Turning an Interest in Video Games into Research: Opportunities in the College of Computing and Digital Media

11 February 2021
DePaul students in gaming class

Do you play video games? If so, you are part of the 3.1 billion people worldwide who do. That’s 40% of the global population! DePaul University’s College of Computing and Digital Media (CDM) is making an impact on the popular video game industry. With game design and game development programs, research laboratories like the Virtual Augmented Design Lab, and faculty who have industry experience and expertise, there are many opportunities to transform your interest in video games into a career.

Video game research at DePaul

Dr. Gretchen Frickx, director of the Global Gateway Program, learned more about the research that DePaul students are doing to study online video games. Arman Dehpanah is a PhD candidate in computer science, and he conducted research on evaluating rating systems in online free-for-all video games. Dr. Frickx said, “When I first heard about his presentation, I must confess, I wasn’t sure if I really understood the topic of his research. But, I was curious, so I tuned in. Wow! Did I learn a lot.”

Arman’s work focuses on the algorithms used to assemble teams for online multiplayer games. There are three categories of players: newbies (people who haven’t played the game before, or who aren’t very good), average players (players who have some expertise in the game, but are not top-flite players), and pros (players who are very good at the game and win frequently). The problem is that when you match a team of newbies against a team of pros, the pros dominate the game. The average time in the game for newbies with this kind of mismatch is 2 minutes!

So, when teams are not even, the newbies are beaten quickly by the pros, who then turn their attention on the average players. The pros continue to dominate and all of the other players lose quickly. These mismatches mean that newbies cannot improve and continue to explore the game. It is not fun to lose over and over again, so they start to think the game is pointless, and then quit. When the newbies and average players stop playing the game, there is no one for the pros to play with and no one plays the game.

An ideal group assignment includes a challenge for players at all levels, which drives interest, and keeps people playing the game. So, good group assignments are critical for keeping people involved in the game. Teams are assigned using a series of predictive models that try to mix different skill levels. Arman used a series of algorithms to compare the different models and determine which made the ideal group match ups. After completing multiple analyses of 6 different models, Arman recommends using NDCG (Normalized Discounted Cumulative Gain) because of its consistency and flexibility to adjust evaluation based on the goals of the game.

This project is a great example of the overlap of how Arman applied his computer science background to a growing field and how personal interests can spur important research. DePaul gives students the support they need to pursue their interests. Undergraduate and Master’s students have access to state-of-the-art technology and research centers, and work with faculty members and industry professionals on innovative projects. Are you ready to join them? Click here to learn more.

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