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Categories: Case Studies, Innovative Research Methods, Gamification & Gameful Design, Enjoyment & Flow
Keywords: UX Techniques, Board Game, Future User Needs, Gamification, Train Information System

Synopsis

Researchers in Belgium created a board game loosely based on The Game of Life for participants to play as part of their UX research. This game-based research was done to understand what kind of information users would want from a future Train Information System (TIS) that had not yet been developed. Participants asked a futuristic, all-knowing TIS questions during the game with a chat program on a tablet. Participants were not told that a human being was controlling the TIS until the debriefing at the end of the study. The track on the game board represented a train trip, the user scenario of interest, so the researchers could find out what questions participants had at different stages of their journey.

Source

Slegers, K., Ruelens, S., Vissers, J., & Duysburgh, P. (2015). Using Game Principles in UX Research: A Board Game for Eliciting Future User Needs. In Proceedings of the 33rd Annual ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 1225–1228). New York, NY, USA: ACM. http://doi.org/10.1145/2702123.2702166

Key Finding

Using a board game as a UX research method made participants feel at ease and that they could say what they wanted to say. This was supported by the experience of the researchers, survey results from the participants, and quotes from participants.

Design Implication

  • Creating a game as a context, medium, or method for UX research can help participants put themselves in the scenario of interest,
  • Several different elements can be used to make the game more fun, and keep participants engaged.
    • Randomness and variation can provide unpredictable surprises. For example, players rolled two dice to advance across a board made up of three different kinds of squares, one of which involved drawing an event from a shuffled deck of cards.
    • Friendly team-based competition can help.
    • The mock-up of an all-knowing future product controlled by one of the researchers Wizard-of-Oz-style gave participants surprising answers that make them think more creatively about what questions they could ask the system.
  • The researchers attempted to use role-playing with fictional characters, but the participants did not identify with the characters. Future game-based research could use more relatable characters and allow players/participants to select their own characters.

Concerns and Risks

  • This was a case study of a project done with this method. The study could be made more rigorous by using a controlled experiment instead, randomly assigning participants to either the game-based research method or more traditional UX research methods, and comparing the data collected with the two methods. But they were able to compare the insights that they found through this game-based research method with the insights they had found through observations and interviews conducted earlier, and discussed many information needs they only uncovered with the game-based method.
  • Because they did not have a clear control group or comparison group, they were not able to compare their survey results with results from traditional UX methods. In other words, the results from this case study were more descriptive than statistical.

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