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.
This is a preview of subscription content,to check access.
Access this article
Similar content being viewed by others
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
An instant messaging software that offers free online text, audio, and video chat.
A free software that offers video chat, instant messaging, and collaborative stories.
Ackerman, Mark S. (2000). The Intellectual Challenge of CSCW: The Gap between Social Requirements and Technical Feasibility. Human–Computer Interaction, vol.15, nos. 2-3, September 2000, pp. 179-203.
Bardzell, Jeffrey; Jeffrey Nichols; Tyler Pace; and Shaowen Bardzell. (2012). Come Meet Me at Ulduar: Progression Raiding in World of Warcraft. In CSCW’12. Proceedings of the ACM 2012 Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work, Seattle, Washington, USA, 11-15 February 2012. New York: ACM Press, pp. 603-612.
Bechky, Beth A.; and Gerardo A. Okhuysen. (2011). Expecting the Unexpected? How SWAT Officers and Film Crews Handle Surprises. Academy of Management Journal, vol. 54, no. 2, April 2011, pp. 239-261.
Bjørn, Pernille; and Ojelanki Ngwenyama. (2009). Virtual Team Collaboration: Building Shared Meaning, Resolving Breakdowns and Creating Translucence. Information Systems Journal, vol. 19, no. 3, May 2009, pp. 227-253.
Bjørn, Pernille; Morten Esbensen; Rasmus Eskild Jensen; and Stina Matthiesen. (2014). Does Distance Still Matter? Revisiting the CSCW Fundamentals on Distributed Collaboration. ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction (TOCHI), vol. 21, no. 5, November 2014, Article 27.
Borghoff, Uwe M.; and Johann H. Schlichter (2000). Computer-Supported Cooperative Work: Introduction to Distributed Applications. Secaucus, NJ: Springer-Verlag New York, Inc.
Carless, Sally A.; and Caroline De Paola. (2000). The Measurement of Cohesion in Work Teams. Small Group Research, vol. 31, no. 1, February 2000, pp. 71-88.
Curşeu, Petru L.; Patrick Kenis; Jörg Raab; and Ulrik Brandes. (2010). Composing Effective Teams through Team Dating. Organization Studies, vol. 31, no. 7, July 2010, pp. 873-894.
Dabbish, Laura; Robert Kraut; and Jordan Patton. (2012). Communication and Commitment in An Online Game Team. In CHI’12. Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, Austin, Texas, USA, 5-10 May 2012. New York: ACM Press, pp. 879–888.
Dafoulas, Georgios A.; and Linda A. Macaulay. (2001). Facilitating Group Formation and Role Allocation in Software Engineering Groups. In ACS/IEEE’01. Proceedings of the ACS/IEEE International Conference on Computer Systems and Applications, Beirut, Lebanon, 25-29 June 2001. New Jersey: IEEE Press, pp. 352–359.
DeChurch, Leslie A.; and Jessica R. Mesmer-Magnus. (2010). Measuring Shared Team Mental Models: A Meta Analysis. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice, vol. 14, no. 1, March 2010, pp. 1–14.
Ducheneaut, Nicolas; and Robert J. Moore. (2004). The Social Side of Gaming: A Study of Interaction Patterns in A Massively Multiplayer Online Game. In CSCW’04. Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work, Chicago, Illinois, USA, 6–10 November 2004. New York: ACM Press, pp. 360–369.
Entin, Elliot E.; and Daniel Serfaty. (1999). Adaptive Team Coordination. Human Factors, vol. 41, no. 2, June 1999, pp. 312–325.
Faraj, Samer; Sirkka L. Jarvenpaa; and Ann Majchrzak. (2011). Knowledge Collaboration in Online Communities. Organization Science, vol. 22, no.5, February 2011, pp. 1224–1239.
Freeman, Guo, and Donghee Yvette Wohn (2017). Social Support in eSports: Building Emotional and Esteem Support from Instrumental Support Interactions in A Highly Competitive Environment. In CHI PLAY '17. Proceedings of the 2017 Annual Symposium on Computer-Human Interaction in Play, Amsterdam, Netherlands, 15–18 October 2017. New York: ACM Press, pp. 435-447.
