Player Research Blog


Player Research at Unite 2015 Europe

Unite Europe is coming! The event, hosted at Westergasfabriek June 24-25, boasts an impressive line up of industry expertise and offers attendees the opportunity to learn of upcoming features and improvements in Unity.

Player Research Director Graham McAllister will be in attendance and delivering a talk on Friday 25 June from 17:30 – 18:30 entitled Assessing The Gameplay Experience: A Player Perspective. A brief description of what Graham will be discussing can be found below. Head over to the Unite 2015 Europe website for full details and running order.

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The Usability of Bloodborne

[This blog post by Player Researcher Ben Lewis-Evans was featured on Gamasutra]

I work in the area of Games User Research. That is to say I work with game developers to help them achieve the game experience they are after. To do so I use my background in human factors psychology to run playtests, to carry out heuristic analyses based on usability and player experience principles, and to generally just try to help out as much as my expertise allows.

One thing that I often hear, am told, and/or read online is that the existence and popularity of “hard” games like the Souls games, and more recently Bloodborne, means my job isn’t needed. Or as it is sometimes more strongly put, that my job leads to what is “wrong” with games that aren’t like Bloodborne.

This is an understandable misunderstanding. But it is a misunderstanding. And I want to tell you why by using the example of Bloodborne (which, yes, I completed without guides, but no I didn’t get the “true” ending  – just in case you want to stamp my gamer cred card or something).

There are two major misunderstandings here. The first is that usability is about making games easy. The second is that games like Bloodborne don’t have core elements of good usability in them.Continue Reading..


One to Watch?

[This article by Player Research Director Graham McAllister was featured on]

Graham McAllister explores the potential gaming applications of Apple’s latest device

It’s not often a new gaming platform comes along. I don’t mean an iteration of an existing one, like a next-generation console update, but rather, a completely new way of experiencing games. The Apple Watch has been with us for just over two weeks, and although smartwatches from other manufacturers have been available for a while, none have made any real impact. But this is Apple, and they’ve been clever to position their offering differently, this is not just a functional device which makes accessing information easier, it’s also presented as a desirable fashion accessory. Such an approach will help address the perception that smartwatches are only for tech-savvy early adopters, Apple is clearly saying that’s not the case at all, they’re for everyone. But is it for gamers? Well, it depends on what you mean by gaming. Is it a device to play games on in the traditional sense? Most likely not. Could it be a way to create deeper engagement with games that users are already playing on their other devices? Almost certainly. But to understand how the Apple Watch can increase a player’s engagement with a game, we first need to explore the watch from an interaction design perspective.

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Develop Award Finalists!

We are excited and pleased to announce that we have been nominated for a Develop Award for a third time!

The Develop Awards are the European game industry’s highest accolade, an accolade that we won last year! The awards will be held right here in Brighton on the 15th of July.

Congratulations to everyone who have been nominated and we will see you there on the night!


What does it take to become an expert?

Player Research Director Graham McAllister’s monthly article went up today. Does it take 10,000 hours to become a master in your field?

Malcolm Gladwell’s 2008 book, Outliers, claimed that an individual must practice for at least 10,000 hours, or approximately 10 years (20 hours a week for 500 weeks) in order to reach expert status. Since then, this figure has been often quoted, however it seems that it may not be quite true.

The 10,000 hour rule was first proposed by Herbert Simon and Bill Chase in 1973, when they looked into the histories of experts in different domains. They found that in chess for example, the average time taken between someone first learning the rules of chess and then becoming a Grandmaster, was 10 years. The same is true in musical composition, the time taken between first studying music and then going on to make a great composition is also around 10 years. Similarly in other domains, studies have found that for scientists and authors, the time taken between making their first publication and their best publication, was also around 10 years. However, what Simon and Chase also found, was that time alone would not automatically lead to expert status, i.e. merely spending 10 years in your chosen discipline had little bearing on becoming an expert. Something else was needed.

Read the full article here.


Anti-Social Behaviour in Games: How Can Game Design Help?

A few short weeks ago Player Researcher Ben Lewis-Evans delivered a talk at the Game Developers Conference 2015 in San Francisco on Anti-Social Behaviour in Games. You can now watch the whole talk online at the link below.

If you would like to know more about GDC 2015, you can also head over to Gamasutra to read Ben’s blog on his experiences at the event.

Mar Article: Whose Game is it Anyway?

Graham’s second monthly article was posted today. In it he speaks to the importance of defining an intended audience in game design and the problematic categories that hamper current games design in doing so:

Who is your game for? This might seem like a trivial question, something which any developer should be able to answer clearly and concisely, yet it’s common for responses to use broad terms or involve a large degree of guesswork.

This seems at odds with the very essence of design. After all, design is not just about creating a product, it’s about creating a product for an intended audience. The reason why design paradigms involve a feedback loop is so key assumptions are regularly validated against a well-defined set of users, but if you haven’t defined your intended audience accurately and you’re validating against the wrong players, are you really evaluating your game’s design at all?

Read the full article at


5 for 5%: Essential Playability-Focused Activities That Every Game Should Budget For

[This blog post by Player Researcher Seb Long was featured on Gamasutra]


Question: What is your studio doing to deliver better a player experience? More than ever, the end-user’s experience of commercial game titles is tantamount to a title’s critical and commercial success. Indie teams like Hipster Whale can compete with high-budget development teams in quality and mind-share – it is their player experience that sets titles apart from their peers rather than budget, IP or marketing spend. So what tools are your team using to ensure you deliver these experiences to players? 

Recently, emphasis on telemetry-based variable-twiddling is often cited as ‘focusing on the player’, but it is becoming clear to many that analytics are an important part of the answer, but don’t offer the complete picture.

So what are you really doing to address the market’s new-found focus on experience, playability and accessibility? How have your development practices changed in order to accommodate player-centric design, focusing on usability, understandability, in delivering a polished player experience, and ensuring that your intended experience is realised by players?Continue Reading..

Feb Article: I Fight For The User

Graham’s monthly article begins with an introduction to the field of user research:

My day job is to improve everything about the games industry. That may sound rather sensationalist for the opening sentence of a regular new column, but I believe it to be true. Well, mostly. So what job could I possibly have that has such a broad impact across the industry? After all, the games industry is made up of many different roles – designers, programmers, artists, producers, directors, studio heads, publishers, investors – is there really one discipline that could enhance the way each of these individuals work and improve the games that emerge as a result of their efforts? Yes, there is, and it’s called User Research.

Read the full article at


Player Research’s Games of the Year 2014

It is the end of the year and time to reflect on another great year in games. It has been a fantastic year at Player Research, so for the last blog post of the year we thought it would be fun if we would post our (the team’s) games of the year.

Each team member’s individual top five games are presented below. But, I am sure the question is which game came out on top?

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