Emerging Media and Technology Students Examine User Data Related to Video Game Industry
Video games are big business with billions of dollars on the line. Every day, data — collected on player bases, consumer reviews and development cycles — informs major decisions. At the end of the Fall 2023 semester, Kent State students presented new research to inform top video game developers like Nintendo, Riot Games, EA Sports and Ubisoft.
Emerging Media and Technology majors TJ Laryea, ’26, and Noah Vongratana, ’24, spent the end of their fall semester crunching data on massive multiplayer online games. It’s common for the developers of these games to frequently update and re-release content to keep their players interested. Laryea and Vongratana, however, were noticing that not all updates were being well received. Laryea asked, “Is it possible developers go too far?” as they update and balance games.
The answer seems to be, yes, based on findings. Valorant, a popular game that is very frequently updated, had a growing player base until the last four recent patches, where “developers made significant changes to fan favorites, which turned players away,” Laryea found.
On the other hand, Apex Legends saw immediate benefits of updates. The months following an update saw significant increases in player bases versus non-update-months.
Laryea’s full report has since been published online.
Vongratana focused on the horror multiplayer game Dead by Daylight which has released 31 downloadable content (DLCs) packs since first released in 2017.
“I wish to understand how the game has evolved over its seven-year lifespan, but also determine if there is a direction that the game should go in the future,” Vontgrana said.
By collecting and analyzing consumer reviews for each DLC, Vongratana found that the inclusion of licensed properties was a consistent way for the developers to earn their players’ approval. In Vongratana’s report, he suggests, “the developers should focus on licensed horror characters such as Candyman or IT in order to bring in fans of their respective properties.”
Digital media production major Natalie Gilles, ’24, decided to take a slightly different approach and looked at the character designs of Nintendo’s cozy role-playing game, Animal Crossing. By scraping the web for character attributes and community rankings, Gilles showed that some character types are fan favorites, while others consistently fall flat with the community.
“For the cats, about half are in S tier (popular/well-liked), and the majority of gorillas are in F tier (not popular/liked). It seems like the cuter, smaller and overall nicer animals are the top pick for most people,” Gilles said. “Whereas the more-hostile and larger animals, like the gorillas, eagles, and kangaroos, are less popular.”
These students were three of the 21 students who published their research online about digital media and society for the course “Data in Emerging Media and Technology” taught by Assistant Professor David E. Silva, Ph.D. Each student chose what interested them the most about digital media, and their projects investigated a wide range of topics including sports media, career outlooks and predictions, web design, music trends and the TV and streaming industry.
Students used a variety of technical skills to complete their research including coding in Python, writing and publishing online using Jupyter Notebooks, wrangling data using the pandas library for Python, visualizing data using matplotlib, and conducting statistical analyses. These skills not only help build new knowledge about digital media, but position students to succeed in a data-centric and digital, technical economy.