New research will help us understand computer games

Espen Aarseth, Associate Professor at the IT University of Copenhagen, has received one of Europe's most prestigious research grants, an Advanced Grant from the European Research Council (ERC) of two million Euro. He will spend the next five years laying the groundwork for the first comprehensive theory of computer games.

Digital Design DepartmentResearchcomputer gamesEspen Aarseth

Even though they are taking up more and more of our time, there is still a lot we do not know about computer games. Now a major new research project, Making Sense of Games, is taking up the task of creating a basis for understanding computer games and their increasing importance in our culture and society. The project will be headed by Espen Aarseth, a leading figure within games research and co-founder of the Center for Computer Games Research at the IT University of Copenhagen.

“I am very pleased to receive this grant. The ERC Advanced Grant is the highest recognition one can hope to achieve within this type of research. ITU was visionary in focusing on games research at a very early stage when no other universities were doing anything similar, and this has had tremendous significance internationally. The grant is a recognition of game studies as an independent research field and Denmark's role in the development of the field, and it shows that ITU's vision was on the mark,” he says.

Need for analysis models

The overarching goal of Espen Aarseth’s five-year research project is to create a theoretical foundation for working with games of both the digital and analog variety.

“Just as we need models for analyzing literature and cinema, we need models for analyzing games. We are going to develop and quality-assure some basic concepts for game analysis that can be used for instance in research and education. Today there are no large, sweeping theories drawing on a combination of different approaches and disciplines.”

Could relieve concerns

Such a new theoretical tool could also be used to answer some of the questions we have about how computer games affect us, Espen Aarseth continues.

“Our discussions about addiction and violence in connection with games are characterized by a lack of understanding of how computer games work. Our goal is to develop concepts that will make it easier for psychologists to assess the effect of games on children and adolescents. It is our job as game researchers to make the phenomenon understandable and perhaps a bit less scary, so we can relieve some of the concerns and understand the impact and meaning of games, good and evil.”

About Espen Aarseth

Associate Professor at the IT University, where he heads the Center for Computer Games Research. His research focuses on ideological, narrative, semiotic and ontological aspects of games and game communication as well as issues like game addiction, digital literature and aesthetics. He is also Editor-in-Chief of Games Studies, the oldest peer-reviewed scientific publication on games research. Read more about Espen Aarseth.

About ERC Advanced Grant

The European Research Council (ERC) provides funding for international, cutting-edge research projects of scientific excellence within all research areas and topics. ERC Advanced Grants are awarded to researchers who are leaders within their field and have delivered significant scientific achievements in the past ten years.

Further information

Vibeke Arildsen, Press Officer, phone 2555 0447, email

Espen Aarseth, Associate Professor, phone 7218 5045, email