Surveying the Storm

I love learning about games and the data that surrounds them. Often, large game platforms are surrounded by large numbers, and staggering comparisons (here’s one from Bungie regarding Halo 3).

This usually results in impressive stats in millions, billions, or trillions. Something I am curious about is how these numbers actually manifest in what the player thinks about a game. At some point, these data feel just a little hollow. Numbers can be insightful, but often leave out the voice and the relationship that we have with games. With all these numbers, how do players describe their experiences with these games?

I created 4 surveys for the purpose of exploring how players value their relationship with several games from Blizzard Entertainment: HearthStone, World of Warcraft, StarCraft, and Overwatch. I am primarily interested in understanding what, if any, commonalities exist between how players describe an “ideal” match or play session and what their favorite memory of that game is. What I hope to end with is a coding scheme that could be used to guide game and UX designers in crafting experiences that have the ingredients for being memorable.

The following quote, I think, is a perfect example of this, and why we need to understand how these games fit into people’s lives, and how games can leave us as better people for playing them. This is a response to the question “What is your favorite memory from playing World of Warcraft?”

“All the time I spent with the many friends I made there. They were some very formative years where I grew a lot as a person. For a long time the majority of my close friends were people I knew exclusively on World of Warcraft. I actually met my first boyfriend on there, who I dated for about half a year (which seemed like a long time as a 15-year-old). Every time I’ve taken breaks from WoW and come back, I always seem to find new people who I grow close to. I even met two of them in person. I can’t really choose just one memory, but truly those first two years with my first two groups of close friends are always a joy to remember.”

Starting with this qualitative approach allows responses to go above and beyond survey items which can indicate where future quantitative analysis should be focused. There is also a reason qualitative data is not often collected at the scale of millions, billions or trillions: it takes a long time to code. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be reviewing this data. Once done, I will update this post with the results.

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