Games User Research

Exploring the relationship between video game expertise and Fluid Intelligence

Hundreds of millions of people play intellectually-demanding video games every day. What does individual performance on these games tell us about cognition? Here, we describe two studies that examine the potential link between intelligence and performance in one of the most popular video games genres in the world (Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas: MOBAs). In the first study, we show that performance in the popular MOBA League of Legends’ correlates with fluid intelligence as measured under controlled laboratory conditions. In the second study, we also show that the age profile of performance in the two most widely-played MOBAs (League of Legends and DOTA II) matches that of raw fluid intelligence. We discuss and extend previous videogame literature on intelligence and videogames and suggest that commercial video games can be useful as ‘proxy’ tests of cognitive performance at a global population level.

Evaluating the Onboarding Phase of Free-to Play Mobile Games: A Mixed-Method Approach

The first few minutes of play, commonly referred to as the onboarding phase, of Free-to-Play mobile games typically display a substantial churn rate among new players. It is therefore vital for designers to effectively evaluate this phase to investigate its satisfaction of player expectations. This paper presents a study utilizing a lab-based mixed-methods approach in providing insights for evaluating the user experience of onboarding phases in mobile games. This includes an investigation into the contribution of physiological measures (Heart-Rate Variability and Galvanic Skin Conductance) as well as a range of self-reported proxy measures including: a) stimulated recall, engagement graphs, b) flow state survey and c) post-game experience questionnaire. These techniques were applied across 28 participants using three mobile Free-to-Play titles from different genres. This paper makes two important contributions to the games user research (GUR) domain: 1) evaluates different research techniques (e.g. physiological measures and experience graphs) in the context of mobile games; 2) provides an empirically based recommendation for design elements that result in high arousal.

Correlation between Heart Rate, Electrodermal Activity and Player Experience in First-Person Shooter Games

Psychophysiological methods are becoming more popular in game research as covert and reliable measures of affective player experience, emotions, and cognition. Since player experience is not well understood, correlations between self-reports from players and psychophysiological data may provide a quantitative understanding of this experience. Measurements of electrodermal activity (EDA) and heart rate (HR) allow making inferences about player arousal (i.e., excitement) and are easy to deploy. This paper reports a case study on HR and EDA correlations with subjective gameplay experience, testing the feasibility of these measures in commercial game development contexts. Results indicate a significant correlation (p < 0.01) between psychophysiological arousal (i.e., HR, EDA) and self-reported gameplay experience. However, the covariance between psychophysiological measures and self-reports varies between the two measures. The results are consistent across three different contemporary major commercial first-person shooter (FPS) games (Prey, Doom 3, and Bioshock).

Online-only friends, real-life friends or strangers? Differential associations with passion and social capital in video game play

The present study tests a recently proposed model in which social video game play supports wellbeing by contributing to a harmonious type of engagement with the game. Players (N = 2030) of the online-only multiplayer first-person shooter game, Destiny, reported the frequency they played with real-life friends, online-only friends and strangers, their type of engagement with the game – measured as harmonious and obsessive passion, and completed a wellbeing measure of social capital. Telemetry data also recorded their total time playing over the duration of the study. A structural equation model supported the prediction that harmonious – but not obsessive – passion would mediate the positive association between playing with others and social capital. The findings also supported a supplementary hypothesis that the three types of social relationships would be differentially associated with two forms of social capital – bridging versus bonding – as a function of the closeness of social ties. Real-life friends was positively associated with bonding, strangers with bridging, and online-only friends with both. Overall, these results emphasise that social interactions in (and around) online multiplayer video games are effective for building social capital, and do so by ensuring game play is in harmony with other goals and values.

Play With Me? Understanding and Measuring the Social Aspect of Casual Gaming

Social Gaming is a pervasive phenomenon, driven by the advent of social networks and the digitization of game distribution. This paper positions and defines Casual Social Games (CSGs) as a genre and platform agnostic subset of Social Games that incorporates browser, mobile, console and wearable digital games. Here we argue that – as CSGs impact the games industry, shape play patterns and audience characteristics, and proliferate to new platforms – understanding and measuring their social aspect becomes highly relevant. A randomized experiment on added social gameplay in a CSG on both mobile and Facebook serves to support this argument. Experimental results highlight that social gameplay is extremely important for engagement and monetization in casual games, even more so on mobile platforms. This does not only suggest that CSG developers will benefit from focusing on increased social interaction in their games, but that Game Analytics should strive to unify definitions and build a common body of knowledge around the social aspect of casual gaming.

Methods for Evaluating Gameplay Experience in a Serious Gaming Context

Gameplay experience (GX) is created during the process of player-game interaction, where this interaction has the goal to provide a motivating, fun experience for the player. Since GX is an important factor for the success of failure of a game, a formal classification of how to design for and evaluate GX is necessary. Using appropriate mechanisms for evaluation and measurement of GX allows the validation of good gameplay experiences. This paper presents an approach to formalize such evaluative methods and a roadmap for applying these mechanisms in the context of serious games. We first discuss related work of user experience (UX) and player experience models, based on which we propose a three-layer framework of GX. For each layer, a number of measurement methodologies are listed and our focus is put on physiological and technical metrics for game evaluation. Finally, we point out the potential use of this framework within the field of game-based learning and serious gaming for sports and health.

Game Time: Modeling and Analyzing Time in Multiplayer and Massively Multiplayer Games

Game time is a core feature of game design and study, and forms part of the gaming experience on a variety of levels. It can be viewed from multiple perspectives, for example, the time of the playing of the game or the flow of time in a game world. In this paper, a comprehensive game time model based on empirical research as well as recent theory is presented. It proposes various perspectives on game time and integrates them to allow coherent representation of the same events in the different perspectives. The model has been tested across tabletop and digital formats, and its applicability across game formats is demonstrated. Emphasis is placed on multiplayer and massively multiplayer role-playing games because these feature complex game time behavior not previously evaluated. The model considers game time as an interactively created and nonlinear feature of games and game play.