Everything you Wanted to Know about Narrative Usability but were Afraid to Ask

In previous GUR Sig talks Deborah has presented Narrative Usability as a method, and she still consistently get questions on how exactly to implement this method. One reason, she suspects, she gets so many questions is the gap between theory and practice can be annoyingly large when trying to build the stimuli and figure out what an issue is. How polished does the narrative need to be to test? What level of detail do you include in the stimuli? When is a misunderstanding really an issue? Which issues are high-pri and which can be safely ignored? Indeed, when I train new Xbox URs on how to use it, it’s the hands-on training that is most valuable. Todd and Deborah both have lots of experience with this method, and will be sharing a hands-on workshop for any and all URs who are interested in mastering narrative usability.

The basic plan for the workshop would be as follows:
1) A quick overview of the method including how to sample the audience
2) Opportunity to build an example deck using a typical example of an early-stage game narrative
3) Participant prompt/question ideation
4) Practice running participants & identifying issues
5) Discussion and Q & A on what works and what doesn’t.

They will be able to use specific examples of changes driven by this method from games like Quantum Break (Deborah) and Rise of the Tomb Raider (Todd) to show the kind of impact UR can have, but also we’ll be able to talk about problems we’ve experienced and how to best troubleshoot them.

Attendees should walk away with the confidence to use this method, the inherent constraints of the method, and the probability of impact. More tactically, attendees should have a better understanding of how to break down a narrative into key beats, turn those key beats into a stimuli deck, evoke the data from participants, and analyze the data to find actionable, impactful insights. This workshop should be open to everyone, but it will likely be more useful for attendees who have run a usability session before.

  • Category: Talk
Deborah Hendersen

Deborah is the Studio UR Lead for Global Publishing. She joined Xbox Research in January of 2011, and has worked on games as varied as Double Fine’s Happy Action Theater, Undead Lab’s State of Decay (1 & 2), and Remedy’s Quantum Break. She currently oversees all user research for Global Publishing. Deborah is interested in the development of new methods, particularly mixed methods, and has presented extensively on how to test narrative (both narrative usability, but also dial-testing for passive content). The first time she publicly presented narrative usability was in 2014 at the GURSig, and it is the talk that has inspired the most URs to reach out with questions – hence this workshop.

Todd Kelley

Todd Kelley joined the Xbox User Research team in 2012, coming from the academic world where he studied attention and perception using fMRI, EEG, and TMS. Shortly after joining the group, he worked on studies of latency perception, eye tracking, and biometrics. He led the refinement of the group’s eye tracking methods, making it suitable for large scale studies with quick turnaround. He has also led the UR efforts on Dead Rising 3, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and Dead Rising 4, and helped with Sunset Overdrive. Todd is currently working with the Age of Empires and Casual Games teams.