SVC alumnus researches “geek culture”

Video gamers are not socially stunted psychopaths, as they are sometimes stereotyped, or at least that’s what one SVC alumnus is trying to prove. Steve Kuniak graduated from SVC in 2005 with a degree in psychology and went on to earn a master’s degree in counseling from Duquesne. Kuniak then served as a licensed professional counselor in Westmoreland County, where he worked with a variety of individuals, including those who could be identified as “geeks.” Kuniak has since returned to SVC to pursue a teaching certification, but he continues to research “geek culture” and, more specifically, “gamers.” “There’s this stereotype of gamers as low-achieving, aggressive or having poor impulse control,” said Kuniak, “but as I’m doing research, I’m finding that the stereotype is really unfounded.” Kuniak is finishing up Ph.D. work at Duquesne, and his dissertation involves investigating the mental health of those who identify as “gamers.” Kuniak’s dissertation is an epic undertaking. In order to study gamers, Kuniak planned to distribute questionnaires to volunteers. Kuniak designed a metric that breaks down into seven different “gamer types,” and in order to generate statistically significant results across seven categories, Kuniak calculated that he would need 340 study participants. Kuniak recently traveled to the Penny Arcade Expo, a gaming festival that was held at the beginning of this month in Boston, to collect data for his dissertation. “I was worried about getting 340 people,” said Kuniak. “A lot of dissertation research is done with much smaller sample sizes.” Kuniak’s worries proved to be unfounded. On the first day of data collection alone, Kuniak acquired 359 participants. “All in all, we got results from nearly 600 respondents,” said Kuniak. Kuniak said the experience was very fulfilling. “People were coming up to me thanking me for pursuing this research,” said Kuniak. “They were glad that someone is working to combat the negative societal outlook about gamers.” Kuniak is currently processing the data he collected in Boston, but said that so far the gaming community defied stereotypes. “Respondents were not all white teenaged males,” said Kuniak. “Respondents were actually about 50/50 split between genders, and we saw respondents from all sorts of cultures.” Kuniak expressed interest in reaching out to the gaming community at SVC for further feedback on his research. Further details can be found on Kuniak’s website, stevekuniak.com.

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