Freeman, Guo; and Donghee Yvette Wohn (2017b). eSports as An Emerging Research Context at CHI: Diverse Perspectives on Definitions. In CHI’17. Proceedings of CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems Extended Abstracts, Denver, Colorado, USA, 6–11 May 2017. New York: ACM Press, pp. 1601–1608.
Freeman, Guo; Jeffrey Bardzell; Shaowen Bardzell; and Susan C. Herring. (2015). Simulating Marriage: Gender Roles and Emerging Intimacy in An Online Game. In CSCW’15. Proceedings of 18th ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing, Vancouver, BC, Canada, 14-18 March 2015. New York: ACM Press, pp.1191-1200.
Freeman, Guo, Jeffrey Bardzell, and Shaowen Bardzell. (2016a). Revisiting Computer-Mediated Intimacy: In-Game Marriage and Dyadic Gameplay in Audition. In CHI'16. Proceedings of the 2016 ACM conference on human factors in computing systems, San Jose, California, USA, 7–12 may 2016. New York: ACM Press, pp. 4325-4336.
Freeman, Guo; Jeffrey Bardzell; and Shaowen Bardzell. (2016b). Intimate Experiences in Virtual Worlds: The Interplay among Hyperpersonal Communication, Avatar-Based Systems, and Experiential Drives. In iConference’16. Proceedings of iConference 2016, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, 20-23 March 2016. Grandville, MI: iSchools Inc., pp. 1-10.
Gandolfi, Enrico. (2016). To Watch or to Play, It Is in the Game: The Game Culture on Twitch.Tv among Performers, Plays and Audiences. Journal of Gaming and Virtual Worlds, vol. 8, no.1, March 2016, pp. 63-82.
Geyer, Werner, Heather Richter, Ludwin Fuchs, Tom Frauenhofer, Shahrokh Daijavad, and Steven Poltrock. (2001). A Team Collaboration Space Supporting Capture and Access of Virtual Meetings. In GROUP’11. Proceedings of the 2001 International ACM SIGGROUP Conference on Supporting Group Work, Boulder, Colorado, USA, 30 September - 3 October 2001. New York: ACM Press, pp. 188–196.
Glaser, Barney; and Anselm Strauss. (1967). The Discovery of Grounded Theory: Strategies for Qualitative Inquiry. Chicago: Aldine Press.
Golub, Alex. (2010). Being in The World (of Warcraft): Raiding, Realism, and Knowledge Production in A Massively Multiplayer Online Game. Anthropological Quarterly, vol. 83, no. 1, winter 2010, pp. 17-45.
Graham, Bryan. (2017). eSports to Be A Medal Event at 2022 Asian Games. News Article. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/apr/18/esports-to-be-medal-sport-at-2022-asian-games. Accessed 1 May 2017.
Griffiths, Mark D.; Mark N.O. Davies; and Darren Chappell. (2004). Demographic Factors and Playing Variables in Online Computer Gaming. CyberPsychology and Behavior, vol. 7, no. 4, September 2004, pp. 479–487.
Grudin, Jonathan; and Steven E. Poltrock. (1994). Computer Supported Cooperative Work and Groupware. In CHI’94. Conference Companion on Human Factors in Computing Systems, Boston, Massachusetts, USA, 24-28 April 1994. New York: ACM Press, pp. 355-356.
Gutwin, Carl; and Saul Greenberg. (2001). The Importance of Awareness for Team Cognition in Distributed Collaboration. In S. Eduardo; and S. M. Fiore (eds): Team Cognition: Understanding the Factors that Drive Process and Performance. Washington: American Psychological Association, pp. 177–201.
Gutwin, Carl, Reagan Penner, and Kevin Schneider (2004). Group Awareness in Distributed Software Development. In CSCW’04. Proceedings of The 2004 ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work, Chicago, Illinois, USA, 6 -10 November, 2004. New York: ACM Press, pp. 72-81.
