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Become a Games User Researcher

10 May 2021

Become a Games User Researcher

One current hot role within the Video Games industry is ‘Games Researcher’

 

Are you looking to get into the video games industry and are hot on research? Then why not look into becoming a Games Researcher?

It’s often said that getting into the video games industry is a hard task, but if you have the transferable skills, drive and commitment, then getting through the video games door is achievable thorough the Games User Research route. 

 

We want to share some of the great knowledge and experience given by Steve Bromley (@steve_bromley), writer of “How To Be A Games User Researcher ” and look into how it really is possible to join the industry from elsewhere! 

Steve regularly writes newsletters on how to start your career in Games User Research.  Below we have an extract from his later newsletter where he explains some of the ways that user research in games is different to working in other industries.

 

Expect friction

Games user researchers need to be nuanced and put in more upfront work to understand the thing being tested. They need to understand the game well enough to know what difficulty the designer intended. This usually involves a lot of time working with designers to identify what the difficulty is meant to be and what players are meant to understand or be able to do before they should be allowed to progress. They need to moderate the session and capture notes in a way that recognises ‘intended’ challenge (that has been designed) and separates this from ‘unintended’ challenge (that is accidental).

This also means that some of the typical things a user research team working outside of games (like ‘time to complete’), are not appropriate for games. These measures are not able to separate intended and unintended challenges.

 

Methodological constraints

Many games have big marketing budgets and excited fans who care deeply about the games being made. This puts them at high risk of leaks, and the consequences of leaks can be very expensive for the studio. So, secrecy is extremely important.

This includes asking participants to sign non-disclosure agreements and finding ways of actively preventing recording, such as removing their phones.

This need for secrecy has a big impact on the methods available to us. For extremely secretive games, all research has to be lab-based. This is particularly difficult for quant research. Other types of software can be distributed to users to use at their home, with unmoderated tools, surveys and analytics to capture their behaviour. With games, the huge risk of leaks means we can’t allow players to participate at home, and we need to bring them into a research lab. This leads to the need to build labs which can hold 10-40 players playing simultaneously.

For a researcher coming from other industries, this requires them to adapt their study designs so that it works as a mass playtest and adapt their moderation so that they can control a room of many players simultaneously.

 


Win a games user research poster and set of stickers

This month, Steve is giving away some games user research posters – Want to win? Simply sign up here to enter the competition.

Winners get a poster of their choice (signed if you live in the UK!), and a pack of all three stickers. Designed by Chloe True, the posters and stickers are a fun way of sparking off games user research conversations - and look great in an office or home environment!


Converting your experience

If you are applying from another user research role, your experience of planning and running studies is extremely valuable. Strongly emphasise this in your application. Supplementing your experience with an understanding of how games are different to other software design projects, will make you a very strong candidate.

In other fields, it’s common to talk about how user research uncovers and fulfils the needs of its users. In games, we often describe that our role is to ensure the game design vision is being experienced correctly. We frame this around the vision of the designer, not the needs of the user.

Tip:

  • Look for a broader user research role. This helps develop very relevant experience you can bring into a games job application.

 

If the above isn’t enough and you’re left still wanting more, why not join the GRUX Community?

 

The community has been created as a way for anyone who is interested in gaining advice, having a chat or to become a mentor for those who want to share their experiences.

 

You can post your availability as a mentor or sign up as a mentee here: GRUX Office Hours

How it works:

  1. This is an unofficial experiment in trying to make basic mentoring more easily available with less obligation and commitment on the part of either the mentor or mentee.
  2. People who want to volunteer as one-off mentors should post some times that they're available.
  3. Folks who are interested in having one-off conversations with a mentor should claim a time by entering their name next to it.
  4. Mentor is responsible for finding the mentee on the GRUX Discord and arranging a call at the scheduled time.
  5. The mentee is responsible for coming to the session with a set of questions and topics.
  6. Mentor is strictly a volunteer and can cancel or quit at any time if the session goes off the rails.

 

This is a great opportunity to speak to some top industry professionals. So please do take a look if you’re interested!

 

Help GRUX Online conference

As above, there are plenty of other ways to be involved, Emma Varjo has started the process of organising another Games Research and UX online conference for late 2021.

The team is currently looking for volunteers to help:

Could you volunteer to make this event even bigger and better? As a volunteer you get to help shape the event: we can make it even more awesome this time around. Check the form for a list of roles and their approximate responsibilities. We have some ideas of what we need to get the conference up and running, but if you don’t see your superpower listed, we can adjust the roles or do bigger and better things! Please send us your ideas by clicking here

Volunteering is a great way to start to get introduced into the community.

Buy yourself a copy of Steve Bromley’s “How to be a Games User Researcher” here

 


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