Games User Research Blog


It's Like a Ghost Town in Here

It's crazy to think the last time I posted anything here was back in 2012. Seriously, I've done enough cool and interesting things since then that I really should have posted something.

C'est la vie!

The long and the short of it is that "life happened". Regardless, it's time to try again, to find new knowledge, and share the new thought! Let's give it a go. :)


Fat Characters and Pagination

Fat characters?

I came across this article that discusses the challenges of creating fat characters in games that allow character customization. Joshua Dennison presents an interesting argument about customization for player immersion. He suggests that to support a deeper level of immersion games will need to allow players to have greater control over the aesthetics of their characters. I can't say that I fully agree with the need to support heavier characters since there is research by Bessière et al. that suggests that when creating a character players primarily look to creating an ideal version of themselves. Regardless, I think Dennison presents an interesting argument for deep customization.


If you've ever read an article on any website you're more than likely had to click through numerous pages to see the whole story. Pagination is horrible usability and yet it's everywhere.  Farhad Manjoo presents a very interesting discussion of the problem. The primary argument for Pagination is page views for advertising. Farhad even suggests that pagination can actually drive down page views because users see the multiple pages and stop reading after the first; not clicking through. The reason I bring this up (there is a reason) is because to me there is a similar problem in so many video game menus, especially when we start talking about in game monetization. If we assume that multiple pages can drive users away from a website, I think it’s reasonable to extend that to needlessly menu heavy store fronts in games, but that's perhaps a deep discussion.


Don't make me think about things that don't matter

Don’t make me think, is the title and first rule of usability in Steve Krug’s incredibly useful and insightful book on web usability. The concept is very simple, when a user accesses a web page they have a goal that they want to accomplish as quickly and as easily as possible. Krug’s rule says that the actions that the user must complete to accomplish their goal must be self-evident. Don’t make the user think about what he must do to reach his goal.

However, Krug’s first rule of usability appears to directly contradict the purpose of video games, where the designed goal is precisely to make the user think about the interaction, so clearly this rule is invalid for game usability... right?


Like many classic rules of software usability, if we tried to apply Krug’s ‘don’t make the user think’ rule directly in all situations of game design we’d end up with a lot of very easy, very boring games, which is obviously not the intention. However, Krug’s rule is much more important to video games than you might think; albeit in need of a slight conceptual adjustment.

For video games Krug’s rule should read, ‘don’t make me think about elements that are unrelated to the primary gameplay loops’. The gameplay should make the player think, but everything else should support the game’s systems as seamlessly as possible. For example, if inventory management is NOT an integral part of the gameplay experience why would you force a player to spend time managing an inventory? It’s disruptive, pulls the player out of the actual gameplay, breaks immersion, inhibits flow, and just generally detracts from the player experience. Why not support the player by managing their inventory for them, so they don’t have to think about it?

The player should never have to think about non-gameplay interactions. So it is important to anticipate what the player is going to need to do and make it simple when the action is not part of the game. Everything else is just poor usability.


I used to think I was busy... 

I now know better...

Since the last time I posted:

  • I presented at 2 conferences
  • Had 3 job interviews
  • Found a job
  • Co-authored another paper
  • Moved to Montreal
  • Started working at Ubisoft
  • Had my first Christmas away from my family
  • Was elected the Games User Research steering comittee
  • Agreed to help organize the Games User Research Summit
  • Found time to finish: AC:B, LIMBO, Bastion, Deus Ex: HR, Darksiders
  • Found time to sink 40+ hours in to Civ 5
  • And a ton of stuff I'm forgetting

I do still have all those things that I want to post. Maybe now things are starting to stablize I'll be able to find a regular time to post something. 

Here's hoping, in the new year.



What a Time to Post

I actually have a plethora of interesting and insightful things to post about, alas I haven't found time to actually ready them for posting. Instead, you'll need to be content with a personal update. :)

This week on Tuesday (June 21st) I defended my Thesis successfully. *cheers* I'm now frantically making final edits and preparing for a job interview.

I realize that I haven't posted since Feburary, but I've really been THAT busy.

Regardless, I promise (mostly to myself) to actually put something interesting up here before the end of July, maybe two things. :)