#gamesUR Summit 2023 Talks

Below are the details on our talks for the 2023 #gamesUR Summit. The Keynote information is listed at the top of this page, followed by the talks in alphabetical order. Speaker details can be found on the speaker page.

Keynote: Building your Insights Community

Presenter: Lanie Dixon

Accessibility - Practical Advice For Working With Dev

Presenter: James Berg

This talk will equip attendees with practical advice, information, and resources, allowing them to successfully work with developers to improve the accessibility of their games. This is particularly beneficial for the large audience of players with disabilities, but how accessibility improves games for everyone will be covered. This talk will cover working with colleagues in engineering, QA, legal, compliance, game design, and game production, and is drawn from [[Studio]] doing this work with a wide range of AAA devs.

Key topics will include:

  • Why be concerned about this at all? What research supports ROI & audience estimates?
  • What are the largest accessibility concerns? Why those?
  • Strategies for collaborating with folks in different developer roles
  • Common sources of dev pushback & concern, and strategies for dealing with them
  • Just how bad are you going to Dunning-Kruger this? How do you learn enough about accessibility to even know what the heck you’re talking about?
  • How do you learn more than that? Where is the field headed?

Accessibility Diary Research: Insights for Academia and Industry

Presenter: Jozef Kulik

The talk highlights the value of using diary methods, augmented with interviews to monitor the player experience over a period of time. As well as illustrating our approach to the diary method and insight into the player experience of people with disabilities, the also talk highlights the challenges and successful strategies that we required in order to offer valuable insight to separate academic and games industry audiences. This talk aims to help us both better understand the experiences of people with disabilities who play games, and highlight a way in which to achieve mutual benefit of academic and industry collaboration through research.

Analyzing Longitudinal Studies using Multilevel Modeling in Games User Research

Presenter: Drake Levere

This talk aims to introduce researchers to the concept of multilevel modeling in intensive longitudinal studies. Researchers at [[company]] recently conducted an intensive longitudinal study (aka Daily Diary study) on a free-to-play mobile game to understand player sentiments and behaviors during two weeks of playtime. We will present how using MLM in tandem with qualitative responses can allow researchers to derive interesting and actionable insights into player sentiment, behavior, and motivation.

Previous talks on longitudinal studies have focused on the pitfalls of daily diary methodology and the process involved for their respective studies. In contrast, the focus of this talk will be on how to approach interpreting data, how MLM can aid in understanding players, and the kinds of visualizations that can be produced. Best practices on, and lessons learned from, data management will also be included.

Communicating with Creatives: building influence when the stakes are high

Presenter: Kirk Rodgers

UX research for games has challenges and opportunities that can vastly differ from UXR for tech. One of these areas is the heavy focus games has on creative efforts and trusting creative visions. This talk will walk through the perils and opportunities of working with creatives, walk through sources of friction with creatives that I've observed, and strategies for building trust with creatives even in the face of fear and uncertainty.

Dark Side of Gaming: Dark Patterns in Games

Presenter: Swati S

In Swati's talk, she reflects on her personal experiences of trying out new games and the fears that arose, particularly related to Dark patterns in games. She defines Dark Patterns and offers insights on how to identify them in the gaming industry. Swati discusses the negative impacts of Dark Patterns on users, industry professionals, organizations, and the industry at large, highlighting ethical concerns. Through relatable examples and scenarios, she emphasizes the importance of taking a stand against Dark patterns and promoting user-centric game design. Her talk serves as a thought-provoking exploration of Dark patterns in games and a call to action for promoting responsible and ethical game development practices.

Designing and Building A Games User Research Lab, Revisited

Presenter: Sebastian Long

How can we build our own playtest lab? A dedicated facility for supporting user research sessions on unreleased video games. Presenter Sebastian Long shared tips and tricks from building a 2000sqft playtest facility in 2016 (https://youtu.be/X38TENVB1ow). Much has changed since: a new console generation, a host of new AV technology, and of course the wake of a global pandemic.

Sebastian has designed and built two additional playtesting facilities for Player Research since that talk on lab design (2016), and the book chapter that accompanied it (2018). The original and subsequently-built two facilities have since hosted thousands of participants, tripled Player Research’s global project concurrency, and supported user research on hundreds of varied video games. The newest playtest lab, originally opened in 2020 and reopened in 2022, is a self-contained, 3200sqft, purpose-built facility in the heart of a bustling city. This talk shares learnings, mistakes, improvements anddevelopments on this lab design journey.

