Undergraduate Research & Scholarships

Zahra Baxi L&S Social Sciences

Social Gaming in College Students during the COVID-19 Pandemic

The number of Multiplayer Online Game (MPOG) players steeply increased during the lockdowns and social distancing of the COVID-19 pandemic. My research will address the question: What factors enhance social connection and build virtual communities in MPOG players? My study is informed by the Self-Determination Theory which states that three basic psychological needs promote well-being: competence (mastery over one’s environment), autonomy (feeling of control over one’s life), and relatedness (sense of belonging and connection). Ethnographic observation on Discord, an online communication platform popular with gamers, will enable me to explore interactions in MPOG communities and identify factors that keep users engaged. Interviews with gamers will help me identify features that promote competence, autonomy, and relatedness in MPOG players. As a woman gamer of color and future product designer, my goal is to understand how MPOGs create engaging and inclusive virtual communities. My research will enable me to develop a framework that game developers can utilize to design video games that foster a sense of mastery, control, and connection in virtual gaming communities.

Message To Sponsor

I am thankful for the opportunity to have protected time this summer to embark on my research. This project is relevant and meaningful to me both professionally and personally and I appreciate your investment in supporting student research. I hope that my research findings will make a difference by helping students feel connected to each other through virtual communities, especially during times of isolation.
Major: Human-Centered Design
Mentor: Shreeharsh Kelkar
Sponsor: Landau Fund
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