Hahsler, Michael; and Stefan Koch. (2004). Cooperation and Disruptive Behavior – Learning from A Multi-Player Internet Gaming Community. In IADIS’04. Proceedings of IADIS International Conference on Web Based Communities, Lisbon, Portugal, 24 - 26 March, 2004. IADIS Press, pp. 35-42.
Hamilton, William; Andruid Kerne; and Tom Robbins. (2012). High-Performance Pen + Touch Modality Interactions: A Real-Time Strategy Game Esports Context. In UIST’12. Proceedings of the 25th Annual ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA, 7-10 October, 2012. New York: ACM Press, pp. 309-318.
Hodgkinson, Gerard P.; and Mark P. Healey. (2009). Toward A (Pragmatic) Science of Strategic Intervention: Design Propositions for Scenario Planning. Organization Studies, vol. 29, no. 3, March 2008, pp. 435-457.
Hossain, Liaquat; and Rolf T. Wigand. (2004). ICT Enabled Virtual Collaboration through Trust. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, vol. 10, no. 1, November 2004, http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1083-6101.2004.tb00233.x/full. Accessed 1 May 2017.
Huysman, Marleen; Charles Steinfield; Chyng-Yang Jang; Kenneth David; Jan Poot; and Ingrid Mulder. (2003). Virtual Teams and the Appropriation of Communication Technology: Exploring the Concept of Media Stickiness. Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW), vol. 12, no. 4, December 2003, pp. 411–436.
Isaacs, Ellen, Margaret Szymanski, Yutaka Yamauchi, James Glasnapp, and Kyohei Iwamoto. (2012). Integrating Local and Remote Worlds through Channel Blending. In CSCW’12. Proceedings of the ACM 2012 Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work, Seattle, Washington, USA, 11-15 February 2012. New York: ACM Press, pp. 617–626.
Klein, Katherine J.; Jonathan C. Ziegert; Andrew P. Knight; and Yan Xiao (2016). Dynamic Delegation: Shared, Hierarchical, and Deindividualized Leadership in Extreme Action Teams. Administrative Science Quarterly, vol. 51, no. 4, pp. 590–621.
Koehne, Benjamin, Patrick C. Shih, and Judith S. Olson. (2012). Remote and Alone: Coping with Being the Remote Member on the Team. In CSCW’12. Proceedings of the ACM 2012 Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work, Seattle, Washington, USA, 11-15 February 2012. New York: ACM Press, pp. 1257–1266.
Kraut, Robert E.; and Andrew T. Fiore. (2014). The Role of Founders in Building Online Groups. In CSCW’14. Proceedings of The 17th ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work & Social Computing, Baltimore, Maryland, USA, 15-19 February 2014. New York: ACM Press, pp. 722-732.
Kresse, Christian. (2016). eSports in 2015 by the Numbers: Attendance Figures, Investments and Prize Money. eSports Marketing Blog. http://esports-marketing-blog.com/esports-in-2015-attendance-figures-investments-prize-money/#.WRxgG1Xyupo. Accessed 1 July, 2017.
Leavitt, Alex, Brian C. Keegan, and Joshua Clark. (2016). Ping to Win?: Non-Verbal Communication and Team Performance in Competitive Online Multiplayer Games. In CHI’16. Proceedings of the 2016 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, San Jose, California, USA, 7-12 May 2016. New York: ACM Press, pp. 4337-4350.
Lindlof, T. R.; and B. C. Taylor (2002). Asking, Listening, and Telling. In M. H. Seawell, & A. Carter (eds.): Qualitative Communication Research Methods. California: Sage Publications, pp. 170-208.
Lykourentzou, Ioanna, Shannon Wang, Robert E. Kraut, and Steven P. Dow. (2016). Team Dating: A Self-Organized Team Formation Strategy for Collaborative Crowdsourcing. In CHI’16. Proceedings of the 2016 CHI Conference Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems, San Jose, California, USA, 7-12 May 2016. New York: ACM Press, pp. 1243-1249.
