Speaker Spotlight

Each week we’ll hear from one of our talented #gamesUR Europe speakers, for a little insight into their experience, insight and their upcoming session in London. Tickets are available now via the conference website.

Jump to an interview:

  • Alistair Greo from Player Research talks ‘mainstream UX’ versus games, and leaving data on the table.
  • Morgane Schreiber shares Ubisoft’s Self Determination Theory process, and her view on GamesUR’s biggest challenges today.
  • Milovan Dekic talks trust, research sprints at Nordeus, and a book recommendation
  • Anders Drachen explores game analytics and games user research as fighting siblings, and the value in cooperation

Anders Drachen, University of York

As one of the most-published scientists worldwide on topics of game analytics and games user research, we’re honoured to be inviting Anders Drachen to the #gamesUR Conference in London.  Now working with the University of York in the United Kingdom, Anders’ is contributing to world-leading analytics projects, including a just-announced collaboration with ESL, the world’s largest eSports company. On November 24th Anders talks game analytics, and how they can – and should – be used by games studios large and small.
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Hi Anders – we’re delighted to invite you to London for the conference. Could you summarise your talk?
I will be talking about the relationship between Game Analytics and Games User Research, which in many ways functions like a pair of siblings do: They each have specific things they are good at and others they are not good at, but will argue about who is right about everything anyway. They like playing with each others toys, but cannot always figure out how to use them correctly. When they bicker nothing gets done, but when they work together and share the same goals, they can get a lot accomplished and make amazing things happen.
From a basis in analytics, I will try to clarify what it is that analytics can do, how that extends to support game user research, and some perspectives on how we make analytics and user research work together.
So why should these squabbling Researchers consider collaboration?
In a sentence, because we via telemetry applications we have access to incredible data about users and their behavior. Being able to use these to inform development is important in an industry as competitive as ours.
Adding to this, while “game analytics” and “game user research” are both loosely defined terms and in practice often overlaps, at the heart of things analytics provides new ways to conduct user research, counteracting some of the weaknesses of traditional approaches while retaining essential compatibility with the methodologies of game user research. Similarly, traditional game user research allows us to get behind the metrics and understand the user experience. User-focused analytics has much to offer game user research, and vise-versa, but in order to obtain this synergy you have to specifically tailor the two processes to work together.
Could you share your favourite session you’ve previously seen at a #GamesUR Conference? 
There are so many great talks from the summits! If I should name an example, I liked Schramm’s keynote from the US summit this year on storytelling with statistics. The talk nicely outlines how the results of analysis are not terribly useful unless you can communicate them in a way that makes sense to your target stakeholder.
Could you share a piece of advice you’d give to novice Games User Researchers or folks wanting to get into the domain?
GamesUR has become a very professional, well-developed domain which rests on the application of scientific principles. If you want to work with GUR, the first things you need to dive into is how the empirical sciences operate across e.g. explorative vs. hypothesis-driven approaches. A strong foundation here is in my experience incredibly useful for guiding GUR work and something you will keep coming back to throughout your career. I know it is a basic thing to point at, but many mistakes are made because testing did not have a strong methodological framework.
Have you recently read a book or paper that has influenced your work or changed your perspective on GUR? Please share!
There is a very strong academic research community working in GUR and from this we have a steady stream of work that often falls outside the boundaries of what we can justify looking into within a commercial context. I especially appreciate when industry and academia work together on high-risk ideas. These types of collaborations can lead to very useful insights. I heartily recommend browsing the proceedings of conferences like CHI and CHIPLAY. A not insignificant number of the best articles from these and other events can be found in our very own GUR SIG Mendeley online library at http://gamesuserresearchsig.org/resources/library/, so I recommend starting there!
What would you consider the biggest challenge(s) that games user research faces today?
I think the biggest challenge continues to be the rapid innovation that occurs in games and the wider creative industries sector. With the introduction of new technologies, game forms, platforms, business models, etc., we also need to adapt how we do user research and how we deliver value and insights. I will never be bored working in GUR.
Favourite game of all time?
Argh – can I only mention 1? Is saying Civilization, the whole series, cheating?
Yes it it cheating!  How about your favourite example of an elegant usability/UX fix or feature?
The integration of systems that can adapt to the motivations, skills, interests etc. of the player, with good early examples being the aptly named “Flow” and not the least “Left 4 Dead.” We will see a lot more adaptive games in the future that will in real-time work hand in hand with the player.
How can people follow your work, Anders?
The Digital Creativity Labs website is www.digitalcreativity.ac.uk, my personal website where there is a fair amount of analytics-related content is on www.andersdrachen.com. Twitter is @andersdrachen, and LinkedIn. I am always happy to chat!
To hear Anders’ talk on the value and application of game analytics to player insight research, you’ll need to be at #gamesUR in London, 24th November. Tickets on sale now!

Milovan Dekic, Nordeus

Top Eleven propelled Nordeus to the spotlight of the mobile games industry, quickly becoming the most-played online football management game worldwide. From their studio in Belgrade, the last few years have seen Nordeus double down on research, analytics and player insight, both for Top Eleven and their newest property Spellsouls. Researcher Milovan Dekic and colleague Aleksandar Dimitrijevic are sharing their practice of ‘Research Sprints’ at #gamesUR 2017.

So, Milo, what can #gamesUR attendees expect to learn from your talk at #gamesUR?

At #gamesUR we will showcase how and why we implemented Research Sprints for evaluating design ideas, our experiences with it, and how we used them while developing a new feature in Top Eleven.

Sprint practice can help you to stay aligned with developers: they will understand research processes better, and realize that it can be hugely helpful to their work. It can improve trust in research processes and eventually gain a better buy-in for the other research processes on the development side.

