Today’s lab meeting featured Ellie Martin talking about a workshop she attended at Fun and Games 2012, called “Conceptualising, Operationalising and Measuring the Player Experience in Video Games” (run by Peta Wyeth and Daniel Johnson). She’s written it up herself!

The aim of this presentation was primarily to continue a discussion that we started at the workshop, building on the pictures and notes we took on the day. The presentation therefore centres on sharing what we did, and allowed ample space for the lab group members to comment and discuss as we went through.

The workshop was only one day, so to cover the most ground the participants split into two groups. One group looked at ways to measure the experience of the player, and the other looked at modelling the player experience as we understood it. I joined the modelling group, so chose in this presentation to look at measuring first.

The measuring group decided to think about a list of all of the measuring techniques they could think of. They then looked at whether a method was quantitative/qualitative, based in the lab or the field, and first person or third person.

A first person method is something where the participant or player is giving the data consciously, and has an input in the data they give (e.g. diary, interviews). A third person method is where the tester is reading all of the meaning from the unconscious data gathered from the player (e.g. observation, biometrics). The group discussing measuring were talking about an idea of a “2.5-person” view, which kind of sits between the two. In fact, in the lab group we kind of had a discussion about how many of the methods listed actually slot neatly into one or the other anyway.

The modelling group came out with two diagrams:

Player experience model

This was an overall picture of the player experience. We started with the game and the player. The game experience was felt to sit at the space where those two didn’t quite meet, and we have player choice going one way into the game, and game feedback coming back to the player. We chose to encircle the whole thing in a nice, continual context (indicated by the pink shading), and included the designer as separate from the player and game but within the context. Researchers were added (faintly) across both players and designers. The meta-game (things like fansites, player walkthroughs, reviews etc) sit outside the context of the gameplay.

The context was seen as really being too vague, and it could be argued that the designer sits in a different context than the player. It was suggested that we could really do with being more concrete about the elements of the context that affect the various components, which was raised on the day. Liz recommended looking at it from a systems point of view, which would allow us to define better which areas were in the system and which sat outside it.

We then expanded on the interplay between player and game, using a loop someone remembered from Don Norman.

Player Experience model detail

Ben commented that actually our diagram could very easily model any digital system. I agree, and pointed out that I feel it could equally well describe someone playing a boardgame too. This raises questions about what the differences in a video game may be, and where in our model we have missed them. (No answers on that yet!)

The final bit of the presentation asked what the point was. This actually stemmed from a late arrival to the workshop discussion, who looked at what we had drawn and just said “Very nice, but what’s the point?”. I had interpreted that as “Why is this useful?” particularly with relevance to games designers, but we had an interesting discussion around whether it was actually why model at all, rather than why model this particular bit. Katy suggested that it was useful for creating a shared language to talk about the different areas and aspects, and Jim suggested that it was mostly useful when something goes wrong (e.g. if a game isn’t successful it could help to highlight areas to look at for why). Gareth felt we had been rather ambitious with trying to describe all of it, but agreed that having a shared concept of player experience would be very useful.

A sidenote:

There was also a secondary aim with this presentation: testing a new presentation app! I used Haiku Deck, a fairly simple app that only allows you to create slides with a picture and up to two lines of text. It uses the text you put on the slide to generate keywords to search for suitable pictures from the many free pictures available online (you may also use your own pics, or have just a plain background). The presentation can be seen online here.

Sadly I didn’t have the adapter to actually run the presentation from my iPad, but it was good to prove that the app (and I) can cope with that too. I ended up exporting the presentation and emailing it to myself, which produces a Powerpoint file. I could then run that as normal on the lab pc. The feedback was positive, and people liked the pictures! My next challenge for this would be to use it to talk about numeric/tabular data and how to present that within the confines of the app.

Next week Ellie might remember the cake she promised and forgot this week (don’t worry, it hasn’t been made yet!). We will be looking at a paper on Threshold Concepts. Tuesday, 11am, Interact Lab…