MacMillan, Jean; Elliot E. Entin; and Daniel Serfaty. (2004). Communication Overhead: The Hidden Cost of Team Cognition. In S. Eduardo; and S.M. Fiore (eds): Team Cognition: Understanding the Factors that Drive Process and Performance. Washington: American Psychological Association, pp. 61-82.
Mathieu, John E.; Tonia S. Heffner; Gerald F. Goodwin; Eduardo Salas; and Janis A. Cannon-Bowers. (2000). The Influence of Shared Mental Models on Team Process and Performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, vol. 85, no. 2, April 2000, pp. 273-283.
Muramatsu, Jack; and Mark S. Ackerman. (1998). Computing, Social Activity, and Entertainment: A Field Study of A Game MUD. Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW), vol. 7, nos. 1-2, March 1998, pp. 87-122.
Okhuysen, Gerardo A.; and Beth A. Bechky. (2009). Coordination in Organizations: An Integrative Perspective. The Academy of Management Annals, vol. 3, no. 1, January 2009, pp. 463-502.
Pobiedina, Nataliia; Julia Neidhardt; Maria del Carmen Calatrava Moreno; Laszlo Grad-Gyenge; and Hannes Werthner. (2013). On Successful Team Formation: Statistical Analysis of A Multiplayer Online Game. In CBI’13. Proceedings of the 2013 I.E. 15th Conference on Business Informatics. New Jersey: IEEE Press, pp. 55-62.
Reagans, Ray; Ezra Zuckerman; and Bill McEvily. (2004). How to Make the Team: Social Networks Vs. Demography as Criteria for Designing Effective Teams. Administrative Science Quarterly, vol. 49, no. 1, March 2004, pp. 101-133.
Rico, Ramón; Miriam Sánchez-Manzanares; Francisco Gil; and Cristina Gibson. (2008). Team Implicit Coordination Processes: A Team Knowledge–Based Approach. Academy of Management Review, vol. 33, no. 1, January 2008, pp. 163-184.
Rodrigues, Sérgio; Jonice Oliveira; and Jano Moreira de Souza. (2005). Competence Mining for Team Formation and Virtual Community Recommendation. In Proceedings of the Ninth International Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work in Design, Coventry, UK, 24-26 May 2005. New Jersey: IEEE, pp. 44–49.
Sjöblom, Max; and Juho Hamari. (2016). Why Do People Watch Others Play Video Games? An Empirical Study on The Motivations of Twitch Users. SSRN. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2779543. Accessed 1 November 2016.
Stout, Renée J., Janis A. Cannon-Bowers, Eduardo Salas, and Dana M. Milanovich. (1999). Planning, Shared Mental Models, and Coordinated Performance: An Empirical Link Is Established. Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, vol. 41, no. 1, March 1999, pp. 61–71.
Tang, Anthony, Jonathan Massey, Nelson Wong, Derek Reilly, and W. Keith Edwards. (2012). Verbal Coordination in First Person Shooter Games. In CSCW’12. Proceedings of the ACM 2012 Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work, Seattle, Washington, USA, 11-15 February 2012. New York: ACM Press, pp. 579–582.
Toups, Zachary O.; and Andruid Kerne. (2007). Implicit Coordination in Firefighting Practice: Design Implications for Teaching Fire Emergency Responders. In CHI’07. Proceedings of The SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, San Jose, California, USA, 28 April - 3 May 2007. New York: ACM Press, pp. 707-716.
Toups, Zachary O.; Jessica Hammer; William A. Hamilton; Ahmad Jarrah; William Graves; and Oliver Garretson. (2014). A Framework for Cooperative Communication Game Mechanics from Grounded Theory. In CHI PLAY’14. Proceedings of The First ACM SIGCHI Annual Symposium on Computer-Human Interaction in Play, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 19-21 October 2014. New York: ACM Press, pp. 257-266.