Could you share your favourite session you’ve previously seen at a #GamesUR Conference?

My favourite one is one of the first sessions I saw from a GamesUR Conference: Building Ubisoft’s Games User Research Machine, from Ubisoft Paris. I always enjoy hearing about other researchers experiences in developing GUR structures and processes.

Could you share a piece of advice you’d give to  people wanting to start a role in the Games User Research domain?

Start practising some methods right away. Start step by step: read existing articles about best practices around some method, then do that thing on your own. Try to write UX reviews of some games, and then try to get feedback on them from more experienced Researchers. Then iterate on it. Join the GamesUR Discord channel ask for some specific advice. Ideally, get yourself a mentor too!

Have you recently read a book or paper that has influenced your work or changed your perspective on GUR? Please share!

A book I really enjoyed recently is Game Usability – Advice from the experts for advancing the player experience (2008).

Time to ‘fess up: what is your game that is a guilty pleasure?

Puzzledom!

Milo and Aleksandar’s talk on Research Sprints is being presented exclusively at #gamesUR in London, Nov 24th. For more from Milovan, connect with him on LinkedIn

Morgane Schreiber, Ubisoft Paris

Morgane ‘s extensive work in Ubisoft’s Editorial User Research team has seen her lead research for some of Ubi’s highest-profile projects, including Far Cry 5 and Ghost Recon Wildlands. In her talk “Ghost Recon: Wildlands Case Study: Looking through the lens of self-determination theory” Morgane will explore the unique influence of this motivation-theory model on the development of one of 2017’s best-selling titles.

Hi Morgane, could you summarise your talk and one of the key takeaways the conference attendees can expect?

Morgane Schreiber: My talk is about how we better understood players’ needs thanks to Self Determination Theory, and how it helped us improve Ghost Recon: Wildlands’ experience for players.It allow us to ‘go beyond the fun’ to better understand our players and share more actionable feedback to the development teams.

Self Determination Theory really enabled us to give a better structure to interconnect each part of the game, and understand how they could impact the overall experience.

Could you share your favourite session you’ve previously seen at a #GamesUR Conference?

MS: I love so many of them! But if I had to choose only one… it would be Laura Glibert’s talk on VR user research. It was clear, actionable and pleasurable to watch. GG again Laura! And special thanks to the #gamesUR attendees I interviewed for the “What is GamesUR?” series, because they were SO great!

There are lots of people trying very hard to get a job in the GamesUR space! Could you share a piece of advice you’d give to people wanting to get into the domain?

MS: Develop your communication skills more than anything else. You will need to be pertinent, to-the-point and crystal clear as development teams are always 200% busy. But also assertive because you should  convince them of why they should pay attention to “this novice who knows nothing at all about their baby but is already criticizing it”. Also, first step for anyone wanting to get into the domain is the GURSIG Mentoring scheme.

What would you consider the biggest challenge that games user research faces today?

MS: Creating a strong UX task force with UX Designers, Community Devs, QA testers, Marketing teams, etc. – we’re all working to improve, with one voice, the overall player experience right from the beginning until the end.

Favourite game of all time?

MS: The Binding of Isaac <3

How can people follow your wonderful work?

MS: On LinkedIn (but I only update it once per decade) and also on Twitter @LameDeMorgul, but I will flood your feed with human and animals rights stuff from time to time (I warned you 🙂)

Hear Morgane’s talk “Ghost Recon: Wildlands Case Study: Looking through the lens of self-determination theory” at the #GamesUR Europe Conference, 24th November in London.

 

Alistair Greo, Player Research

With 5 years each of traditional UX and games user research under his belt, Alistair has seen both sides of the games/non-games divide. Sharing the #gamesUR stage with Parliament UK’s Steve Bromley, they’ll explore explore lessons from ‘mainstream’ UX and their applications to video game user research.

Together with Steve Bromley from Parliament UK, you’re talking about ‘mainsteam’ UX and leanings for Games Researchers – why this topic?

Alistair Greo: I feel that Games User Research is leaving data on the table with it’s approach to the methods available. We see a lot of cookie-cutter playtesting using the default approaches every time. We could do better work, and help to make better games for players if we were more aware of, and more willing to use the whole suite of user research methods depending on the developer, their game and the research questions they want answered.

Could you share your favourite session you’ve previously seen at a #GamesUR Conference?

AG: Anything where alternative techniques and perspectives are championed – Jonathan Dankoff talking about narrative testing was great, last year Jochen Peketz sharing his experience with diary studies, and Laura Gilbert did the same for VR playtesting. I also liked hearing from Austin Harley about how Riot embed their researchers into teams, leading to a more collaborative approach exploring new, different methods, tricks and techniques.

Could you share a piece of advice you’d give to novice Games User Researchers or folks wanting to get into the domain?

AG: The hardest thing for a novice Games User Researcher is to get ahead of other applicants. You need to stand out, show you can do the work already. Don’t just say you can do the job, remove any doubt – get writing!

Do analyses of games, playtest with friends or ideally friends of friends as participants and write up your reports. Essentially show a nice portfolio of work so a perspective employee can see you will hit the ground running.

 

Do you have a favourite example of an elegant usability/UX fix or feature?

AG: I love that to navigate menus in Fruit Ninja the player had to slice fruit. It means by the time the player gets started they already know exactly what to do!

Finally, your game that is a guilty pleasure?
AG: Fairway Solitaire – I love it!
Full details of Alistair’s talk with Steve Bromley entitled “All Your Methods Are Belong To Us: Lessons GamesUR Can Learn From ‘Mainstream’ User Research” are available on the sessions page.