UXPA Publications

User Experience Magazine: Volume 10, Issue 4, 2011

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Volume 10, Issue 4, 2011

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Featured Articles



Featured Articles: Gamifying the User Experience


Play Your Way to Productivity: Using Game Design to Achieve "Flow"
By Aye Moah

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His heart beat faster as he closed in on his all-time high score. His point total climbed, paused, climbed more, then jumped to a new record! He pumped his fist in the air as he… deleted his last email??

That scenario is becoming more and more common in the office, thanks to the rise of productivity apps that integrate game mechanics. This article discusses the essential concepts such as Hyperfocus, Timers, Instant Feedback, and Discrete Sessions.  The Email Game is an email productivity application that employs these concepts and relieves mental stress that comes with an overflowing inbox.

Social Games with Words: A Short History of Implementations
By Andrea Jennifer Shubert

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As the gaming industry has matured, so have its user interfaces and the user experiences one expects. The progression is not always in one direction — in fact, when the social-media hit Mafia Wars was released, it reset the bar all the way back to just text and still pictures! This article discusses learning the ways of Twitter and SMS, and the lessons we have learned squeezing as much as we can out of those 140 characters (for Twitter) or 140 bytes (SMS).


Electric Racer to Promote Literacy: A Game for Two Inter-generational Players
By Ashley Fenwick-Naditch and Mindy Brooks

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Electric Raceris a two-player downloadable game designed for a child and a parent to play together.  Throughout each stage of the development process our interdisciplinary team focused our efforts on how to design the game to maximize children’s learning through simultaneous parent-child co-play. Utilizing the Sesame Workshop formative research model, the team identified three key features of the game that lead to increases in role awareness and parental engagement: an interactive tutorial, a point system, and additional instructional support.


Designing Games for Non-Gamers: Rapid Prototyping as a Design Methodology
By Dennis Paiz-Ramirez, Sarah Chu, Allison Salmon, and Belinda Gutierrez

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Video games have the power to engage users deeply in a designed experience and allow them to interact with a virtual world in ways that are not possible with other mediums. In our game Pathfinder players experience some of the biases encountered by individuals from underrepresented groups in academic science and technology. This article presents a case study comparing the experiences of two game playtesters, who showed us that we cannot rely on players’ prior experiences in digital media and games.


Multi-Screen Games and Beyond: New Dimensions in User Interaction
By Chris Allen

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In the summer of 2011, at the E3 conference, Nintendo announced the Wii U, introducing the relatively new user experience of multi-screen gaming to the general public. This type of gaming (using touch screen-based controllers) will have a major impact on the way we play. Not only is this paradigm a big change in the player's experience, but it's also a huge shift in the way a game designer must think. This article covers new game designs that are enabled through handheld touch devices working with a large screen, and goes into details of new platforms that allow for these new experiences.


Simplifying Game Interfaces: Principles for Hiding UI Complexity
By Adam Saltsman

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In video game design, there is a constant struggle between complexity and simplicity.  Complexity is interesting, but unless it is accessible, it is too intimidating for most players to enjoy.  Canabalt creator Adam Saltsman explains how games use input amplification and context sensitivity to give players access to complex games without having to simplify or cripple the actual game system.  Adam also warns against the pitfalls of these techniques, including accidental or unwanted behavior, and how to use layering to overcome those obstacles.


Using Biometrics to Reveal Insights into the Player Experience
By Graham McAllister 

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Video games are judged by the quality of the player experience. However, traditional methods for assessing the player experience, such as self-report or interviews, are not ideal because they rely either on sampling approaches or the players' perception of gameplay. There are methods to resolve these issues – by capturing the gameplay experience in an unconscious and continuous approach – which offer a more reliable understanding of gameplay. This article presents a case study showing how biometrics can identify hidden gameplay issues, and be used to communicate the player experience in the form of biometric storyboards.


Games in the Real World: Some Characteristics We Can Use
By John Ferrara

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To create games that have meaningful social impact, the first barrier we need to get past is our cultural prejudice that games are frivolous activities. This article presents a different way of thinking about games, defining them broadly by several key characteristics. The characteristics model leads to surprising conclusions, revealing that some everyday activities can be understood as games even if we’re not used to thinking of them that way. More importantly, these everyday experiences can benefit from the methods that game designers have developed to make player experiences so compelling.


Playing to Learn: Teaching User Research to Game Design Students
By Heather Desurvire

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The University of Southern California was one of the first schools to create an official department to prepare students to enter the video game industry, and has since established itself as one of the foremost such programs in the country. Part of the core curriculum for USC’s Interactive Media Department (a division of the School for Cinematic Arts), is a course designed to instill in students the principle that research into the user experience is a natural and critical part of the game development cycle.


Looking to Games for the New User Experience: What Other Website Interfaces Can Learn
By Pascal Rettig

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Onboarding, the process of bringing new users up to speed on a piece of software can be a painful experience. A lot of web applications and software have become complicated to the point where week-long workshops exist to get users up to a basic level of proficiency. Over the past forty years video games have followed the same growth in complexity, yet, given games’ necessary constraint against tedium, game designers have come up with a number of solutions to make the user onboarding process easier and less fraught with pain and suffering.



Editor’s Note: Games, Game Play, Gamification
By Pascal Rettig

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On the Edge: Gaming the User Experience
Aaron Marcus discusses the user experience of games and gamification of applications.

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Book Review: Another Research Tool
Chelsey Glasson reviews Search Analytics for Your Site by Louis Rosenfeld.

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