Notes from Games User Research Summit 2013
The first time I attended the Game Developer Conference (2010?), I wanted to check out where game developer’s minds were at. By and large, the conference was about tech and technique. Not so much about experience design or research. At least not in the formal sessions. Well, that was then and since I’ve kept tabs on it since it keeps coming to San Francisco each year.
This year, I was really happy to hear about a complementary event – the Games User Research (GUR or “grrr…”) Summit 2013. It’s put on by the GUR Special Interest Group (SIG) and has the clear mission:
Improve games by improving the state of games user research. Our main approach to doing this is to facilitate community and information sharing among user-research folks at game companies, consultants, and academia.
-GUR SIG Mission Statement
Chances are if you found your way to my blog, you think this is a pretty exciting development as well. To me the key thing about the event is that it brings academics and practitioners together. There were some pretty interesting talks going on. Here are some of the highlights:
Graham McAllister (Player Research) had a great talk where he shared a framework for evaluating game usability. I won’t get into all of what he covered, but I think the gist of it is this:
9 metrics to judge games on. There’s a division between usability and gameplay.
This struck me as incredibly helpful not only because it provides a rubric for games but other experiential work. He admits that it’s a work in progress, but I appreciate the scientific rigor he’s applied to developing the model, based on 2000 data points.
Second Screen Design
Ben Medler (Electronic Arts) provided insights into second screen experience designs and the struggles he’s come up against. It seems like a tricky thing to juggle legacy console, desktop and mobile device versions of games while developing something new. He said the team is still figuring things out, but we can already see a strong design perspective from EA. Mostly horizontal tablet design with large interaction spaces.
Tablets have general purpose areas which are helpful since people aren’t looking at them.
The rest of the conference sessions ranged from fundamental team building or “how to get it done” sessions to more advanced analytics and biometric presentations. Here are some handy resource lists that are worth exploring if those topics interest you:
Sebastian Koenig’s Building a GUR Lab Resource List:
Dr. Anders Drashen (Game Analytics) Game Analytics Reading List:
Books on Game Analytics
Game Analytics: Maximizing the Value of Player Data
Social Game Design: Monetization Methods and Mechanics
The GA Development Blog
Halo 3: How Microsoft labs invented a new science of play
Game Analytics – Big Data and Business
Game Telemetry with Playtest DNA on Assassin’s Creed
Applying Metrics-driven Development MMO Costs and Risks
Hot Failure: Tuning Gameplay with Simple Player Metrics
Game Analytics 101
Big Data Analytics for Video, Mobile, and Social Game Monetization – Understand and Influence PRofitable Consumer Behavior
Do You Speak Metrics?
Balance and Flow Maps
Tracking Player Feedback to Improve Game Design
Freemium Games are Not Normal
Beyond the Heatmap
Better Game Design Through Data Mining
Finding Out What They Think
Staying Power: Rethinking Feedback to Keep Players in the Game
Ben Medler’s Blog
Playnomics Quarterly US Player Engagement Study (2012)
The Metrics are the Message: How Analytics is Shaping Social Games
The GUR Summit is definitely worth keeping up with since it is for now, the best intersection between games research in academia and industry. Who knows? Perhaps it’ll have a positive influence on the Game Developer Conference itself. This year only has a single GDC usability session listed under “Production” versus “Design”. I’m looking forward to the day when there’s an “Experience” or “Research” track at the GDC.