Game Usability: Advice from the Experts for Advancing the Player Experience (Ch 1, 2)

Isbister, K., & Schaffer, N. (2008). Introduction. In K. Isbister and N. Schaffer (Eds.), Game Usability: Advice from the Experts for Advancing the Player Experience (pp. 7-27). New York: Morgan Kaufmann.

Norgaard, M., & Sorensen, J.R. (2008). Organizational Challenges for User Research in the Videogame Industry: Overview and Advice. In K. Isbister and N. Schaffer (Eds.), Game Usability: Advice from the Experts for Advancing the Player Experience (pp. 7-27). New York: Morgan Kaufmann.

Chapter 1

In this introductory chapter, the authors discuss the overall goals of the book and mention a distinction concerning the goals of usability research on productivity software applications versus games. While the goals of usability testing of productivity software revolve around metrics such as effectiveness and efficiency, a primary concern of games is the user experience (does the player find the game fun; does she experience flow?). Those creating productivity software refer to this as “user experience.”

Usability is defined as “the extent to which the software is intuitive and effective for a person trying to accomplish the tasks at hand. This means paying attention to human limits in memory, perception, and attention” (p. 4). More recently, productivity software designers have become interested in user experience — “what it is like to interact with the software, including how engaging the experience is, regardless of the end goals” (p. 4). This has led to testing aspects such as engagement, flow, and fun.

Chapter 2

This article discussed some of the main challenges involved in conducting HCI-related user research in the videogame development and marketing cycle. The issues and advice presented here pertain mainly to third-party developers who are owned or closely affiliated with publishers (a relationship that stems from the historical necessity of independent videogame developers to partner with powerful publishers to get access to consoles). The authors employ the term “UR champion” to describe someone who wishes to incorporate user research in the development process at the developer site.

According to the authors, the four main challenges are: (1) justifying return on investment, (2) developing game-specific evaluation methods, (3) formalizing work procedures, and (4) building cross-professional relationships.

-Traditionally, game designers developed games for users who were much like themselves in terms of experience and preferences. However, today’s player are much more heterogeneous (Bateman & Boon, 2005).

“…Focus groups should not be used to validate design, but instead function as a point of departure for brainstorming design ideas” (p. 22).

“The developer is often basically interested in how the game works, how fun it is, how difficult it is, and so on. The publisher’s marketing department, on the other hand, is basically interested in how the game fits the target audience and the market in general, how it is presented to potential buyers, and so on” (p. 23).

Advice:

  • Share real-world examples of successful user research practices.
  • Tailor ROI arguments to fit each key stakeholder’s individual needs and goals.
  • First implement methods with a focus on data and objectivity and a high and reliable success rate (i.e., build ROI credibility).
  • Identify key development components and milestones that user research to connect to.
  • Build standardized procedures for user research.
  • Share the results in a way that supports the developers’ goals and the overall company strategy.
  • Integrate in tiers or one method at a time.
  • Do lobby work and strive to make alliances with influential colleagues.
  • Talk (F2F) with game developers to understand their thoughts and ideas.
  • Be aware that “user research” means different things to marketers and developers.
  • Offer to share information and methods and research questions with marketing.
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