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Winter 2014

Inquiry Magazine Archive

  • Spring 2016

    Spring 2016: Premium Blend

    Found in everything from space shuttles to dental fillings, composite materials have thoroughly infiltrated modern society. But their potential is still greatly untapped, offering researchers ample opportunity for discovery.

  • Fall 2015

    Fall 2015: Collision Course

    Within the particle showers created at the Large Hadron Collider, answers to some of the universe’s mysteries are waiting.

  • Spring 2015

    Spring 2015: Almost Human

    Model systems like pigeons can help illuminate our own evolutionary and genomic history.

  • Fall 2014

    Fall 2014: Small Wonder

    UT Arlington's tiny windmills are bringing renewable energy to a whole new scale.

  • Winter 2014

    Winter 2014: Overdue for an Overhaul

    The stability of our highways, pipelines, and even manholes is reaching a breaking point.

  • 2012

    2012: Mystery solved?

    Scientists believe they have discovered a subatomic particle that is crucial to understanding the universe.

  • 2011

    2011: Boosting brain power

    UT Arlington researchers unlock clues to the human body’s most mysterious and complex organ.

  • 2010

    2010: Powered by genetics

    UT Arlington researchers probe the hidden world of microbes in search of renewable energy sources.

  • 2009

    2009: Winning the battle against pain

    Wounded soldiers are benefiting from Robert Gatchel’s program that combines physical rehabilitation with treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.

  • 2009

    2007: Sensing a solution

    Tiny sensors implanted in the body show promise in combating acid reflux disease, pain and other health problems.

  • 2006

    2006:Semiconductors: The next generation

    Nanotechnology researchers pursue hybrid silicon chips with life-saving potential.

  • 2005

    2005: Imaging is everything

    Biomedical engineers combat diseases with procedures that are painless to patients.


The 'Mass Effect' Effect

How a study of a popular video game series could revolutionize an industry 

The Mass Effect Effect

Becoming a robot-astronaut-ballerina is no easy feat. It requires years of study and practice, flexibility, creativity, and a willingness to become part-machine. Luckily, Kimberly Shashoua eventually outgrew her childhood ambition and instead focused on a more traditional field of study: video games.

Shashoua, a master’s student in social work, has been evaluating the first three games in the popular Mass Effect series to develop what she’s calling “virtual narrative therapy.”

“Video games have the potential to teach people about the world in a safe way,” Shashoua says. “Virtual narrative therapy takes the pro-social aspects of video games and helps players translate that into real life.”

While video-games-as-therapy isn’t particularly new to the field of psychology, Shashoua’s approach is: Rather than developing games meant for therapeutic use, she is exploring the inherent therapeutic potential in popular games. Mass Effect 3, which was released in 2012, sold nearly a million copies in North America in its first 24 hours alone. Shashoua says its multiple play options make it ideal for her research.

She describes a scenario in which the main character, Commander Shepard, encounters a grieving crewmember: “Players can choose how to respond to the crewmember, and it’s like emotional support on training wheels. The player isn’t thrust into the situation, but since they can choose a response, it’s a very different experience from merely watching someone give support.”

These and other situational and emotional conflicts arise throughout the game, and the player remains an active participant in resolving issues and navigating complicated social situations. It’s essentially a safe place to work on real-world problems that people face every single day.

“When 26 percent of people meet the criteria for mental illness, there just aren’t enough resources to go around,” says Shashoua. “Virtual narrative therapy could narrow that gap.”

With a steady buzz of outside interest and work forthcoming in the National Social Science Journal and the National Proceedings Index of the National Social Science Association, Shashoua’s Mass Effect study is poised to be a game-changer.

More articles from this issue

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