Video-game technology is being used by a researcher at Simon Fraser University to study how people react to crime and fear in the Downtown Eastside and nearby neighbourhoods.

Andrew Park, a criminologist and research associate at SFU’s Institute For Canadian Urban Research Studies, said virtual environments are useful for studying social issues such as home­lessness and fear of crime.

“One of the advantages of a virtual environment is that we can modify it easily,” said Park.

“For example, we developed a second model of the neighbourhood that had more broken windows and more graffiti. You can’t do that with the real environment.”

Park creates his virtual environments by taking digital photos, manipulating them in Photoshop and then mapping them onto 3-D models created by a game-development program.

Research participants navigate through the virtual environment using a Nintendo Wii controller and balance board.

Park said he’d like to incorporate interactive characters and objects into the models.

“For our future studies, it would be great if people could actually go into the shops and buildings and talk to people,” said Park.

“I want to see my research have a positive impact on society.”

Latest From ...