Fascinating look inside Def Con.
“When I received my press credentials for the convention, they came with a warning that all WiFi networks at the convention and in nearby hotels should be considered “extremely hostile,” which was to be expected at a hacker convention.”
An interesting article on how scientists are so easily dismissed.
“Becoming a professional scientist takes, on average, four years of undergraduate studies (note: science majors are usually rated among the most difficult/time consuming), 6–10 years of intense graduate training (most grad students work/study 60+ hours a week and rarely take holidays), and several years of doing a post-doc. Further, after all of that training, you spend your life actually doing science, which means that you are constantly gaining experience and new knowledge. The idea that reading a bunch of blogs and non-academic books will put you on par with that type of training and experience is the epitome of arrogance and hubris. It is just about the most pretentious thing that I can think of. Of course scientists know more about science than the average person on the street, just as plumbers know more about plumbing than the average person, and mechanics know more about cars than the average person. We intuitively expect that anyone who goes through that type of training will be extremely knowledgeable.”
The following are a list of key findings from my research on parental assessment of video game content appropriateness for their children. You can read the first round of published results here.
- There were no parents in the study who were able to definitively name all of the parts of the ESRB Ratings System or all six ratings and over two-thirds did not know what process games went through to get rated. This resulted in the majority of interviewed parents knowing little to nothing about the ratings system even if they claimed they used it.
- Interviewed parents had very specific criteria they used to judge video game appropriateness against and once any of those lines were crossed, the game was considered unsuitable. Though violence was a concern for interviewed parents, perceptions of violence were far more nuanced than the ESRB Rating System descriptors were able to convey, thus many had to do further research to properly assess the game and make sense of the content. Sexual content, however, was of a far higher concern than violence even for those interviewed parents who considered themselves very liberal in the types of games they allowed their children to play.
- Interviewed parents with special needs children considered the needs of their child and the ability for a game to help him or her as more important than staying within content that was age appropriate.
- Based on the interviews, every family’s and child’s needs are different, including children within the same family. Therefore, a single information system, such as the ESRB Ratings System, may never be able to completely fulfill all of a parent’s information needs as they attempt to bridge their knowledge gap. As long as it provides a place to start, that may be all it needs to do.
- Relevant to the previous finding, interviewed parents attempted to bridge their knowledge gaps in multiple ways in order to assess game content and make sense of it. These included using the ESRB Ratings System, Internet searches (including specific sites as well as more general results) to find game reviews (both community and professional), game marketing (including websites, packaging, and commercials), and Let’s Plays (video game play-throughs).
Credibility of the gaming information source was very important to interviewed parents. They cited both the source of the documentation as well as the reputation of the reporting source to be important factors in establishing credibility.
- Though a few interviewed parents were in favor of a law, most were not. Those in favor cited it as an extra level of protection or as something they thought was already in place. Those not in favor cited issues with enforcement, the inability for laws to really assist them, as well as a general dislike of having the government interfere with their role as parents.
Specific answers to research questions will be published in a separate post.
Here are a few stats from my research on parents and video games copied directly from my dissertation. This post will be the first of several where I talk about my ethnography and the results of my study.
There were 46 total participants in 30 interviews representing 26 households. As defined in Chapter One, a household represents parents who participated alone as well as those who participated together (in the same interview or separately). This singular unit was created to avoid inflation of the numbers where two parents were talking about their shared children and home environments, as that would skew the numbers against those where only one parent participated. Of the participants, 11 were children and 35 were parents. The 35 parents represented 39 qualifying children in total including the 11 who contributed. Of the 35 participating parents, 18 were mothers and 17 were fathers. The parents spanned in ages from 25 to 55. The youngest child participant was 4 and the oldest was 16.
This study afforded opportunities for additional analyses, given the rich qualitative data collected throughout the interviews. Each section below provides this additional information as a way to give context to the research participants and better understand their relationship with video games.
Over 200 games were mentioned throughout the course of the interviews, not including the various versions of multiple game franchises. The top three most mentioned games were Minecraft (85% of households), followed by Grand Theft Auto (65%), and then World of Warcraft (42%). Almost two-thirds (64%) of the 39 children played M-rated games and over three-quarters (77%) played T-rated games. None of the children in the study were old enough to purchase M-rated games and only 31% of the 39 children were old enough to purchase T-rated games.
Video Game Devices
Participants played console, computer, and mobile/tablet games equally (88%). Handheld games (58%), followed by web-based (38%), and then educational (35%) rounded out the list. Over three quarters of all 26 households (77%) used some sort of cloud gaming services such as Steam, Origin, Xbox Live, or PlayStation Network. All households downloaded games digitally, whereas only about three-quarters (77%) still bought physical game media.
