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Team activities that were traditionally offline are increasingly incorporating mediated elements where there is a mix of physical and computer-assisted activities. In this study, we provide a preliminary insight into this understudied yet emerging genre of mixed-form CSCW. Specifically, we present a qualitative research of team formation and coordination mechanics in Electronic Sports (eSports), a unique combination of action and knowledge/decision teams. Our findings highlight online users’ particular needs to coordinate their team activities under pressure (e.g., a mix of online and offline team formation/coordination strategies; technology-enabled knowing and judging before the team is formed; and reinforcing personal relationships to enhance the professional performance) and higher requirements for sophisticated multimodal communication patterns to sustain such coordination. We contribute to both confirming and augmenting existing theories of team formation and team coordination. We also suggest further avenues of research in HCI and CSCW to design systems that support the formation of teams, to explicate the optimal modalities of communication for different teamwork situations, and to fully understand the delicacies of how personal and professional relationships could intertwine in virtual teams.

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  1. Guilds are virtual associations run by players who are natural organizers; they usually have formalized membership and rank assignments in order to encourage participation; and they involve a complicated leader-subordinate and leader–leader relationship.

  2. Raiding are large-scale, complex group activities that involve 10–40 people working together in real time to solve extreme problems raiding (Bardzell et al. 2012).

  3. In many online games, ‘callouts’ refers to places on a map, so players can quickly inform their teammates where the enemies are or where the team needs to go to assist others.

  4. In LoL, there are three paths that champions follow to defeat enemies: Top, Bottom and Middle. A mid laner is a player who follows the middle path.

  5. In LoL, this term refers to a situation when a jungler (or players from other lanes) is devoting more attention than normal to a player’s assigned lane or waiting around this player’s lane for a surprise attack. Someone who is angry that he/she is losing often uses it as an accusation.

  6. An instant messaging software that offers free online text, audio, and video chat.

  7. A free software that offers video chat, instant messaging, and collaborative stories.


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We thank Dean Hayes and all participants. We also thank the anonymous reviewers and editors for their useful suggestions.

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Correspondence to Guo Freeman.



List of interview questions

  1. 1.

    Have you read the information sheet I sent to you? Do you have any question regarding this interview?

  2. 2.

    Can you tell me something about you? Such as your gender, age, location, and occupation?

  3. 3.

    How long have you been engaged in the field of eSports?

  4. 4.

    What’s your definition of eSports?

  5. 5.

    What are the eSports games you usually play? What types of games you consider “eSports”?

  6. 6.

    Why did you start to play eSports games?

  7. 7.

    How serious are you with eSports? Is it a hobby or something more? How do you feel about differentiating amateur v. pro players? Does that dichotomy make sense?

  8. 8.

    How do you meet potential team members? How does this process work? What kind of things do you look for in a teammate?

  9. 9.

    Have you ever used eSports as a way to seek friends, romance (i.e., boyfriends and/or girlfriends) or any type of close interpersonal relationship? If so, how?

  10. 10.

    What do you usually do together with your teammates, in-game and/or out-game?

  11. 11.

    What do you usually do together with your teammates, on a daily basis and/or on special occasions such as anniversaries, birthdays and holidays?

  12. 12.

    Have you ever meet your teammates in real life? If so, can you recall the first time you met in real life? How did you feel about that?

  13. 13.

    In what situations you do not want to hang out with your teammates, in-game and/or out-game?

  14. 14.

    Can you recall any experience you count as “collaboration” with your teammates? Can you list any examples of “collaboration” with your teammates, in-game, out-game or offline?

  15. 15.

    Do you consider your eSports team a group, in-game and/or out-game? Why?

  16. 16.

    How close are you with your teammates?

  17. 17.

    Do you feel encouraged/discouraged to collaborate with your teammates? Why?

  18. 18.

    Do you consider eSports more of a positive or a negative experience (in terms of both gameplay experience and social experience) for you? Why?

  19. 19.

    What are the benefits and/or disadvantages to you of engaging in eSports?

  20. 20.

    Do you use Twitch or other livestreaming platforms to broadcast your games? If yes, why?

  21. 21.

    Do you view others’ games on Twitch or similar platforms’? If yes, why?

  22. 22.

    Some might say that eSports games are aggressive since they are highly competitive, can you tell me your thoughts about this?

  23. 23.

    In general, can you summarize the social atmosphere of the eSports community?

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Freeman, G., Wohn, D.Y. Understanding eSports Team Formation and Coordination. Comput Supported Coop Work 28, 95–126 (2019).

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