Welcome to the second issue of the How To Be A Games User Researcher – and thanks for everyone’s kind words about issue one.
- Why is defining research objectives so important?
- Represent games user research on Zoom
- Elizabeth Zelle’s journey into games user research
- What interview questions should you be prepared for?
- An entry level role with Warner Brothers Seattle
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Every month we’ll be tackling topics important to people looking to develop their career in games, and run better playtests
Read on to learn how to become a games user researcher.
Why do we start by defining objectives?
User research studies, or playtests, can give reliable answers to many useful game development decisions. They are strongest with questions around behaviour or understanding such as “what do we need to tell players”, “will players understand what they are meant to go” or “can players complete this challenge”. The right playtest can also answer harder questions, like “Do players like my game”, but this requires more skill to reliably answer.
The simplest playtests involve watching people play, and asking them questions. This reveals issues where they are not experiencing the game as intended, and help us identify what needs to be changed to improve their experience.
However in order to design appropriate tasks, or pay attention to the right parts, we need to know what we want to learn from the study. Researchers call these the ‘objectives’ of the study.
Coming up with objectives is best done regularly throughout development by understanding what the team have been working on recently, and working with them to describe how they think players should experience it – what do we want players to understand, think and do. You can then use this information to decide what you need to measure, to check if they are experiencing it as intended.
I wrote more about how to define research objectives in the book, and as a free extract on the website. Read more here to learn how to come up with research objectives for your study.
Educate people about games user research
Last month, I shared the posters and stickers created for the book by Chloe True which promote some key games user research principles.
Jess Tompkins (who also helped with the book!), suggested making them into Zoom backgrounds. So we did!
The zoom backgrounds are free to download from the website, alongside free printable posters to advocate for user research.
Do share your pictures of the backgrounds if you pick them up!
Congratulations to last month’s winners.
Last month we gave away two copies of ‘The GoD Unit’. Congratulations to Alex and Jel who each won a copy!
It’s too late to enter, but if you’re feeling helpful I’d still love to hear about you on the survey link, so I can continue to tailor the newsletter contents.
We’ll have a new competition soon!
How I got started in Games User Research
In the GRUX Discord, their regular QOTW feature asked last year how people got started in games user research. There were many great answers, including from Elizabeth Zelle, User Research Manager at Amazon Games. I caught up with Elizabeth – here’s her journey and a top tip for other people following in her footsteps!
Elizabeth Zelle – User Research Manager at Amazon Games
What was your journey into Games User Research?
In 2008 I applied to work in the QA department of Volition. At the time I had a number of friends from high school already working in QA there, and they encouraged me to apply. It was the middle of the recession and jobs in marine biology (what my actual degree was in) were few and far between, so there was nothing to lose. I got hired fairly easily, but I will admit that networking and name dropping my mom (who had worked at Volition years before) totally played a role there.
I was laid off a year later, but was in one of the first rounds of rehiring in 2010 when they started staffing up again. I was so high up the rehire list because I’d proven my skills, both in doing QA and in being a good team member, and people in the department specifically wanted me back, which felt good.
I transitioned to User Research a little while later when I discovered it was a great fit for my skillsets and matched well with my interests. The only problem was that we didn’t have a researcher opening. So I approached the solo researcher at the company and told him that it looked like he had enough work that he needed an assistant. Luckily for me, he agreed!
My takeaway: Getting that first job was easy but also a lot of luck; getting rehired after the layoff was based on skill. Being detail-oriented, having strong note-taking skills, and being highly observant all were traits that helped me excel in QA and then transition over to UR (not surprising, since those are all skills that research work in college had hammered into me).
My advice: Self-assess and identify which skills are your strengths, and then own them. Seek out the opportunities that you want and shoot your shot; don’t count yourself out before trying. Make friends; being someone that people value and want on their team will always benefit you.
What interview questions should you be prepared for?
Members of the GUR community discussed questions that could come up in games user research interviews.
Callum Deery (@CallumDeery2 on twitter) shared some practice questions he’d gathered for UX applications.
Juney Dijkstra (find Juney on LinkedIn) shared some links she’d collated including:
- This thread from Genevieve Conley on what questions you should be asking the people interviewing you.
- These tips from Lydia Huang on being prepared for interviews
- This article about good interview storytelling
Although not games specific, I’ve previously found this medium article helpful to think about the range of technical and situational questions a user researcher may be asked.
All of these links were originally shared on the #job_hunting_chat on the GRUX-DIG discord. Do join the community and continue the conversation!
An entry level user research role
Warner Brothers are looking for two user research assistants for their Seattle team to help conduct research studies, including moderating studies and observing player behaviour. The role includes training but is ideal for people who have had previous experience running research studies with people, potentially gathered through a university degree.
Help the Games User Research conference
The GUR conference is looking for volunteers for their 2021 summit. Find more details and sign up here.
Helping at the conferences is a great first step for getting involved in the community, so I’d recommend taking a look!
You made it!
That’s it. Thanks for reading. For me personally, I’m continuing on the book tour (I’m popping up on many podcasts), and have some exciting game projects coming up in April so I know it’s going to be a good one!
I’d love to chat about games user research, and what would be helpful for you in this newsletter – do email me by replying to this newsletter if you have any questions, or drop me a line on twitter!
If you’ve enjoyed this newsletter, there are two very helpful things you could do for me:
- Share it with people you think would find it helpful (there’s a share button just below)
- Leave a review for the book How To Be A Games User Researcher on Amazon.
I’d be extremely grateful if you decide to do either of these, as both are very helpful!
Have a great April!