The Psychology of Gaming

by SUSAN SHELLY

Gaming article subheaders

Gaming graphical header

Jose Aviles, Ph.D., communications

Aviles head shotHow does advertising in video games affect the gamer and gaming experience?

Should directing a group of gamers online be considered legitimate leadership experience? Is it an experience that should be included on a college or job application?

These are some of the questions that first-year faculty member Jose Aviles, Ph.D., has been exploring, and what he has discovered may change the way people view video games and gaming.

Aviles, an assistant professor of communications currently teaching advertising, public relations and media, combines his long-time interest in gaming with a passion for the study of social psychology, especially as it applies to online interaction and virtual environments.

“I’ve been fortunate to be able to combine those interests in my research,” Aviles said.

As a teenager, Aviles’ academic track looked very different than what it turned out to be. He attended a vocational high school in his hometown of West Haven, Conn., where he studied electronics and computer systems.

“At that time, I was really into computer games,” Aviles said. “I’d go to academic classes for half of the year and vocational classes for the other half.”

It wasn’t until he discovered a website that explored the psychology of gaming that Aviles’ direction began to change as his interest in the subject of psychology increased.

At the same time, Aviles, a Latino in a diverse high school, began to experience some prejudice on a personal level.

“I realized that I could learn about psychology and it could apply to all these things that interested me,” he said.

In a late-game decision, Aviles decided to apply to college, becoming the first of his family to do so.

“My parents were very helpful and bought me two books about applying to college,” he said. “There wasn’t a lot of help with that available at my high school.”

Once admitted to Bard College in the Hudson Valley of New York, he found the academic work extremely challenging.

“I was struggling to play catch up,” Aviles said. “It felt like everyone in my freshman class had taken AP (advanced placement) courses and what we were doing was just review for them. But for me, it was all new.”

After being placed on academic probation his first semester, Aviles reached out for help and quickly was able to get on track.

A senior research project that examined the psychology of using avatars that look different from the gamer not only resulted in some interesting findings, it confirmed Aviles’ passion for the process of conducting research.

He went on to work as a research assistant at Fairfield University, and then was hired by Yale University, where his research intersected the topics of multiculturalism, prejudice, inequality and stereotypes.

From there, he went on to earn a master’s degree from the College of Charleston in South Carolina and a doctorate from Penn State University, where his dissertation dealt with the concept of using virtual agents and avatars to reduce prejudice.

Aviles has remained passionate about research and currently is exploring the topic of online gender assignment. He remains fascinated with exploring the effectiveness of advertising through online games and the implications of user-designed avatars.

Though it’s only his first semester, Aviles is settling in and looks forward to conducting research with Albright’s diverse student population.

“I’m excited to get further involved in the Albright community, and welcome any students who are interested in games or advertising to join me in study,” Aviles said.