Picture somebody playing a first-person shooter. You probably imagine them sitting stock still, staring ahead with an almost blank expression on their face, one that denotes quiet focus. You might, however, be missing one key detail: their eyes are moving all over the dang place.
Human eyes move fast, especially when we’re doing something spatial reasoning-intensive like playing a game. Jon Matthis decided to put this to the test, hooking up an eye tracker to an Overwatch session. It’s fascinating to watch exactly where his eyes go, even when playing as a relatively straightforward character like Roadhog:
“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 in a Reddit post. “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.”
“Because eye movements are so central to our neural strategy, eye trackers are a very powerful tool for the study of human sensorimotor control,” he added. “Basically, eye movements are a physical measurement that provides direct insight into your cognitive processes!”
In the video, Matthis is constantly scanning, albeit within a fairly narrow region of the screen. It makes sense, because with Roadhog, you’re not gonna be hooking many people from super far away. Instead of broad awareness, you want fine awareness. This goes double because hooking people requires split second reflexes. It makes sense that you’d almost get tunnel vision while playing him. You don’t want to be distracted, after all. Slightly broader awareness might help you mitigate threats that are further away—like Ana, for instance—but that’s what Roadhog’s deep health pool and healing abilities are for. So it makes the most sense to focus on what’s directly ahead.
You’ve also gotta admire the way Overwatch’s interface functions here. Most important information (cooldowns, ult charge, etc) is laid out clearly and cleanly just beneath where Matthis’ eyes tend to be anyway. It’s all very economical.
Now then, how long until somebody tries this with a support hero like Ana? Then again, maybe I don’t want to watch a person’s eyes move so fast that they pop out of their damn skull.