If you look up Espen Aarseth online you’ll find that he is Norwegian and a professor at the IT University of Copenhagen (ITU). He also just happens to be Denmark’s first professor of computer game research.
And with 15 million kroner worth of EU research grants, there seems to be plenty of reason for Aarseth to look into a sector that has continued to grow in recent years.
“There is a great need in society to understand how computer games work for good and bad, and what they do and don’t do,” said Aarseth.
“Do games lead to violence, aggression, addiction, learning, better health, and so on? There are many questions about how games affect us that we have been asking ourselves for 35 years and which still have not been answered well enough.”
Fallout vs Shakespeare
Since being established at the end of the previous century, ITU has been a pioneer within gaming research and the institution has become a leading force on the subject internationally.
Aarseth has been an important figure at ITU, where he helped found the Center for Computer Games Research in 2003. His primary research goal is to develop a model that can be used to analyse and describe computer games.
One of the key questions the research is attempting to answer is whether computer games have helped change the meaning of the category ‘games’.
“There are so many different types of games, and they cannot possibly have the same effect,” said Aarseth.
“Tetris is quite different from World of Warcraft, and those two are quite different from Pokémon GO. It is a huge, diverse field that we currently do not have adequate concepts for understanding.”
Aarseth points out that the game Fallout: New Vegas – about surviving in a post-apocalyptic future – contains twice as much dialogue as the complete works of Shakespeare. Computer gaming has also advanced technology by demanding more powerful computers, he contends.