This summer, four undergraduate students and one graduate student are working in the Virginia Tech Gaming and Media Effects Research lab researching the effects of video games and exposure to violent media content. Two of the students, Brandon Sesler and Nate Andrew, are involved in a 10-week "Hands-On, Minds-On" research experience for undergraduates (REU) program which brings together faculty and staff from multiple disciplines for the opportunity to engage in research. This unique program is supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and provides undergraduates the chance to become a part of a collaborative research community and to develop their research identity. Their specific REU program is dedicated to understanding and preventing societal violence, and they are researching effects of violent video games in the VT G.A.M.E.R. lab. Sesler is a political science major at Virginia Western Community College and is a Veteran of the United States Army where he served in a striker unit with the 25th Infantry division. Upon completing his undergraduate degree, Brandon has the intention of going on to graduate school to pursue a Master’s degree in Public Administration. Andrew is a double major in psychology and business administration at Milligan College in northeast Tennessee, and plans to apply for PhD programs in clinical psychology after graduation.

Virginia Tech undergraduate student Winston Wu is also doing research in the lab this summer through the Scieneering summer research program at Virginia Tech. Scieneering is a program that gives undergraduates in the fields of science, engineering, and law the opportunity to do research outside of their discipline. The program allows students to gain new perspectives and experience tackling real-world, multi-dimensional problems under the direction of a qualified mentor. Winston is a Biology major and hopes to attend medical school after graduation. He chose to do research in the VT G.A.M.E.R. lab because he is an avid gamer and is interested in researching effects of video games.

These three students are researching video game effects through multiple experiments and a content analysis. Firstly, they are interested in studying whether exposure to violent media content can lead to anti-violence attitudes. Another experiment will test whether race associations during online play affects the online gaming environment. Their content analysis will lead them to better understand what kind of environment people are getting into when playing online first-person shooter games such as Call of Duty. Their research this summer will lead them to learn about the social, personal, and behavioral effects of video games as a communication platform.

Additionally, Virginia Tech undergraduate student Rory Rowan will be working in the lab on a preliminary research project dealing with commercial trust in online games.  The project is part of a seed grant initiative supported by the Virginia Tech Institute for Society, Culture, and the Environment.

The undergraduate students are assisted by Sarah Francis, a graduate student in the Virginia Tech Department of Communication who is involved with the supervision and training of the students in the program.

Left to Right: Francis, Sesler, Wu, Andrew, and Rowan.




This article was prepared by Sarah Francis.