Video Game Spaces
The majority of game spaces (58%) were publicly shared spaces with the family. Very few (8% of all households) had completely private spaces where stationary devices such as computer towers or consoles were located in children’s rooms. The remaining households (35%) had mixed game spaces due to the use of portable electronics such as laptops, handhelds, and mobile/tablet devices. The majority of households (69%) had some sort of time restrictions placed on video game play; however, less than half of them (39%) considered them to be strict rules.
An overwhelming majority of the 26 households (92%) performed some sort of assessment on video games before their children were allowed to play them. Almost all of the 26 households (92%) discussed video game content with their children, and most (85%) stated they knew their children to self-regulate and/or they trusted their children to only play the games of which they knew their parents approved.
Almost three-quarters of the 26 households (73%) watched their children play video games and many (69%) played video games with their children. Over half (54%) of the 26 households allowed their children access to the Internet to either play online video games such as massively multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPG i.e., World of Warcraft) which can only be played online, or to play standard multiplayer video games with others online.
You can read about the key findings here. Answers to my specific research questions will be in a different post.
It was mentioned to me that I should update this blog to reflect the fact that I have finally finished my PhD! It only took me 6 years or so, but to be fair I also got married, had twins, and moved to Hawaii in the middle of all of that. So overall, not too shabby of a timeline given those variables.
If you’re looking to get a PhD or in the process of attaining one and you’d like to chat or commiserate, feel free to hit me up on Twitter or in the comments here.
If you’re interested in video games and research in that domain, I’ll be posting results of my study for my dissertation in the days to come!
These are some notes I put together for my team last year. They are based off of a few books I was reading at the time and when I can remember those, I’ll post them for reference. We never made use of these due to reasons other than want and need, but others made find them useful.
These are just notes. Feel free to fill in any gaps as needed or ask questions if you have any.
Creating a User Experience Strategy
An experience strategy is a guide for verticals / projects to be referred back to and updated as the vertical and/or project matures. It is a way to maintain focus on the end goal, providing the user with an experience, and is to be shared with and used by everyone on the team. For our purposes, they would likely live in confluences and our bullets would be numbered so we can refer to a specific portion of it when needed. Personas and journey maps as well as other UX artifacts (research before release / usability tests after the fact) would be parts of the experience strategy.
A strong plan will guide decisions about how the business executes, maintains, and manages experiences to create value for the customers and the business. These should be invested in and managed as well as cultivated and nurtured. A strong experience strategy not only makes it clear what to do, but also what NOT to do.
An expression of the experience you hope customers will have. A statement.
Bulleted list of experience requirements (not ui / developer requirements, not tasks / goals – it’s all about the EXPERIENCE)
user behavior, motivations, context, meaning
usefulness / desirableness
how does it help the user accomplish what they want to get done
how is it (or can be) different / innovative
What do people want to accomplish?
How does this activity fit into their lives?
How can we help deliver on those desires?
Hypothesis based on
personas – which are project based, but stem from our basic set
research – which is project based, but builds on all other research – must be actionable and durable
previous testing – which can come from anywhere, but should help craft project based
Against user stories
With Users / Analytics
Iterate and Evolve:
Take all previous information, build on it, then start over if needed.
Strategy should bring clarity and should act as a sign post to show the company where ewe are going and what we need to do to get there.
Consider making it visual when possible.
Leveling Information – so we all start out with the same definitions.
activities in which people engage
drive and shape behaviors
– understanding the basic drives that lead people to do certain things in certain contexts
help provide meaning to the motivations
learn by doing
worthwhile? important? necessary? required? needed? changes based on context and motivation
A user’s experience emerges from:
Perception is preceded by sensation and followed by cognition if bottom up, if bottom down – then knowledge influences everything (Gestalt).
Ability – consider memory, it includes sensory (get attention), working and encoding (requires heavy attention), long-term and retention (storage). Recall falls off dramatically after 1 day – this is an issue for users who do not / would not / don’t need to / shouldn’t have to – interact with us or a particular tool / experience on a daily basis. Always something to consider. Reduce memory load / ability requirement whenever possible.
Flow – form follows function. Affordance means there is no need to learn. Avoid multi-usability (modes).
Form hypothesis – test hypothesis whenever possible early and then test again with analytics later. (See my pyramid)
Users / Personas in terms of behaviors, motivations, context and meaning:
Who? – are they
What? – do they need, want, use, are they trying to accomplish and is there a better way to do it
Why? – do they need it, want it, use it, like it, dislike it
Where? – do they need it, want it, use it, expect to find it / access it
How? – do they need it, want it, use it, does it fit into their workflow
Theories should be as simple as possible, but no simpler.
