How can video game players find games that match their lifestyles?
When we think of the sub-culture surrounding videogames in the United States, there is often a certain image that comes to mind of whom that person might look like. There’s ideal behavior that you should adhere to as a ‘gamer,’ otherwise you aren’t taken as seriously. This can include behavior such as logging excessive hours of play, playing games within certain genres and/or consoles, or in-depth knowledge of game lore or other intricate details. If you play videogames, it’s likely that this description doesn’t even begin to capture your experiences.
Gaming is different than it was thirty years ago. Whether positively or negatively, it has grown in many aspects. We’ve come a long way from the first generation of videogames on systems such as the Atari. Gaming is no longer stationary, there are a multitude of platforms, it’s genres are much more expansive and have the ability to reach and appeal to so much more of the general population. The audience for videogames has grown, and is aging and evolving alongside the actual industry.
For example, a 2015 study from the Pew Research Center discovered that:
Equal numbers of men and women ever play video games, although men are twice as likely to call themselves “gamers.”
Further, the average video game player is in their late-twenties to late-thirties and isn’t likely to think of themselves as a ‘gamer’ because of the connotations associated with that term. Being a gamer and participating in that community can be unwelcoming due to certain expectations of what someone who plays games should look and act like. A child plays different games in a different manner than a teenager than a young adult or person with familial obligations.
Then, what does a gamer truly look like?
In my opinion, there shouldn’t be a right or a wrong way to enjoy games. When playing games, there shouldn’t be negativity towards playing games ‘casually’ — to play certain games that may have a shorter playtime than mainstream titles, can be played infrequently, are deemed easier, etc. Gaming shouldn’t necessarily be seen as a time-intensive or even as an outright competitive practice. These attributes certainly apply to a population of gamers, but isn’t wholly representative of the majority of the community.
With Casual, I hope to completely break away from that mold. The reality is that most people play videogames in one form or another, and to varying degree. Not everyone can commit so much time to playing games. Not everyone is interested in keeping up with and playing the titles that dominate the charts of popularity. Some people play games to relax, while others play to be competitive or flex their problem-solving skills. Casual caters to the diversity of these interests — especially for those who have less time to play or harbor more niche interests — to match them with a variety of games that match both their lifestyles and personal interests.
The Design Process
To tackle this, I built a bare-bones, interactive design prototype of this idea; check it out here — https://invis.io/XAEG08VWJ
The main function of this mobile application is to provide game recommendations. So I started by creating a general quiz that asked general questions related to genre interests, game features, and general behavior towards picking and playing videogames. The inspiration for these questions came from a variety of services that either sell or catalogue games.The main goal was to get a sense of a person’s habits and interests based on how they answered questions, and instantly offer them a variety of games to explore and branch off of.
After creating this rudimentary quiz, I was able to work backwards and figure out what else I needed to add to make this experience a complete application. From my initial goal, I determined the necessary interaction screens and functions for the rest of the app; this included: login/signup, the actual recommendation quiz, the resulting recommendation feed, and account information (to alter personal information and quiz answers).
This app is a bit different from other existing quizzes or engines in the fact that it is meant to have widespread appeal regardless of the level of familiarity with game genres, tropes, or systems. Depending on your interests, the app will feel completely different. It caters to both mainstream gamers who play AAA titles as well as those who may enjoy simulation, MOBA, simple platformers or even strategy games. I intend for there to be a lot of variability in the generation of results, and a lot of opportunity to promote discussion and the spread of interest games through social media integration.
Getting Started — Determining Preferences
Once a user signs up for the app, the on-boarding process consists of completing a quiz that will determine your preferences for basic use of the application. Options are presented in a tag cloud form, and users can tap on which options apply to them. This portion of the application currently has four questions so that the user isn’t fatigued with the questionnaire. The rest of the work takes place in the back-end of the application.
When a user submits their quiz, these results will be recorded and used to query different gaming sources online (Steam, Metacritic, IGDB, etc.). For example, the ‘what features do you like to see in games?’ question lends from the tagging system available on Steam’s store website. Using the Steam Web API, the app can obtain stats, reviews, and other important metadata about games. This information can be used to curate a collection of games that fall into the categories specified by the user through their instance of the questionnaire.
Using this line of thinking, other useful metadata from different sources on the web can also be used to receive, aggregate and then dynamically display other useful information about these games on their specific result pages.
With the results feed, I took inspiration from traditional social media feeds, and pivoted with a more minimized approach. Users can look at games in a feed in which they are able to look at games based on their promotional art. They can then scroll through these choices endlessly; more recommendations will load as users reach the end of the list. When a user finds a game they are interested in, they have the option to tap on it and see a summary as well as applicable tags, average playtime, similar games other users have enjoyed, as well as external methods of purchase.
Then, if a user wishes, they can go onto their account page, and retake the quiz to get updated recommendations that align with potential changes in preferences and lifestyle.
I believe the next step for this app is for it to become more comprehensive and social. Aside from improvements in visual design and layout, this can include the addition of more in-depth questions and tags in the recommendation quiz, as well as other features such as:
- Reviews. A user could leave reviews of games a user has played, and give feedback on whether the app’s information was useful in finding a game matching their interests.
- Ratings. A user could leave ratings for games they have played, rate the quality of recommendations given.
- Sharing. A user could externally share game recommendations and quiz results with friends through either messaging or social media.
- Filtering. A user can filter results by different categories such as alphabetically, popularity on the app, average playtime, release date, platform, etc.
Updates to visual design may encourage a wider audience to actually try the app, as well as create an engaging, long-lasting, and personal gaming experience.
Chalse Okorom is an undergrad at the University of Michigan — Ann Arbor studying user experience design, and cognitive science.