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Eye tracking analysis reveals key to success for professional eSport players

SEGA Corporation

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How SEGA used eye tracking to uncover the correlation between eye movement and player ability in professional Puyo Puyo eSports.

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The rise of professional Puyo Puyo

In Puyo Puyo eSports, a falling action puzzle game developed by SEGA Corporation, eye movement, or ‘observing,' plays a critical role. Since Puyo Puyo was declared an official title by JeSU (Japan eSports Union) in March 2018, the rise of professional players has fueled the game's popularity.

In collaboration with Tobii, SEGA embarked on a research experiment to scrutinize the ”information-gathering skills” of professional players by interviewing the players and measuring their gaze during the game.

"Puyo Puyo," a falling action puzzle game developed by SEGA Corporation, made its debut in 1991. Its engaging, intuitive gameplay and adorable characters quickly won it widespread popularity upon release.

In 1992, Puyo Puyo revolutionized the genre by introducing a competitive format, enhancing its gameplay and turning it into a massive hit. It has since evolved into a beloved national game, enjoyed by a diverse audience, and has been adapted for various gaming platforms, including game consoles, mobile phones, and smartphones.

In the competitive realm of Puyo Puyo eSports, players can launch ”nuisance Puyos” onto an opponent's screen when they form a chain, disrupting the opponent's gameplay. An essential strategy is to monitor the status of an opponent's chain and time the release of nuisance Puyos to disrupt their game. Keenly observing the opponents' moves and field situation – what we can call ‘observing’- is equally important. This strategy necessitates intense gaze movement during a match.

In light of this, SEGA Corporation partnered with Tobii to conduct a research experiment. The study aimed to uncover the 'information-gathering skills' of professional players by recording and analysing players' gaze during gameplay.

SEGA Tobii customer story
In Puyopuyo eSports, it has been said that 'observing’ is the key to success. Eye tracking has shown us the information-gathering techniques of professional players, confirming the importance of 'observing’ and the specific techniques of professional players.
Koji Murayama, Team Manager of the Alliance Team in the eSports Promotion Office at SEGA Japan Asia Inc.,

Analyzing top players

The research experiment involved two professional players and one amateur. They were equipped with Tobii's wearable eye tracker to record their gaze during gameplay. The focus of the study was to examine the relationship between professional athletes that engage in 'observing’, and their ability, identifying their unique strategies.

In a professional Puyo Puyo eSports match, players must shift gaze frequently and use their peripheral vision to constantly observe their opponents' moves. However, articulating such visual techniques is challenging. The research experiment aimed to understand these strategies by recording gaze data during Puyo Puyo matches and conducting interviews.

By observing the players' gaze during gameplay, it was possible to identify patterns that could signal the information-gathering methods of skilled players.

Next, interviews were conducted while reviewing the eye tracking videos, which led to the creation of a skills analysis table based on both the eye-tracking data and interview responses.

Finally, from this skills analysis table, key elements of eye movement data were isolated and compared to highlight differences between the players.

Separating the best from the rest

The study showed a noticeable difference in eye movement between professional and amateur players, suggesting professionals obtain more information from their opponents' fields. Furthermore, the eye movement patterns during play varied among professional players, indicating individuality in their playing styles.

For instance, one professional player spent more time and frequency looking at the next Puyos, and the opponent’s field. Another player spent most of his time scanning their field and the opponent’s field, rarely shifting his full gaze to the next Puyos, instead keeping track of the next Puyos in his peripheral vision. Despite both professionals spending a significant amount of time observing their opponents' fields, the information they derived varied, highlighting individual strategies and techniques.

We will continue to use eye tracking and other data to elucidate the information gathering techniques of professional players and study the possibility of applying them to player stats and research on the relationship with mental health.
Koji Murayama, Team Manager of the Alliance Team in the eSports Promotion Office at SEGA Japan Asia Inc.,

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