In particular this talk will cover the genesis of  ‘the observers’ experience’, i.e. the rooms used by moderating Researchers and visiting development teams; rundowns of our bespoke lab furniture commissioned for cost- and space-savings; the impact of covid on lab design and usage, including advice for cleaning protocols and equipment suggestions; and other assorted advice on lab layout, materials, and so on.

Watching of Seb’s original 2016 talk on lab design (linked above) or reading of the book chapter (Games User Research, OUP 2018) is advised but not necessary.

Get your Player Pulse: understand and engage your community with an innovative multidisciplinary approach

Presenters: Émilie Paquin, Stefania Pecòre, Clara Alexandra Stafford

For the past four years, Behaviour Interactive has been including the community of their popular game, Dead by Daylight, into their processes in many ways. One of them is the CSAT (Customer Satisfaction survey) that we now call the Player Pulse Survey. At first, it was used to assess the appreciation/satisfaction levels of our title. Then, we enriched it so that we are now able to gain a better understanding of our players and give actionable, data informed insights to stakeholders.

At present, the Player Pulse Survey helps the team discover spontaneous ideas from our players, without renouncing to a data-driven approach. It gives us the opportunity to measure the impact of in-game features and gauge interest for future in-game needs as the game and the community evolve.  

In this presentation, we want to highlight the impact of:  

  • -The Player Pulse Survey within our community  
  • -Our other research practices: Natural Language Processing (NLP) and playtest studies

How Do I Get This Plane Airborne?

Presenter: Salem Kazi

How do I start research in my studio? Who do I talk to? What do I work on? Who can help me? If you are taking on the responsibilities of a full-time researcher for a company that does not have research pipelines and don't know where to start, then come and watch as I try to answer all these questions and provide you with an actionable task list to get you up and running.

How to Succeed as an Early Career Researcher - the Juniors’ Perspective

Presenters: Pat Dimaandal, Carlo Escobar, Cianna Robinson, Yi Chen

This panel aims to show upcoming games user researchers the challenges juniors have faced in their first few months in the industry, the lessons learned, and how our coworkers have helped us in the development of our careers. Additionally, we will discuss the different approaches we have used to seek out mentorship and how to foster a healthy relationship between mentor and mentee. This talk is tied closely to this year's theme of “community”, as it demonstrates how the games user research community has helped us in our professional development. The talk will ultimately provide newcomers with insights on how to succeed as early-career researchers, while giving senior and management staff an understanding of ways to support juniors in the user research community.

New Technologies for User Research

Presenter: Andrei Muratov

Let's talk about emerging technology applications in UR. This roundtable will uncover experiences and perspectives from researchers along 3 topics:

  1. remote research solutions spurred by the pandemic and post-pandemic value of maintaining remote capability
  2. tools & obstacles for close collaboration between analytics and UR and
  3. top useful tech or gaps in available technology that are holding back the UR state of the art.

On a Break: Improving The Returning Player Experience

Presenter: Elisabeth Whyte

Players may take long breaks from games and return to them months or years later. These returning players can forget things they learned during onboarding when they take long breaks from the game. Upon returning to a game, these players need to quickly relearn how to play the game and catch up on any changes that occurred since they left. Providing either too much or too little information for these players could overwhelm them and impact how long they stick around after they come back. This methods-focused talk will discuss ways that potential returning players from a game’s community can be included in the user research process for released games. As preventing problems is better than catching those problems after release, this talk will also discuss ways that user researchers can help keep the returning player experience in mind for testing games that are still earlier in development.

Reaching the Broadest Audience

Presenter: Jonathan Ehrich

In order to best serve our teams, games researchers need to collect accurate data from a sample of people that truly represent the potential audience for the game. However, we often struggle to recruit diverse participant pools, which doesn't just lower the quality of the data, it also makes it less useful - because the voices that are missing from the data are often the same sorts of voices that are under-represented on product teams as well. Making things even harder, this often comes up on top of general struggles to recruit a large enough sample, particularly for higher N methods like playtest.