Turban, Efraim; Ting-Peng Liang; and Shelly P.J. Wu. (2011). A Framework for Adopting Collaboration 2.0 Tools for Virtual Group Decision Making. Group Decision and Negotiation, vol. 20, no. 2, March 2011, pp. 137-154.
Wadley, Greg; Marcus Carter; and Martin Gibbs. (2015). Voice in Virtual Worlds: The Design, Use, And Influence of Voice Chat in Online Play. Human–Computer Interaction, vol. 30, nos. 3-4, pp. 336-365.
Williams, Dmitri; Scott Caplan; and Li Xiong. (2007). Can You Hear Me Now? The Impact of Voice in An Online Gaming Community. Human Communication Research, vol. 33, no. 4, September 2007, pp. 427–449.
Wohn, Donghee Yvette; and Jeremy Birnholtz. (2015). From Ambient to Adaptation: Interpersonal Attention Management among Young Adults. In MobileHCI’15. Proceedings of the 17th International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction with Mobile Devices and Services, Copenhagen, Denmark, 24-27 August 2015. New York: ACM, pp. 26-35.
Wohn, Donghee Yvette; and Yu-Hao Lee. (2013). Players of Facebook Games and How They Play. Entertainment Computing, vol. 4, no. 3, August 2013, pp. 171-178.
Wohn, Donghee Yvette; Cliff Lampe; Rick Wash; Nicole Ellison; and Jessica Vitak. (2011). The ‘S’ in Social Network Games: Initiating, Maintaining, and Enhancing Relationships. In HICSS’11. Proceedings of the 44th Hawaii International Conference on In System Sciences, Kauai, HI, USA, 4-7 January 2011. New Jersey: IEEE, pp. 1-10.
Woolley, Anita Williams; Christopher F. Chabris; Alex Pentland; Nada Hashmi; and Thomas W. Malone. (2010). Evidence for A Collective Intelligence Factor in the Performance of Human Groups. Science, vol. 330, no. 6004, October 2010, pp. 686-688.
Yang, Diyi, Robert Kraut, and John M. Levine. (2017). Commitment of Newcomers and Old-timers to Online Health Support Communities. In CHI’17. Proceedings of the 2017 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, Denver, Colorado, USA, 6-11 May. New York: ACM Press, pp. 6363-6375.
We thank Dean Hayes and all participants. We also thank the anonymous reviewers and editors for their useful suggestions.
List of interview questions
Have you read the information sheet I sent to you? Do you have any question regarding this interview?
Can you tell me something about you? Such as your gender, age, location, and occupation?
How long have you been engaged in the field of eSports?
What’s your definition of eSports?
What are the eSports games you usually play? What types of games you consider “eSports”?
Why did you start to play eSports games?
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?
How do you meet potential team members? How does this process work? What kind of things do you look for in a teammate?
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?
What do you usually do together with your teammates, in-game and/or out-game?
What do you usually do together with your teammates, on a daily basis and/or on special occasions such as anniversaries, birthdays and holidays?
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?
In what situations you do not want to hang out with your teammates, in-game and/or out-game?
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?
Do you consider your eSports team a group, in-game and/or out-game? Why?
How close are you with your teammates?
Do you feel encouraged/discouraged to collaborate with your teammates? Why?
Do you consider eSports more of a positive or a negative experience (in terms of both gameplay experience and social experience) for you? Why?
What are the benefits and/or disadvantages to you of engaging in eSports?
Do you use Twitch or other livestreaming platforms to broadcast your games? If yes, why?
Do you view others’ games on Twitch or similar platforms’? If yes, why?
Some might say that eSports games are aggressive since they are highly competitive, can you tell me your thoughts about this?
In general, can you summarize the social atmosphere of the eSports community?
About this article
Cite this article
Freeman, G., Wohn, D.Y. Understanding eSports Team Formation and Coordination. Comput Supported Coop Work 28, 95–126 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10606-017-9299-4