2017 Research Symposium –
Video Games: A Medium that Demands Our Attention
Research Symposium Chair: Nicholas David Bowman | The Research Symposium takes place in Las Vegas during BEA2017 on Sunday, April 23, 2017
From the first “interactive computer demonstrations” at MIT in the 1950s to the blockbuster Grand Theft Auto V in 2013 (the highest-selling packaged media product of all-time), video games have continually captured the public’s imagination and interest. Video games are credited with improving the skills of pilots and surgeons and encouraging murder and mayhem. The gaming industry’s revenues have continually exceeded the film industry, while debates rage as to whether games are toys or more serious forms of art. Games are celebrated for their ability to spark children’s emotions, and chided for corrupting their morals. Finally, games are regarded as social media technologies that encourage interaction, while also regarded as distractions from reality that result in social isolation.
In parallel with these interests is a growing field of scholarly study around video games. The Digital Games Research Association counts nearly six dozen academic journals devoted to games research, and both the National Communication Association and the International Communication Association have formed game studies divisions. The regulation of video games has been raised at state and federal levels in the United States and abroad, and as the medium (and the industry) continues to evolve, so does the academic and general public interests in the uses and effects of the medium.
Somewhat lost in debates over video games as a “good” or “bad” technology is a more nuanced understanding of the experience of digital gaming itself. At least one way to understand video games is to focus on the unique elements of the medium that jointly and individually lead to the creation of the digital experience. Video games can place immense demand on the user’s cognitive, emotional, behavioral, and social resources.
The 2017 BEA Research Symposium will host four conference tracks:
- Gaming as Cognitive Demand Chaired by C. Shawn Green, University of Wisconsin-Madison
This track of the symposium will focus on the perceptual and cognitive abilities that underlie skilled performance on various types of video games as well as how video game play can alter basic perceptual and/or cognitive abilities. We encourage submissions that fit broadly under this theme, including those that highlight how certain game types load differentially on various perceptual/cognitive abilities, how the perceptual/cognitive abilities of skilled players of certain games differ from those of unskilled players, and how dedicated training on certain video games can be used to alter perceptual/cognitive abilities.
- Gaming as Emotional Demand Chaired by Matthew Grizzard, University at Buffalo, The State University of New York
This track of the symposium will focus on how video games can elicit emotions and how emotions can influence game play. We encourage submissions that address these processes, including how a player’s success/failure in games can elicit achievement-related emotions (e.g., happiness, frustration, anger, pride); how the narrative structure of games as well as characters within games can elicit basic, social, and moral emotions (e.g., happiness, guilt, disgust); and how anticipatory emotions can guide a player’s decision-making in games (e.g., hopes, fears, anxiety). We also encourage submissions that examine the mediating role of video-game induced emotions on behavioral outcomes, including but not limited to goal-directed behaviors and prosocial/antisocial behaviors.
- Gaming as Behavioral Demand Chaired by Allison Eden, Michigan State University
This track of the symposium will focus on behavioral demands and outcomes of video games. Submissions are welcome on the following topics: The physical aspect of games, e.g. the effects of game presentation and controller type, physical motion and exertion in game effort and enjoyment, the natural mapping of behavior in games, or the physiological responses to games; the effects of specific behaviors in game, e.g. decision making, search, and interactive behaviors on attitudes, beliefs, habits, or behaviors outside of game; and the real-world behavioral effects of game play, including pro and anti-social behavioral outcomes of games, the gamification of behavior, and habitual versus automatic use of games.
- Gaming as Social Demand Chaired by Jorge Peña, University of California – Davis
This track of the symposium will focus on how social cues embedded in video games affect perceptual and behavioral outcomes. We encourage submissions that highlight how design features (e.g., avatars), interaction goals (e.g., cooperation, competition), and social outfits (e.g., teammates, guilds, gaming communities, etc.) affect online and offline social dynamics (e.g., trust, liking, personal relationships, etc). We also encourage submissions highlighting the role of video games to raise awareness of social processes in video games, with both prosocial and antisocial outcomes.
About the BEA Symposium Scholars:
Nicholas Bowman (Ph.D., 2010, Michigan State University) is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication Studies at West Virginia University. His work considers the intersection of communication technology and human interaction, and the manner in which mediated communication places a variety of different demands on users. Email:
Allison Eden (Ph.D., 2011, Michigan State University) is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication at Michigan State University. Her research focuses on the role of media enjoyment and entertainment in media effects on behavior and well-being. Email:
Shawn Green (Ph.D., 2008, University of Rochester) is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His research focuses on factors that influence the rate, depth, and generality of learning in the perceptual and cognitive domains including those present in many modern forms of media – such as commercial video games. Email:
Matthew Grizzard (Ph.D., 2013, Michigan State University) is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication at University at Buffalo, The State University of New York. His research examines the intersection of intuitive morality and media entertainment, including moral emotions and their relationship to video game play and news media. Email:
Jorge Peña (Ph.D., 2007, Cornell University) is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication at University of California, Davis. His research focuses on cognitive, affective, and behavioral processes involved in online collaboration and play. He is also a founding member and executive officer of the National Communication Association Game Studies Division. Email:
About the BEA Research Symposium:
Since its debut in 2008, BEA’s Research Symposium has become a focal point of BEA’s research community and is held in conjunction with BEA’s annual convention each April. Past symposium chairs have included the most distinguished researchers in their field and have covered cutting-edge topics in the areas of media & the social self, sports, economics, media & morality, “TechnoPolitics, ” entertainment, and risk & health communication. The success of the Symposium launched a book series in 2010, published by Routledge. In addition to a paper competition, the day-long symposium has a series of presentations and panels led by senior scholars. The 2017 Research Symposium takes place during BEA’s annual convention in Las Vegas – April 22-26, 2017.