Nearly all players can agree that uninterrupted attention is a key element to a successful round in their favorite game, especially first and third-person shooter titles. And all that mental mapping means gamers' eyes move quite quickly. One Overwatch fan decided to test where his eyes move, when they do, and how often movement occurs while playing as the tank hero Roadhog.
John Matthis hooked up to a binocular mobile eye tracker during an Overwatch gameplay session and recorded the results, posting a full video to his YouTube channel. Though Roadhog is a relatively easy-to-follow character, as his hook ability can only be used from a certain distance, Matthis' eyes shifted in various different directions as he played.
Additionally, Matthis' vision was centered in a specific screen region, but his eyes were constantly scanning. This is because when playing as Roadhog, users will aim for fine awareness as opposed to broad awareness. The latter would be more useful for detecting high-intensity threats that can attack from a wide distance, but a Roadhog player like Matthis generally focuses on what's straight ahead instead.
While Matthis' video is fascinating on its own, it only tells half of the story. Matthis took to Reddit to explain the science behind eye movement, giving a bit more insight as to why it fires up during a spatial reasoning-intensive activity like playing Overwatch.
"Humans are very visual animals, but we only really get high quality visual information from a fairly small area of our retina (called the fovea, roughly the width of your thumb at arm’s length)," Matthis explained. "This area takes up roughly 1% of your visual field, but roughly 50% of your visual cortex is devoted to processing information from this area. That means that a huge part of the human strategy for surviving in the world revolves around our ability to quickly and accurately directing our fovea to the parts of the world that contain the information that we need to complete a given task."
Matthis added that because eye movements are directly linked to humans' neural strategy, hooking up to a tracking device can be an incredibly useful tool to better understand human sensorimotor control. "Basically, eye movements are a physical measurement that provides direct insight into your cognitive processes," said Matthis.
While Matthis' test yielded interesting results, it would certainly be even more entertaining to see another Overwatch fan do the same with a faster, long-range attack character like Ana. Perhaps his experimentation will encourage more players to do the same, and others can watch how wildly their eyes move when taking down the opposing team.
Overwatch is currently available on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.