Keeping tabs on video games

The full impact of video games on people's behaviour and emotions is to come under scrutiny thanks to a $405,000 research grant to Waikato University.

Psychologist Dr Gareth Schott, a senior lecturer in the school of Screen and Media studies, will use his Marsden funding to examine the way in which people interact with video games.

Starting next year, the three-year project has the potential to change the way in which games are classified in New Zealand.

Currently, games are classified with the same kinds of rating labels given to film, but Dr Schott said gaming is quite different in that it is interactive.

Also unlike films, games change dependant on the choices the gamer makes.

Some gamers would spend hours exploring a particular area of the game, while others would move through that same area without a second glance.

"Players' pathways through games and their decision-making processes are based on a range of influences that are embedded with the complex hybrid medium of games," Dr Schott said.

"So the experience is very different for every player. That makes games very difficult to classify."

Receiving the Marsden funding meant Dr Schott was able to get some of the foremost researchers in the area of gaming involved with the project – Finland's Frans Mayra and Sweden's Dr Lennart Nacke, now based in Canada.

"Had we not got this funding we would have been unable to keep this team together."

The research will involve 60 gamers, 20 each year, who will wear biofeedback headgear while they play several different games.

The headgear will measure their brain activity while they play. The participants will also be videoed to monitor their non-verbal reactions, be interviewed following play time about their feelings, and keep a diary.

Dr Schott will also record every action the players make during the game, including every jump and crouch.

They will use action/adventure games newly released during the research period.

Dr Schott said it was important to better understand the interaction between player and game as the popularity in gaming increased.

Waikato Times