Ozan Vardal

Ozan Vardal

Leveraging Big Data from eSports Games to Understand Human Skill Acquisition

Understanding how humans reach elite levels of skill in music, the arts, sports, games, and various professions has been a topic of psychological inquiry for as long as psychology has been a field. Research on skill acquisition has significantly advanced our understanding of training optimisation, and seen successful application across domains ranging from sport and medicine to military command. However, previous studies have typically been constrained by the drawbacks of laboratory research and qualitative accounts of practice and performance.

Competitive games with large player counts such as League of Legends offer a promising methodological alternative. Game players develop profound skill over years of play, generating huge reservoirs of objective, ecologically valid data about practice behaviour and skill development that can be unobtrusively recorded. Using data visualisation and modelling techniques, I aim to leverage big data from eSports to test extant theories of skill acquisition, and develop accurate representations of player skill development.

For the eSports industry, the science of learning is broadly applicable. For instance, understanding patterns of play that accelerate skill acquisition can benefit players interested in high level competition, and support developers in the design of tutorials and coaching tools.

I have long maintained a deep interest for the development of expert skill across a variety of domains, owing in part to my youth experiences in national competition as a classical guitarist. I studied for my BSc in Psychology at the University of Groningen and MSc in Performance Psychology at the University of Edinburgh, during which time I gained experience in programming and laboratory research, and devoted a considerable amount of time studying the literature on skill acquisition. My previous research experiences have focused on performance and expert skill, including work on expert decision-making in sport psychology and open-source analytics on skill acquisition in chess. Beyond academics I dabble in jazz piano and enjoy training Brazilian jiu-jitsu whenever I’m not nursing an injury.

Home institution: York

Supervisor: Prof Anders Drachen

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