Essential videos and talks for new games user researchers

Following on from the essential games user reading list (which if you haven’t read yet, I certainly recommend); this post is an introduction to some of the fantastic video resources available online. Ranging from 101 introductions to in-depth guides, ‘day in the life’ and more – video resources are a useful for learning about UX and games user research (GUR) alongside books, articles, and classes. A key benefit is that a video resource can humanise the person doing the work – so even if your current network is small, finding people via talks or workshops they have done online is a great way to start conversations on platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter. 

As someone who only started learning about GUR in 2021 at the end of my PhD (in Management/Economic Geography – not the usual Psychology or Human-Computer interaction) these videos are the ones which helped me to understand what a games user researcher is, why the work is done, who it is for and how to start a career.

So, grab a drink and settle in for some learning from the experts – a full playlist for this article can be found here. 

This article is written by Helen Johnson, an independent video game researcher. Find her on Twitter

Essential videos + Talks for new games user researchers

User Research? Game on with Steve Bromley 

A podcast interview style video which introduces the listener to the basics of games user research – including topics such as the history and evolution of GUR, paths into GUR, and advice for aspiring user researchers. This video along with another where Steve is interviewed by Seb Long from Player Research, are great audible aids to go alongside the book ‘How to be a Games User Researcher’.

‘Mainstream’ UX and Games UX – Alistair Greo, Player Research

Are you already working within UX and wishing to move into video games, or you are contemplating the differences between ‘mainstream’ UX and game UX. If so, Alistair’s video is a succinct resource where he explores his career from user designer at Pottermore, through various website/e-commerce consultant roles to becoming a user researcher at Player Research – working on over 100 games from indie-AAA. 

Mind the Gap Between Academia and Games – Josh Rivers, CCP – GRUXonline

Perhaps however, you are arriving to GUR from an academic background. Josh’s video describes how academic work can be integrated with industry standard UX. Using his experience of EVE Online, he discusses how there can be a communication gap between academics and game user researchers. Arguing for a coming together of both disciplines to enhance learning from each other. Additionally, as an anthropologist with over 10 years of experience in social science research, Josh in this video touches upon moving from academia to an industry research role. For those finishing their PhDs, a panel discussion from iGGi (EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Intelligent Games and Game Intelligence) starts a dialogue about transferable skills from PhD to industry – with game user research being part of this discussion. 

How to get games user research experience without a job, Steve Bromley – GRUX Online 2021

One of the largest fears when stating a career is how do you gain experience without having a job? Indeed, how can you even do GUR without being allowed access to titles? Steve in this video explains how reaching out to small game developers can provide opportunities to run independent usability reviews and to have the confidence to do it. He teaches how to find developers to work with and form relationships, how to run a usability review and structure your findings, before finishing with advice on building these independent reviews into a portfolio for future job applications. A very positive video which provides confidence that there is always something you can do, even if you feel lost at the start of your journey. A video which builds upon this is a panel session from GamesUR conference 2019 – ‘Levelling up your skills as a student researcher’.

What Makes A Great Usability Expert Review? Lessons From My Practice Game Analyses – Seb Long

As a junior game user researcher applying for roles, a usability review is often part of the hiring process. Speaking from experience, I had no idea where to start when I was first asked to do one of these! Seb’s video is a fantastic resource which breaks down how to critically ‘play’ a game, what should be included and ideas on how to structure a report to submit. Certainly, recommend taking notes during this one as I often go back to what I have written down as guidance for my own projects. 

What does your future games user research employer want you to do? Raphaël Leroy – GRUX Online 2021

Raphaël Leroy analyses 3 years of job posting data to figure out what future GUX employers may be looking for. A good video to align with job seeking efforts whilst crafting a CV or LinkedIn profile regarding key words and highlighting experience. 

GUR Café – Introductions & UR Mindset

GUR Café is a podcast comprising of 3 UX researchers at Ubisoft. They are a few episodes in now, however their first episode where they discuss the ‘UR mindset’ is an interesting listen for those interested in GUR. They explain how being a user researcher in video games is as much how you approach work, then how you do the work. Think of this one more as a holistic approach to GUR rather than a ‘how to’ guide.

An introduction to London’s UX Team

This video introduces work carried out by Sony Interactive Entertainment’s (SIE) London User Research Studio. A short but interesting video which discusses not only how first party titles such as Horizon: Zero Dawn were tested in their own labs, but also introduces how GUR informs hardware development – here the redesigned PS4 controller and PlayStation VR. 

