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SRI International to Lead Global Research Team Studying Online Gaming Behavior
Menlo Park, Calif. —December 7, 2009—In a new three-year project, SRI International, an independent nonprofit research and development organization, will lead a global research team to examine online behavior in virtual gaming environments. The Virtual Environment Real User Study (VERUS) will explore the relationships between the real-world characteristics of gamers and the individual activities and group dynamics of their avatars in online virtual worlds.
The global usage of online gaming systems has expanded rapidly in recent years. Researchers have been studying virtual world environments, not just to help enhance the entertainment value of online games, but also to increase their effectiveness as tools for teaching and learning, professional training and collaborative work. To date, however, few coordinated investigations of virtual world behaviors and real-world users have been conducted across different cultures.
To address this shortcoming, VERUS researchers will recruit volunteers and observe their gaming activity at multiple locations worldwide. The studies will take place in computer laboratories, Internet cafes and other popular gaming environments. In these settings, researchers will interview and track the volunteers as they play online in virtual worlds such as Second Life and World of Warcraft, as well as in other virtual environments that have been specially designed for the project.
The controlled gaming experiments will take place at Nottingham University Business School in the United Kingdom and its campuses in Malaysia and the People's Republic of China, and at Simon Fraser University and York University in Canada. Research will include human-computer interaction studies, user surveys and questionnaires, onsite participant observations and other ethnographic methods of study. VERUS investigators will use the resources of SRI's Artificial Intelligence Center, Speech Technology and Research Laboratory, and Center for Technology in Learning. In addition, Multiverse Inc., a leading gaming platform developer in Mountain View, Calif., will provide specialized virtual environments for the study.
"We have formed a strong, multidisciplinary team of international researchers and organizations with extensive knowledge of behaviors in virtual worlds, as well as in experimental economics, social and behavioral sciences, education research, linguistics, cognitive engineering and artificial intelligence," said John Murray, Ph.D., principal investigator for the VERUS project. "We anticipate that the study's findings will significantly enhance SRI's existing capabilities in the study and use of virtual worlds, especially for our work for clients in the fields of education, simulation and training.