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Project 3: Development of video game for studying joint action dynamics

Authors: Julian Zubek, PhD / Arkadiusz Białek, PhD (ChildLab, Institute of Psychology, Jagiellonian University)



The goal of the project is to create a playable video game for two players, which will be applied in a psychological experiment to measure capabilities for “joint action”—non accidental, coordinated behaviour of two or more individuals aimed at achieving their common goal.

A great many processes of different levels of complexity can be described in terms of joint action, from simple tasks such as carrying a heavy object together to playing a piano duet or engaging in linguistic exchange (Sebanz et al. 2006). Joint action tasks may be characterized by role distribution: there may be parallel roles (highly similar) or complementary roles (different, but interdependent) (Warneken et al. 2006). It is suggested that joint action processes are crucial to our development and survival as social species (Tomasello 2014). Identifying and understanding qualities of behavioural coordination and cognitive mechanisms governing joint action is an ongoing research endeavour. One promising approach is to construct an experimental task in the form of video game (Satta et al. 2017). This allows defining cooperation goals in the context of an artificial environment in which all aspects of environmental dynamics can be controlled. We can register specific actions performed by the players—such as cursor movements—and analyse them as interrelated time series in terms of synchronicity, recurrence, leader-follower relations etc. Such dynamical measures, when compared with other behavioural and psychological characteristics of the participants, may provide us deeper insights as to the factors determining quality of joint action.

Our game will be developed from scratch during the 2-day Brianhack, using ideas from participants. We will work on all aspects of game design: the concept, the graphics, programming, etc (while taking into account time constraints).

The general requirements for the game are as follows:


While working on this project, we will gather insights into collaborative processes from two different perspectives: the perspective of a researcher planning an experiment, and the perspective of a group member engaged in collaborative task. Hopefully, this will be an enjoyable and stimulating experience.


General agenda:

Day 0: Getting to know each other.

Day 1: Introduction and inspiration. Brainstorming session. Game outline. Introduction to game programming in Kivy. Useful design patterns.

Day 2: Implementing the game. Preparing graphics. Testing. Wrap up.


A list of 1-5 key papers/materials summarising the subject:

[1] Satta, E., Ferrari-Toniolo, S., Visco-Comandini, F., Caminiti, R., & Battaglia-Mayer, A. (2017). Development of motor coordination during joint action in mid-childhood. Neuropsychologia.

[2] Sebanz, N., Bekkering, H., & Knoblich, G. (2006). Joint action: bodies and minds moving together. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 10(2), 70–76.

[3] Tomasello, M. (2014). The ultra-social animal. European Journal of Social Psychology, 44(3), 187–194.

[4] Warneken, F., Chen, F., & Tomasello, M. (2006). Cooperative activities in young children and chimpanzees. Child Development, 77(3), 640–663.


A list of requirements for taking part in the project (education level / English level / programming language required):


A maximal number of participants:



Skills and competences to be acquired during the project:


Is there a plan for extending this work to a paper in case the results are promising?

The developed game will be released as open source software. It will be used as one of the experimental tasks in an ongoing research project. Interested participants may be invited to further collaboration.