User Research on Destiny 

The final section of this post introduces UX post-mortems and presentations. For the junior games user researcher, I believe there are no better way of understanding how UX fits within the wider game development process than by listening to those who have tried, failed and succeed before us. This GDC talk from 2015 is a standout example, with John Hopson (Head of Research – Bungie). Discussing how they integrated new research methods moving from Halo to Destiny and how they studied raid groups.

Watch Dogs Podcast – Episode 6: User Research | Ubisoft [NA]

As part of developer diaries, Ubisoft invited members of their North American UX team to discuss the process of UX research at their studio. The podcast is a deep dive into how UX was executed, and the types of playtests carried out. They discuss their relationship between participants in the playtests and themselves, talking about how play testers responded and how the UX team learnt/implemented findings from the data collected. 

Article written by Helen Johnson, an independent video game researcher. Find her on Twitter

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Expert tips for writing a playtest survey

When I mentioned I was going to be talking about playtest survey design, I reached out to the research community to hear their tips and best practice. 

I received such a lot of feedback and excellent tips, I’ve had to spin it into its own page. Here’s what we heard from the community

This list of tips was featured in our lesson on How To Design Surveys. Read the original post here.

Always pilot your surveys

Great topic and one that I needed a lot of help with when I started out building screeners!

Big one is to test your surveys, it’s always good to have colleagues or a small sample go through before you send it to the masses.

Another one which I find really useful is to have your hypothesis in a different tab or ideally in view while you’re writing out the questions. That way you can make sure you’re not veering off track while you’re making the questions

Read the original message from Jack Dunne

Oh I have so many! I'd probably start with challenging any misconceptions you might have that writing a survey is easy or quick...! It should take time and effort to plan and structure...but should be easy and quick to complete!

Ensure the questions you ask will actually give you the answers you need. Make sure there is no ambiguity in what you are asking (to the earlier point of testing, different interpretation of question wording can lead to getting a different response from what you are looking for.)

Read the original message from Katherine

Read the original message from Ashley

Lots of great points from Katherine, Ashley and Jack, but I think in particular the point about piloting the survey is very important. Treat it as a qualitative test where you ask someone to fill it out, and ask them what they think each question means – this can reveal significant misunderstandings between what you think you’re asking, and what you are actually asking. That’s really important to capture before you send it out to potentially thousands of people.

Keep your playtest survey brief

Read Tom and Eddie’s original tweets.

Most surveys are too long. Participant’s willingness to fill out a survey will drop rapidly after five minutes, and pushing past ten minutes introduces bias in the type of people who are completing your survey. This decreases the reliability of your results.

Start by agreeing with stakeholders ‘if we are going to learn one thing from this survey, what would it be’. Then use this to be brutal when eliminating other questions. Stakeholders will push to add more and more questions – your professional duty is to stand up to that, and ensure that you are getting results that we can trust.

Learn from survey design best practice

Read the MRS Survey Design Guide Gareth Lloyd recommended.

Read Gareth’s original tweets.

Look out for gaps in your questions

Read Gareth’s original tweet

See Ashley and John’s original tweets

Read John’s original tweets

It’s easy to forget how different we are from our players, and how the language we use (and the things we want them to talk about) might not be the same as what players want to express, or might

It’s really common to make simple errors, like forgetting to give a ‘never’ option, or forcing players to comment on something they have just told us they never do.

Piloting our surveys, and using broad final questions can help you diagnose problems in your questionnaire, and catch questions that you should have asked, but missed.

Make sure a survey is the right method

Read Elizabeth’s original tweets

Surveys can be messy and straddle qualitative and quantitative feedback. This requires care and attention, to avoid getting into trouble.

Elizabeth Zelle gave a fantastic talk for the Games User Research conference in 2019 about survey design – I highly recommend you watch the full thing here!

One idea per question

Read Alizée’s original tweet

Alizée describes how we need to be careful not to overload our questions, and make sure that we ask one thing per question – this avoids us getting muddy results that don’t represent reality because we haven’t given participants the ability to express their true sentiment or behaviour.

Pay attention to the playtest survey respondant experience

Read Court’s original tweet

Read Uncharted Horizon Entertainment’s original message.

Court and the Uncharted Horizon’s team’s points bring home the value of thinking how the participant will experience your survey when designing it. Paying careful attention to the words used, the survey order, and being respectful of their time is really important for getting honest + reliable results.

Support mobile

Read Daniel’s original tweet

Daniel makes excellent points, thinking about the context in which people will be filling in your survey. If they are going to be doing it on a mobile phone, make sure your surveys usable on a small screen (and remember to pilot this!)

Writing surveys looks easy, but it’s easy to make errors that invalidate your results. Thanks to everyone who shared their knowledge in this post.

What are your tips for writing a good survey? Tweet me at @steve_bromley and I’ll share them!

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