PsyOps was not born like most research projects. It actually started out as the topic of a research course during my Master’s degree (Computer Science – AI). The goal of the course was simply to gain research experience through a small project of our choosing.
I chose Battlefield.
At the time, I was active in the Battlefield 3 community as a YouTube director. I knew that many game play statistics were tracked for every Battlefield player, and I started thinking: what can we do with this data? Because of my mixed background in psychology and artificial intelligence, what appealed to me was researching the link between play style and personality. What can games tell us about who we are? Is there a difference between how we act in real life and online? And if so, what are those difference? I was passionate about the idea of figuring out how play style and personality interact. The almost science-fiction-like nature of the concept really got me going. But not least of all, the project united all my professional interests: Psychology, AI, and of course… gaming.
Now I always grew up with the feeling that science is awesome but it is often presented in a dull and boring way. I wanted to create a research project that showed people how interesting science can really be. Step by step the concept formed for PsyOps: a promotional campaign for academic research that gets gamers directly involved in a scientific project. At first, I hoped for maybe one hundred participants. I was blown away by the eventual size of the project: over 13,000 people ended up participating.
Yet none of this could have come to be without the help from some amazing people. I count myself lucky to have found these great individuals that shared my enthusiasm for bringing science to the Battlefield. I’d like to thank Gwen Ferdinandus for creating the original PsyOps website, Armon Toubman for programming the backend architecture, Jay Abdeljalil for creating the artwork for the campaign, and Finn Görges (aka, Mashed8) for making a masterpiece of a trailer video for the research project. Additionally, I would like to thank the people behind bf3stats.com for providing public access to the Battlefield 3 statistics of the players, as well as promoting the research. Also, a big thank you to the people at Pixel Enemy and Battlefieldo for promoting our research in the Battlefield 3 community. Lastly, the biggest thank you of all for all the people that participated in the research!
Thanks to all of these individuals, PsyOps has become a huge success. Bigger than I ever dared dream. PsyOps allowed me to gain a PhD position at the Tilburg University, The Netherlands. It has gone on to become the centerpiece of my ongoing research about Player Modeling in Video Games. It has moved video game research forward. Thank you.
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