Joe Florey is an experienced user researcher, working in PlayStation’s European user research team. In this exclusive interview, he explained how mentoring helped him join the industry, and his experience converting a psychology PhD into a games user research role.
To keep up with Joe’s work, follow him on twitter.
What is it you currently do at PlayStation?
I am a Senior User Researcher in the EU user research team. I spend most of my time planning and running play tests with Media Molecule.
What was your journey into games user research?
I started out doing a Psychology undergraduate degree, then a perceptual psychology PhD. A couple of years into that degree I realised the academic life wasn’t for me long term and started looking for other opportunities. I discovered GUR was a possible role and that people with Psychology PhDs could do it (I still have an email I sent Mike Ambinder from Valve, who had a similar academic background at that time asking how to get into the industry, he sent a nice helpful reply). Over the course of the last year of my PhD I joined the GUR-sig mentoring scheme and worked with a mentor (big thank you to Bob Tilford!) to work on specific games user research skills. I was fortunate that PlayStation were hiring not long after my PhD ended and I managed to get a job as a Junior Researcher in 2017.
What did you find the most challenging step of getting a role working in games? How did you overcome that?
The hardest step was just getting enough of an understanding of what GUR actually is and what skills are most important for getting a job. Initially I struggled with a lot of googling and reading but there weren’t many places with real detailed information (stevebromley.com was still in its infancy). The biggest help with this was joining the GUR-SIG mentoring scheme. Being able to talk directly to a researcher in the industry, especially one with a similar academic background to me, gave me a really clear direction of what I was already good at, and what I would need to work on to get a job. I also attended the London GUR-sig Conference as a volunteer, which allowed me to talk to lots of active researchers in the industry and see first hand the research that was going on.
Did your experience in academia help with getting a job in the games industry?
Definitely. Games user researchers are still researchers, and the skills and experience of designing, running and reporting on research I gained through my PhD gave me plenty to talk about in an interview. Academia also gives you good practice at discussing research methods and results objectively, something which is essential for a User Researcher.
What would your top tip be for someone looking to become a games user researcher?
Join the GUR mentor scheme and Discord. The GUR community is really welcoming and are happy to help people who are passionate about games and research.
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