Web-based video games mark their growth in popularity with an expanding player base, in terms of both size and diversity. Game-makers today rely heavily on data captured from player interactions to analyze and improve the game's experience. This trend gives rise to the idea of games serving as a virtual laboratory, allowing scientists to observe large human populations and understand social phenomena in ways never previously available. This talk details a two-year internal research effort at Sandia National Labs partnering with a game development company to explore data from a browser-based massively multiplayer online game (MMOG) and how to use it to validate, or improve, theories on social issues developed through traditional means.
Jon Whetzel is a Senior Member of Technical Staff at Sandia National Laboratories and Adjunct Professor of the Interdisciplinary Film & Digital Media program at the University of New Mexico. His work in serious games and interactive simulations have been deployed to the US Navy, US Air Force, Department of Homeland Security, and Department of Energy. He also leads Sandia’s Serious Gaming Consortium, an interest group between the Sandia, academia, and members of the game development industry.