By Linda Nguyen
Students walking into the Baylor Sciences Building earlier this week were greeted by two flat screen Sony televisions complete with first-person shooter “Call of Duty: Black Ops.”
This was all a part of a study by Waco doctoral student David Thomson, from the department of educational psychology, in order to determine correlations between game play and various other factors.
“I’m trying to see various levels of expertise. I want to see if there is a continuum between novice and expert,” Thomson said. “I wonder if visual reasoning and game habits help predict where people are along the continuum.”
Many students have already participated in Thomson’s study, including some students that do not normally play video games.
“I walked past this all yesterday and I thought it’d be fun to play video games for science. It’s a low-key way to participate,” said The Woodlands senior Sarah Nicholson, a biology major with many classes in the BSB.
Thomson said he particularly wants to study the similarities and differences in reasoning between different demographics. He wants to understand the inclinations, a person’s natural tendency to act a certain way, abilities the gamer brings and how all of this affects game play.
“I’m looking at all different things, whether or not sex and socioeconomic status are a factor. Do women have inclination?” Thomson said.
For other students like Houston sophomore Rodrigo Gomez, a chemistry major, playing “Call of Duty” is not too out of the ordinary.
“I have all my classes in the BSB. I saw it and thought, why not? I play a fair amount, more than the average person,” Gomez said.
Thomson was also paying attention to the different factors that make up game play.
“Some things are preferential, like push skill [how persistent players are in the game]. I wanted to see what you did to avoid obstacles or avoid destroying the environment, and the visual reasoning in scanning the lower and higher positions,” said Thomson.
Gomez said he is very interested in seeing what the study reveals.
“Maybe those that study spatial recognition will fare better. I believe it helps being a chemistry major. I think we need a lot of spatial recognition,” Gomez said.
Students play on one of four levels in the game, completing up to nine missions before dying. Thomson said the outcome factor was determined by the difficulty of the level and how many missions were completed.
Thomson said he got the idea from watching his own kids play for hours.
“I knew I couldn’t keep up, but I had to ask why? The only way I could keep up or even get to that point would have been to memorize [the layout]. I would have to memorize. It really comes down to improvisation versus memorization,” Thomson said.
Thomson said he wants to open up conversation about game design.
“Maybe this is a lesson in the difference between male and females. What are games that women would want to play that aren’t under development? Would it be a social connection game involving combat, role playing or even multiple personalities?” Thomson said.
Nicholson said she thought the whole study was very interesting, but she probably would not make a habit out of playing.
“I might give a different game a shot, but I’m not much for first-person shooters,” said Nicholson.
The study consisted of playing through a level of “Call of Duty” and then answering a survey about the student’s approach to playing the game. The study concluded at 7 p.m. Wednesday.