As Holland touched on, gaming is an area in which tangential learning has become something of a researcher’s playground. Barnett and Coulson (2010) sought to understand player interactions in massively multiplayer online games (MMOs). They looked at factors such as socialization, transference of skills from virtual to real world applications, immersion, and group achievements. They note that MMOs have been used as tools for teaching, and players who develop social skills via gameplay (e.g., forming groups, effective communication, etc.) are able to then use those skills in out of game settings successfully. Specifically, with regards to collective intelligence, when a gamer gets onto a game, and comes away with skills such as socialization and effective team participation or leadership, that is a credit to the group as a whole being greater than the sum of its parts.
But it isn’t just MMOs that create this kind of tangential skill learning. First-person shooters (FPSs) also allow team coordination, the dissemination of knowledge between players, and real world applicability (Frostling-Henningsson, 2009). Players in this study reported feeling a greater variety of experiences (which they then share with other players… collective intelligence), and were found to be most motivated by the socialization and communication factors inherent in the game. Diane Carr (2011) found that gamers make game choices or have genre preferences based on their own experiences and the experiences others have shared with them. She calls it “peer culture”.
While these games typically don’t change much (some patches are created to accommodate game play or gamer preferences on the whole), people continue to play. In my experience as a game review, replayability is one of the most important factors, and typically the most replayable games are the ones that have a social component. Because, in games like League of Legends (my personal favorite MMO), the game is the same over and over, but the people you play with, the things you learn from them, the experiences you gain via the combinations of players/characters/teams, are what keep you coming back for more.
Barnett, J., & Coulson, M. (2010). Virtually real: A psychological perspective on massively multiplayer online games. Review of General Psychology, 14(2), 167-179. doi: 10.1037/a0019442
Carr, D. (2011). Contexts, gaming pleasures, and gendered preferences. Simulation & Gaming, 36(4). 464-482. doi: 10.1177.1046878105282160
Frostling-Henningsson, M. (2009). First-person shooter games as a way of connecting to people: “Brothers in blood”. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 12(5), 557-562. doi: 10.1089/cpb.2008.0345