Acknowledge and embrace the complexity
Look for differentiators here – avoid parity, novelty, and trying to “be the best” at everything – just boil it down to the essentials, and then go a step further into the murky and complex chaos of the user until you come out on the other side with something that resonates with the users behaviors and motivations while considering the context and meaning
I think one of the things people fail to realize about the possibility of this Apple backdoor is that it not only has implications for us as Americans, but also for people all over the world.
Consider what doing this would mean for people who live their daily lives in danger when the only protection afforded to them or their loved ones may be the fact that their privacy is secure and their data encrypted.
Consider what it may mean for journalists or whistle blowers.
Many people all over the world only access the Internet through mobile devices. It’s all they can afford. They may even make their living doing so. What if that was taken away because it was no longer considered secure?
Consider everything you have done with your devices knowing they are secure and what may change in your life if at some point it no longer was.
It’s World Anthropology Day. I challenge everyone to look around the world a little differently today to see if they can empathize with people who live in situations completely different from their own. I challenge you to consider what your life would be like if your privacy no longer existed and you had to live in fear – this is reality for so many.
I get a few inquiries each semester from students looking for information on how to get into user experience design, especially those with an anthropology background. I generally try to respond to each of these separately as they each have their own perspective and needs, however, this semester I am trying to get my dissertation defended on top of my every day job as a UXD (which is getting more complicated by the minute). So, rather than leave these unanswered, I am providing a public response here that includes the most common things I share. If you have comments or questions, please leave them! It will be easier for me to respond to those here than individual emails and you may help someone else who has a similar inquiry.
Thank you for reaching out to me. Let me start out by saying that having a background in anthropology will lend itself greatly to UX design, however, it is only one part. My suggestion is to consider opportunities where you will be asked to learn to program or script (even just HTML/CSS) and have real users use what you create. This is not necessarily where your career path as a UXD will take you, but creating something, having users use it, and then having to “fix” it to make it better for them, will provide you with insight that no degree program will ever do.
After that, I suggest looking into classes in cognitive psychology and information architecture or information behavior. Adding those to your anthropology perspective will help you find out what users want and then understand what they really need – which may be two separate things. 😉
As for internships, consider looking into the agency world. What I mean by that is marketing/creative agencies that do campaigns for other companies. Not that you want to go into marketing, I prefer the high tech/application world myself, but it allows you to see how UX is applied to multiple groups of people and projects in a short amount of time. A lot of times you can find UXD or IA (information architecture) opportunities – both of which would be beneficial to you.
I also suggest looking into these authors: Steve Krug, Don Norman, Jakob Nielsen, Jesse James Garrett, Luke Wroblewski, Lois Rosenfield, and Peter Morville (These are just off the top of my head, they will give you a good introduction to user experience design – but there are plenty more out there to learn from!)
And I suggest taking a look at the UX Slack channel that has UXers from all over the world lending their perspectives to the field (and it may lead to internship opportunities).
I hope that helps!
There is a lot that could be added to this, however, I feel it is a great place for people to start. I definitely recommend everyone going into user experience design have some sort of programming or scripting background where people have had to use what you create. My biggest failure as a developer led me to becoming a UXD and in my particular field I use skills I learned as a systems administrator/developer all the time. Not that I do those things anymore, but my past experiences and my understanding of those things definitely help inform me how to make those things easier for others to do. And really, that’s the best part of being an anthropologist and a UXD – being able to use your own experiences to inform your designs. That is, after all, what participant observation is all about!
To learn more about my professional experience, please visit my design and ethnography site.
p.s. This may be edited and updated as I have time. If you have questions/comments – please post them!
So, my last post was in February, and there is a very good reason for that. That was the month I got my IRB approval for my dissertation research and the same month my husband left for a nine-month tour in Korea. So, here I’ve been working full-time, being a full-time mom and working on my dissertation.
The working title for my information science dissertation so far is Understanding Parental Information Behavior in Assessing Video Game Content for their Children: An Ethnographic Study. I’ll be using ethnographic methods similar to the ones I used for my Masters thesis including both in-person and virtual semi-structured interviews with parents, an online survey, and observing parents shopping for video games. You can learn more about it at ResearchingVideoGames.
I’m currently analyzing my interviews and will be seeking approval IRB approval for my survey as the fall semester begins. If you are a parent of a child who plays video games and is between the ages of 4 and 17, feel free to email me at researchingvideogames [@] gmail in order to be notified when the survey becomes available. As a parent, you don’t have to be a gamer to participate.
I shall now return you to your regularly scheduled broadcasts!