The Emergence of High-Speed Interaction and Coordination in a (Formerly) Turn-Based Groupware Game
Association for Computing Machinery
Although some forms of distributed groupware now enable fast-paced real-time collaboration (e.g., first-person shooter games), little work has been done to determine how coordination and interaction occur when people attempt to work together at high speed. Understanding the elements of high-speed coordination is important, because shared-workspace groupware systems offer opportunities for new kinds of high-speed work that is, they provide freedom from the physical constraints that can slow and restrict coordination in physical shared spaces. To better understand high-speed coordination, and to examine whether these opportunities can enable new kinds of interaction in groupware, we created and studied a new multi-player game (called RTChess) that is based on traditional chess, but adds multiple players and removes all turns from the gameplay. The result is a free-for-all game where people are limited only by their ability to move quickly and expertly a situation that is more like a team sport than a tabletop game. We carried out an observational study of 448 games of RTChess to look for the emergence of high-speed interaction, team coordination, and interactional expertise. We found that people can interact extremely quickly through distributed groupware, and saw evidence that people build expertise and develop several kinds of coordination in the game. Groupware systems like RTChess indicate that coordination and interaction in shared-workspace collaboration can occur at high speed, and suggest ways to free groupware users from the slow and stilted interactions that are common in many current multi-user systems.