Getting into Games User Research

23rd October 2019

What is Games User Research

Games user research is a hugely exciting and dynamic domain in the games industry, which works to apply a deep understanding of user experience (UX) and player behaviour to the process of video game development. Our goal is to utilise our expertise and the data we gather to help developers realise their creative vision and to provide players with the intended gameplay experience.

Playtesting is perhaps the best-known tool of Games User Researchers. There are many types of playtests that offer different lenses on the player experience. Conducting observational studies, carrying out player interviews, designing surveys, and many other data-gathering techniques can be employed to gain a better understanding of players and their behaviour. It is our responsibility as Games User Researchers to guide developers through the research process; understand their questions, design robust research, gather unbiased feedback, and present findings that lead to actionable change in a positive way.

How to become a Games User Researcher

Games user researchers will often have an academic, research focused background in  subjects which aim to understand human behaviour and cognition. These subjects may include psychology, anthropology, human-computer interaction, computer science, or other related fields.

An excellent grasp of both qualitative and quantitative research methodologies and data analysis is necessary. If you have experience designing surveys, using statistical techniques, conducting observational research or using qualitative research methods, then this will be a strong foundation from which to begin your career as a games user researcher.

While the academic subjects listed above are well suited for segueing into Games User Research they are by no means the only ways to get started in the field. Reading about the domain and ensuring that you’re familiar with the many foundational academic texts in the domain is a good starting point for understanding the theory behind UX research. For the more practical side of things you can begin by writing usability focused reviews on all types of games, posting blogs, asking questions, helping local developers, and generally gathering a feel for the Games User research domain.

Useful Resources

There are many ways to get started in the field if you have these backgrounds (and maybe even if you don’t). Below are a number of resources that you may find useful when starting out or further developing your skills in the field of Games User Research.

The Games Research and User Experience Special Interest Group (GRUXSIG) have 2 conferences every year, and post the videos online: https://gamesurconf.com/

Games Research & User Experience SIG

The GRUXSIG Mendeley Library has a large number of academic texts related to the field:  https://grux.org/resources/library/

This talk from Player Research staff Alistair covers differences between ‘mainstream’ and games UX: www.youtube.com/watch?v=XxZeFJpqlDY

This talk from former Player Research staff Graham covers the 6 games UX roles: www.youtube.com/watch?v=1mq2sePF_sM

This talk from former Player Research staff Graham covers a lot of GUR principles, with a variety of methods among them: www.youtube.com/watch?v=a2NMP6a3bto

This blogpost from former Sony Researcher Steve Bromley about getting into Games User Research: http://www.stevebromley.com/blog/2012/04/25/how-to-break-into-games-user-research-expert-opinions/

A list of 10 usability focused heuristics from the Neilson Norman Group that can be a helpful starting point when performing usability research: https://www.nngroup.com/articles/ten-usability-heuristics/

Books

“The Design of Everyday Things” by Don Norman

“Don’t Make Me Think” by Steve Krug

“The Gamer’s Brain” by Celia Hodent

“Games User Research” by Anders Drachen

YouTube

PocketGamerbiz: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCIQ3KtupJCawXGMyTqpADXg

IGDA: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCO6ICvW4WnX3w5QCACvSPSA

Digital Dragons: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCOXWdtUOYjKgFOQmhN8aORw

Develop:Brighton: https://www.youtube.com/user/DevelopConference1/featured

GameDaily Connect: www.youtube.com/user/CasualConnect/

GameMakers: www.youtube.com/channel/UCJNjY2wtI5-F9ECeSA9KhEQ/

Written by Aaron Walker & Seb Long


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