, adaptability and resourcefulness, but also their ethical and social awareness, critical thinking and investigate skills. In the excerpt below, the degree to which playing the games improved the students’ confidence is considered.
Based on the university definition, several themes were coded as being related to the Confident attribute, including leadership and social skill. When these aspects of the definition are considered, participants had a substantial amount to say about games and confidence, most of it positive (“Yes, definitely in my case, I was beginning to gain more confidence over time” – Participant S). One participant, responding by email, was effusive about the confidence-enhancing properties of video games, especially where playing with other people was involved:
Definitely in the times in which there were others in the video game lab and we had to work together, confidence was really tested as these could be people I’d never met before. (Participant F)
The same participant went on to relate his previous game-playing experience to his real-world confidence, citing Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA), League of Legends (Riot Games 2009) as an example:
I know for a fact that a lot of the confidence I have today has been built by talking and working together in chat rooms when teaming in online games such as League of Legends et cetera. Mainly because you don’t just have to be a nice person, but you need to prove to the group that you are competent, sharp, and good at what you do. (Participant F)
For Participant H, confidence was gained from the sense of achievement that video games can produce in the player:
I feel like, after I play, I feel more confident.
Yes, I don’t know, maybe it’s because they give you achievements to complete. So definitely that.
Relating confidence to the aspect of the university’s Experienced Collaborators attribute which states that graduates should “contribute positively when working in a team”, Participant H explains:
Mainly, the confidence comes from being able to see that I was able to complete a task on my own but also to know that I wasn’t a burden to the people I was in co-op with. I actually had the drive to do my best, so I was really satisfied after I completed a game and I see that I haven’t done a bad job. It makes me feel a lot better. I’m a lot more convinced about what I can do.
Interpersonal and social skills improving over the course of the lab sessions was a feature of several other participants’ responses, including Participant L “…definitely as I went along, I got a lot more confident, a lot more comfortable just going in and playing a game with a few people”. Other participants elaborated:
Yeah… obviously it kind of ties in because [I’m] a first year student coming to uni, and with the video game study – I’ve become much more confident, just talking to people, and not being afraid to just start conversations and just ask people stuff. (Participant M)
I guess it was good practice for, like, being in a social area, talking to people, like ‘oh, can you help me with this?’ In the multiplayer games, if I needed help, I’d just be like ‘I don’t know what I’m doing’ and somebody would help me. (Participant O)
Another participant, who stated “when I play video games I tend to just play with my friends”, connected developing the confidence to speak to others with the ability to lead, noting that the labs required him to play with those outside his existing circle of friends:
So, when you open it up to people you don’t know very well at all, it sort of gives you that nudge […] to go for it, to be the first person to speak, to be the first person to take leadership of the team and devise a strategy, devise a plan. […] It gives that sort of… it gave me the confidence to be the first person to speak anyway. (Participant K)
Leadership was mentioned specifically by several participants. One participant recounted how she assumed the role of leader after the previous de facto leader left during a Borderlands 2 session:
…suddenly I was the only person playing who had actually been in that part before and suddenly I had to take up the mantle, as it were, and be like ‘well, I think it’s over there because we’ve done that and X, Y, Z, and that’s where the map is pointing. So, you kind of have to step up and say, ‘well, this is the knowledge I have and be willing to share so that we as a team can not die’. (Participant J)
This need for somebody to be confident enough to assume the role of leader was identified by other participants, too:
The confidence to be the first person to say something and be the person to say ‘oh, you do this’. Like, the leadership, throwing yourself into it, especially when everyone else was not speaking, to be the first person to go ‘OK, so, maybe we should have a plan, have a strategy?’ I sort of found that a lot easier as the weeks went on, to be the first person to say, ‘look guys, this is what we need to do, this is where we need to be headed’. (Participant R)
Another participant describes how the unexpected opportunity to lead was a boost to her confidence:
When you figure out the bits, like when you can actually do something, and you can, like, tell other people what to do, that’s quite good because you feel like you can lead a bit. (Participant D)
There were few instances of participants rejecting the idea of a link between confidence and game play altogether, but there was some scepticism about the usefulness of any such link. While Participant Q offered only a flat “No” when asked if such a link existed, Participant B was noncommittal (“Yeah, maybe”). Participant I, meanwhile, was unconvinced of the transferable benefits: “Well, I’m more confident talking about games! [laughs] I don’t really think that it impacted on my confidence as a person.” Participant E noted that they felt their confidence improved as they played the game, but suggested that this was true of any activity that may be practiced:
I don’t think it’s the game itself that helps you gain confidence but the more you play it, the more confident you feel […], it’s just like you improving when you play it more and more and more, so that’s just like it comes from you… so it’s just practice.