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  • Understanding Player Behavior: What To Read

    [01.23.20]
    - Henri Brouard

  • Getting Gamers: The psychology of video games and their impact on the people who play them 

    Jamie Madigan 

    Also PhD in psychology, Jamie Madigan is a prolific writer on the use of psychology to understand video games. He has published in many newspapers and gaming news outlets, and frequently publishes on his own blog, psychologyofgames.com, a gold mine for game psychologists enthusiasts. He also has his own podcast, also called the psychology of video games, and has published a list of articles on this website. Jamie Madigan writings are insightful, accessible and full of humor, which makes reading through his work a real pleasure. 

    Jamie Madigan believes that people who make games and manage game communities succeed thanks to some understanding of psychology. But by using a "common vocabulary" and having a deeper understanding of players mind, game makers can really improve on their work. And so the first part is dedicated to "those who play", focusing on online toxic behavior online and cheating, and how developers can build better communities with knowledge of how they work. The author then dwells on game design that keep players coming back to the game, whether it's the game's reward system, the pleasure of loot dropping or the satisfaction of reaching a new high score. The focus then shifts on "Those who sell", looking at marketing techniques, micro-transactions and consumer psychology to make your game more lucrative. The last part of the book is about the games themselves, if they make us more violent or smarter, and how we identify with our ingame characters. Many personal experiences illustrate the book and there is space for comic relief in about every chapter. 

    Lost in a Good Game: Why we play video games and what they can do for us

    Pete Etchells

    Pete Etschells is a phd graduate in psychology, his current research is partly focused on how consumption of video games affects the cognitive development during childhood. He has written on topics such as the recent "gaming disorder" pinned by the WHO, or games in relation to depression. He has also contributed to many news outlets, and was previously the Guardian's science blog network coordinator. You can access his personal blog here

    Many chapters explore the dangers we usually associate with video games, using the scientific knowledge we have on these issues. Game addiction, the excess of screen time and violence are mentioned. But rather than giving straight answers, Etschells shows the complexity of these debates and opens them up to new questions. The only real danger seems to be on the free to play model and microtransactions, for which the author calls for state regulation. VR, esports and games used as treatment are also brought into light through a psychological lens. Lost in a good game is also a very personal book. Etchells speaks at length about the positive emotions we feel when we play a good game; whether it's the sheltering feeling of refuge, or how they can help us cope with loss. These feelings that are unique to each player and can hardly be approached by scientific research. Lost in a good game was written for a wide audience. There is little to learn for game designers, yet it discusses meaningful topics relevant to the future of the industry.

    Game User Research

    Edited by Anders Drachen, Pejman Mirza-Babaei, Lennart Nacke

    I want to end this list with the most practical book for people working in the game industry. Game User Research is a manual written by university professors, game consultants and game user researchers, explaining the methods and application of user research for your game. The authors talk about their use of research from console to mobile, indie to 3A productions. This is the most exhaustive collection of articles on the topic, and it's a must read for anybody interested in working on user research in games. 

    The first part of the book examines how to insert UX research in the production pipeline. This includes how to design your test, conduct benchmark studies, the appropriate involvement of user research according to the size of your studio and how to set up a lab. The second part then explores the different methods that can be used in game UX research. Common methods like survey and player observation are mentioned, but also more complex research procedures such as eye-tracking biometrics or the Rapid Iterative Test and Evaluation Method (RITE). The last part focuses on specific case studies. Authors show their use of User Research in different contexts, whether its small studios with limited budget, mobile games, VR games, or for an audience with special needs. Overall Game User Research gives a good overview of the use of experience research in the game industry.

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