What Makes A Great Usability Expert Review? Lessons From My Practice Game Analyses

In games user research, practice makes perfect. In the past 12 months I’ve facilitated practice game usability assessments with ~20 junior- and entry-level members of the ‘Games research and UX’ community. Their task: to assess the usability and learnability issues within a specific mobile FPS game, and report them as if to the development team. Each of the task participants assessed the same game, on equivalent mobile platforms, with the same remit.

This session presents a meta-review of of these analyses to provide learnings for entry-level candidates: What were their common failures and successes? Where did they fail to clarify issues? Where was a lack of thoroughness most impactful? Which heuristics are commonly overlooked? Where do they over- or under-deliver when compared to the hundreds of usability assessments I’ve conducted as a professional games user researcher?

We’ll first outline the role of expert analyses in commercial games UX, then explore areas of improvement for practice reports, theme-by-theme. Themes include: how to talk about game design (and how not to), best practice for writing style and tone, advice on critiquing monetisation approaches in free-to-play games, difficulty balancing, and what to do if you suspect the game is a bit dull.

In addition to providing much-needed direction to entry-level and junior candidates, this talk will provide insight for lecturers and professors teaching GamesUR, and any GamesUR Managers running training in-house.

At the end of the session I will summarise the sessions’ learnings and present my tips for general betterment of expert review approaches, before taking questions from the audience.

  • Category: Talk
Sebastian Long

Sebastian Long is the Director of Player Research. Since 2012 Seb has contributed to more than 200 games as a UX Researcher, spanning every genre, audience and platform. He now leads Player Research’s international growth and training, while working with game studio leadership to ensure player data is a tenet of their development practice.