Tan wins Faculty Slam; clinches CoJMC’s three-peat

Friday, November 10, 2023 - 12:45pm

by Dan MoserResearch and Economic Development

There are 23 Call of Duty video games, and they’re basically all the same — created to lock gamers into playing, again and again, controlled and manipulated by the industry. But Ryan Tan, who once designed video games for a living, thinks games can serve society more positively.

Tan, an assistant professor of sports media and communications, won the 2023 Faculty Research and Creative Activity Slam Nov. 8, chosen by spectators among five presenters.

Ryan Tan

Ryan Tan, assistant professor of sports media and communication, won the 2023 Faculty Research and Creative Activity Slam, the third straight victory for the College of Journalism and Mass Communications. Nick Kumpula | Research and Economic Development

While he was still working in private industry, Tan said, his father, a pastor, asked for his help with a teenager addicted to a game Tan had helped design. His addiction was affecting his relationships with friends and family and was on the verge of getting him kicked out of school. Tan said he explained how games were designed to control and manipulate players, and the boy “kind of out of spite pulled himself out of it.”

It was an epiphany for Tan.

“I really didn’t want my work to be remembered for its addictive qualities.”

He now conducts research on the cognitive and emotional effects that video games have on players.

“What if we designed games for good? What if we designed games for social change?” Tan said. “That’s my research now. That is what I want to be remembered for.”

Tan earned a $1,000 prize to go toward his research. It was the College of Journalism and Mass Communications’ third straight slam victory.

Slammers organized their talks around the prompt “What do your friends and family members find most interesting about the work you do?”

The faculty slam was part of Nebraska Research Days, held on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus from Nov. 6 through Nov. 10. Read more about Nebraska Reserach Days and slam contestants here.