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  • User research in video game design

    Posted by Josh Rubin on August 26, 2022 at 1:45 pm

    Hi all! I’m an anthropologist of political aesthetics at Bates College and I wanted to throw out a term I’ve been thinking with lately (both to share it and to test out this interface). I’m working presently on a project on user research in videogame design, and I’ve come to think of the role of user researchers as one of “conciliation”–they conciliate between human (members of development teams and potential players) and non-human (hardware and software) agents by trying to understand these agents from a range of perspectives and to make them mutually intelligible. There’s no final reconciliation of perspectives, but conciliation allows for these agents to be linked together continently and tentatively into broader systems of relations.

    To give just a quick general example: It’s a truism in the games industry that players are “great at identifying design problems but terrible at identifying design solutions” because they do not have the insider knowledge (the very insider knowledge that makes player feedback necessary) to understand what a solution would look like. It’s the job of a researcher, then, to translate the player’s experience of a design problem into language that the dev team can use to find potential solutions. This process of translation happens in a number of ways: interpreting player expressions and in-game behaviors, analyzing transcribed interviews and survey feedback, studying biometric feedback.

    Josh Rubin replied 1 year, 8 months ago 2 Members · 2 Replies
  • 2 Replies
  • Alejandra Melian-Morse

    August 28, 2022 at 8:58 am

    hey Josh! Can you clarify what you mean by there’s no reconciliation? To me it seems like if you can successfully translate between the human and non human elements and come to a solution that’s a reconciliation! But it seems like you’re thinking about the terms differently than I am so I’d love to hear what the difference between conciliation and reconciliation is for you.

    • Josh Rubin

      September 2, 2022 at 11:12 am

      To me, reconciliation suggests two things that I don’t think actually happen, in practice: 1) reconciliation suggests a bringing back to unity, but there doesn’t seem to me to be an initial unity to return to. Or, rather, it seems to me that any claim of an initial unity is ideologically suspect. 2) reconciliation suggests to me a completed process, which doesn’t leave room for continual becoming. I totally think that there can be moments of coming-together across all manner of things, species, objects (and that those moments can be politically meaningful or everyday, transformative or normative), but that coming-together doesn’t ever seem “finished,” really. Fully reconciled. I’m curious what you think of all this!

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