I'm going to talk about some best practices for recruiting more diverse participant pools and for more successful recruitment in general, focused on recruitment ads used on social media and calls to action. Essentially, in interviews potential participants trying to decide whether or not to apply for a study focused on two questions:
  • Targeting: do I think this study is trying to recruit people like me?
  • Persuasion: am I confident it would be worth my time to participate?
In general, participants would only respond to an attempt at recruitment if their answer to both questions was “yes.”When deciding whether a study was targeting someone like them, three groups of responses were observed:
  • Self-Identified Gamers identified as gamers in general terms, and assumed a study targeted them by default
  • Hesitaters required convincing because they didn’t consistently identify as gamers, and assumed a study excluded them by default
  • Serious PC Gamers sometimes needed reassuring that a study wasn’t exclusively aimed at a console or casual audience
When deciding whether it was worth their time to participate, the biggest factors were a clear unambiguous incentive, concrete study & scheduling information, and confidence that a study was a legitimate opportunity – and not a scam.As a result, the most successful recruitment ads generally combined an inclusive call to action or inclusive imagery with clear, concrete incentive & study details.

Researching researchers: Results from our first researcher surveys

Presenter: John Hopson

The SIG Steering committee ran two surveys this past year, one for current games researchers and one for former researchers. This brief presentation will cover results from both surveys. From the current researcher survey, we’ll go over how active researchers are doing, what career challenges they’re facing at each stage of development, and what they think about the SIG itself. For the former researcher survey, we’ll share why they left, what they’re doing now, and whether they’re really happy with their life after GUR.

Revisiting Reporting: How Research Nuggets and Critical Insights Readers Can Create Stronger Research Engagement

Presenter: Joachim Schiavo, Josh Rivers

This talk will highlight how two reporting tools, short research insights clips known as ‘Research Nuggets’ and ‘Critical Insights Readers,’ can lead to stronger research engagement and research insights uptake within game development teams. In addition to highlighting the impact of these methods, the speakers will also walk the audience through the technical guidelines on crafting both ‘Research Nuggets’ and ‘Critical Insights Readers’ themselves. With these tools in hand, researchers of all levels will walk away better equipped to ‘revisit reporting.’

Salary Survey 2023

Presenter: Andrew Menger-Ogle

Thesis Validation Framework - Aligning product teams to the work that needs to be done

Presenters: Alex Arndt, Tom Barnes

In R&D at Riot, Researchers are a shared resource across multiple teams/projects. Researchers are expected to serve as strategic advisers to each partner, and drive their process towards milestone assessments of their work. A key part of this advisory role is guiding product teams alignment on project priorities at any given phase of development. This is intended to help them validate whether their game is delivering on the right expectations at the right time.

To meet the needs described above, R&D Research at [[Studio Name]] has developed a Thesis Validation Framework. This 3-part planning tool is designed to guide project teams through identifying their thesis components, aligning on their priority, and assigning validation methods to them. Note: Thesis in this context means the key components of the game that we believe will make it very successful.

In this presentation, we will be sharing our framework model, and the steps we take to apply it to a given product team. When the model is applied properly, the team should have a greater understanding of:

  • What their project needs to validate in order to have a much higher chance at success
  • How those things can be prioritized
  • How validation efforts can be best weaved into their development timeline

We are sharing this framework in the hopes that our colleagues here at GUR Summit can discover ways to utilize this and similar approaches in their own partnerships!

Turn your research into action with a workshop

Presenter: Emma Varjo

While research is often in our title, it’s only half of our work. A big part of our job is also communicating the research findings and ensuring they are turned into action. Presentations and documentation are the go-to way of doing this, but it is not always effective. Workshops are an alternative way of delivering research findings to the development team all the while making them do the work of figuring out what to do next. This talk will give you the tools to act as the workshop facilitator who can guide the team to conclusions and action.

Where academia meets business: Lessons learned from studying UX-related practices in a Swedish indie gamedev community

Presenter: Benjamin Linz

As little is known in academia about games user research in indie development, a qualitative study was conducted investigating the actual practices of several indie teams in a close-knit Swedish game development community, from a UX perspective. In fact, the so-called ""Sweden Game Arena"" connects researchers and hundreds of specialised students from the University of Skövde with dozens of professional game developers and business acceleration opportunities, creating a fertile hub for game start-ups and indie success stories.

This talk will highlight some of the findings from the case study on the working conditions of the indies studied and their attitudes towards UX. It will discuss the practices that have been revealed in terms of novelty and the extent to which the challenges identified are unique to the given context. Finally, we take a look at the potential for such local game development communities to increase their UX maturity.

While GUR veterans are unlikely to learn anything fundamentally new, this session may be best suited to those who want to learn about the academic/indie context, discuss indie GUR practices, or are new to the field.