My blog’s title, GUR-U, stands for Games User Research and Usability, and as a term for me represents the application of research methodologies to improve games during the game development pipeline through the use of player data. There are two types of research under this umbrella term:
1) Game elements research, also known as playability research. The term is a derivative of the terms usability mixed with the playing elements of gaming. In other words, the game elements research is usability research focused on evaluating the usability, user-friendliness and accessibility of the various components of a game, such as the UI, game mechanics, intuitive design of controls, etc. This type of research focuses on finding out whether a user can play the game.
2) Game experience research, also known as player experience research. The term is a derivative of the term User Experience (UX) applied to the world of gaming. Methodologies that try to capture the UX of games focus on the flow of the journey that users have to go through, and whether they stay immersed and enjoy themselves throughout their gaming session. This type of research focuses on finding out whether a user think the game is fun.
All methodologies employed ideally revolve around the application of User-Centered Design (UCD) to the creation of video games, in order to get user feedback as early as possible in the development cycle. The feedback can take the form of both qualitative and quantitative data, and can range from a simple online study, to a one-on-one Q&A after a playtest session, to a large-scale focus group where lots of users are involved to discuss a particular topic. Essentially, the worlds of Psychology, Computer Science and Design are brought together to work in unison rather than in segregated silos, by applying cognitive research methods to the development, build and design of video games.
If you are interested in learning more about how various companies and individuals use player data and apply their findings to inform video game development, I highly recommend the book “Game Analytics: Maximizing the Value of Player Data” (2013, El-Nasr, Drachen, Canossa, Eds.). Additionally, any book on general Usability, UX and User Research (these terms are often used interchangeably) will apply to video games in most cases.
Picture © Erik Flowers