Penelope Rance

My UX research & design ramblings

UXPA - Research Through a Different Lens

This months remote UXPA event was focused on UX Research, but not in the way most of us are used to.

Mark Friend from Playstation started us off by talking about the challenges of testing video games.

While in normal UX the goal is to reduce friction as much as possible and make things super easy for the person using it. In Game UX the idea is to give people a challenge to solve. It should be learnable and fun with different levels of difficulty, as this is highly subjective. If there is no friction and it is too easy people will get bored of playing.

But how can you test games to make sure they hit the spot?

Mark talked us through the variety of methods he uses to test games depending on where they are in the development cycle.

They do some 1:2:1 testing where 5-6 players will play for 2-4 hrs in a room with a moderator. Very similar to a normal usability test if a little longer.

However they also do multiseat testing, where 20 players will play for 25hr over 5 days. They also do appeal testing (do players like it) with 40+ players with anything from 2 - 20 hrs of play time.

The other difference to normal UX research is that results are needed very quickly, often within a day of the tests finishing.

They also run narrative testing to make sure the stories are understandable but not too predictable, that characters make sense and there are not any plot holes.

This needs to be tested early before the game is developed so they get people to read the script out loud.

Mark also told us that although gaming tends to get the new tech early, it does not mean old testing methods will not work. He talked us through testing VR headsets and games, and while there have to be some modifications (people cannot talk to you in the real world if they are immersed in a game with a headset on) a lot of tried and tested research methods still work really well.

Our second speaker for the evening was Ilyena Hiskeyj-Douglus, who was was talking about UX and animals. She talked us through some research she has been running with white faced saki monkeys in a zoo.

While I found it hard to understand why anyone would want to give technology to monkeys, her research was really interesting.

They created a sound system for the monkeys, which would only be triggered if the monkeys sat in it - giving them the choice of hearing the sounds if they wanted, rather than being forced to listen.

They were surprised to find the monkeys seemed to prefer the noisy traffic sounds rather than natural sounds or electronic or zen music, triggering this sound many more times across the week than the other sounds.

I think the more interesting discussion was round what it is to like, and how can we as humans understand what animals really ‘like’ or experience? Mostly we train them to do things so it is hard to know if the animal really likes this thing or if they are only interested due to food or training.

This is why the music/sounds was only triggered if the monkeys sat inside a tunnel. They did not have to interact with the tunnel if they did not want to. No food or training was part of this. It was just there.

They were two really interesting talks, showing a side of UX research that does not often get talked about. It is reassuring to see that the tried and tested methods work even when testing in wildly different environments from regular tests. It was a good reminder - trust the process.

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