York’s Video Game Research Project

As part of York College’s Student Research Day on April 24, students from music professor Dr. Tom Zlabinger’s Art & Sound of Video Games class presented their research in Academic Core classroom 2B06. It was a fascinating collection of presentations on topics ranging from video games and its relationship to mental health, videogames and the role music plays in them, video games and violence and videogames historical accuracy. Zlabinger said the purpose of the research was to “look at video games artistically and sonically.”

A handful of students from Zlabinger’s class presented their research including Abraham Lopez, who looked at video games’ therapeutic effects and Marisa Ramcharan’s examination of video games to explore history in a unique way.

Abraham Lopez presented on a program called S.P.A.R.X (smart, positive, active, realistic and X-factor), a computerized cognitive behavioral intervention for individuals experiencing depression. “S.P.A.R.X.” was created in New Zealand in 2011 with the purpose of reconstructing negative thought patterns and developing more positive and realistic outlooks on life. New Zealand researchers took 187 adolescents from the age of 9 to 16.  The end result was that “S.P.A.R.X” was on par to traditional methods of therapy.
Lopez’s presentation showed a proven aspect of video games not often highlighted its healing properties. “S.P.A.R.X.” may just be the first breakthrough in a line of therapeutic game consoles that help cure depression, a remarkable feat.

Lopez concluded “My main interest is how a computerized game could possibly be a factor in battling depression, which going back a couple of years ago would of been a joke. The fact that that’s turning into a reality is awesome.”

Marisa Ramcharan’s presentation focused on the multi-million dollar popular video game franchise “Assassin’s Creed.” The action-adventure open world series revolves around the rivalry between two ancient secret societies: the Assassins and the Knights Templar. So far the game consists of seven main games and a number of spin-offs across portable games, books and comics.

The games’ current setting is the year 2013 and centers around Desmond Miles, who is a descendant of several lines of prominent assassins. He is kidnapped by the megacorporation Abstergo Industries, who are backed by the Knights Templar and know of Desmond’s ancestral lineage. Desmond is then forced to use the “Animus,” a device that allows him to access and experience his ancestral memories using his DNA.

The Assassin’s Creed games are deeply rooted in reliving actual historic events. The video game gives players a chance to explore history in a creative way. Each installment of the series is centered on certain points of time and in specific locations, such as 1191 A.D. Crusades era Jerusalem, Renaissance Era Italy and the American Revolution  in United States. While it’s interpretation rooted in the templar/assassin’s lore the game sets up is obviously fictional, the game provides great insights and extremely accurate portrayals of historical setting and figures like Leonardo Da Vinci and George Washington. It is yet another way modern day video games exceed the norm of just being a “game” and start to become more of an educational tool.

The conclusion reached by all the presenters was that videogames are a form of escape and a way to find control. It allows everyday people to disappear into fictional worlds, but can educate you or even heal you.

“Video games can be an escape from reality, an even bigger escape than movies,” Ramcharan said. “When you watch movies you’re immersed in the world but with video games you can play it out and make different decisions and take different routes.”