Hey Josh, I’m Gabby.
In preparation for this interview, I did a quick user study so that I could get a better understanding of your users and the game design space as a whole. I’m going to go through this pretty quickly, so feel free to reach out with any questions you have. :)
*Your company is not mentioned in this post.
I interviewed five different users of various gaming backgrounds to assess their gaming experience. I asked about things they found that they enjoyed in gaming, as well as some challenges that they have faced. I also assessed the their view on the gaming community as a whole, including any stigmas and stereotypes surrounding gamers.
I did this quick study based on a convenience sample of graduate students in their 20s (M=23), three female and two male. 60% of individuals had a heavy background and interest in gaming, where 30% had little to no interest. One individual was a competitive gamer, winning a national championship, and is well known throughout specific channels in the gaming community.
- How might we increase enjoyment in video games, from a design perspective?
- How might we tackle some of the challenges users face when collaborating within the community?
- How might I decrease the stigma around the gaming community, in order to reach a broader audience of gamers?
Individuals first shared their positive gaming experiences with me.
In some cases, the community is more important than the game itself. One user explained how they connected with their long distance significant other by playing video games. Since they weren’t able to go on dates in person, video games allowed them to do fun activities together despite being so far apart.
“I play video games pretty infrequently — maybe 2–3 hours a week at most. I spend much more time talking about video games [in the gaming community].”
“[I enjoy] being part of a global community, making friends through games and meeting them in real life.”
“It’s easier to communicate and relate to others when you have an activity.”
I found some pain points, then used design thinking to brainstorm several ways to solve them.
1. Gender imbalance.
“Growing up, I felt that there was a certain mold for gamers. I didn’t fit that mold, so I didn’t play.” — Female, 21
All five participants felt there was a clear stereotype of men being gamers. Those involved in the gaming community, felt that women were viewed as unwanted. One user explained how she felt many video game companies are ignoring her entire demographic. The news is flooded with stories about this, but it was interesting to hear each participant’s take on it as well.
Solution: Target a broader audience.
This isn’t confined to just men and women, but rather speaks to a greater need to develop games that target a wider range of people. Creating more nuanced characters, such as those representing different demographics and appeal to different users would be a great start for this. There’s always room for improvement here, but this seems to be a particularly ripe area for game designers to explore.
2. Online Harassment.
“Gaming culture is very toxic.”
One of the primary reasons that I found users play games is to connect with a community. It’s important to minimize the amount of online harassment, when possible. Of course, there’s only so much big companies can do. There’s great articles from The Guardian and even research studies that address this issue and discuss ways companies can combat this.
Solution: Don’t intervene, but don’t let it go either.
This is a very tough question to tackle. One user explained that she played a game where you would get flagged for posting inappropriate information, or mentioning different things. Sometimes some posts that didn’t include sensitive content would also get flagged. She felt that as a result, users were more inclined to break the rules, since they knew they were there. Regardless, she felt the rules were important to have (especially for kids), but companies should make sure that their interventions were more subtle.
In my opinion, this requires more research than just a quick user study. Regardless, online harassment is a problem not limited to the gaming community, so I think exploring a wider range of solutions is ideal. Social media outlets like Twitter enable users to report others for inappropriate behavior. This is a good first step, but still requires additional research.
3. Group Dynamics.
“Sometimes it’s hard when to play with someone who has a different playing style than you.”
Often games elicit a sense of accomplishment, which users enjoyed. There are clearly defined goals in game play, where you can win or lose. This is different from life, as it is rare that someone ever truly achieves the highest or lowest ranking of anything. With that being said, some users struggled when playing with users of different levels of competitiveness.
Some individuals address games with the clear goal of winning, no matter what. Others prefer to enjoy the journey of the game, instead of only focusing on the game outcome.
Solution: Break it up!
In real life, we divide tasks to get the job done. Why not do so virtually? Some games allow users to break up into different parts of play. Gamers can focus on different aspects of the game, while still working together towards one goal. This reveals the need for further research into group dynamics when collaborating on video games.
My findings highlight the fact that gamers care more about the community than the game itself. Of course, they expect to see great visuals and fun experiences, but the community of users playing is what brings them back. Going forward, I’ll use this information to spend next semester developing my own game through the Brown RISD Game Developers Club, and hopefully over the summer with you!