This morning I’ve read the article published on the NNG website on Attitudinal vs. Behavioral Research in UX. In the article, the author summarises attitudes and behaviour and UX methods. This is interesting from the perspective of measuring these two ‘datasets’. For instance, attitudes would include a lot of self-reported data and behaviour would include more observational data. When I was doing my PhD, I’ve looked at these approaches carefully from consumer and player viewpoints. There are a lot of articles and models out there, that particularly link attitudes to behaviour and that sometimes one doesn’t imply the other. For instance, cognitive dissonance is a live example of that. As part of making things simpler, we tend to look for simplicity and familiar interfaces. But cognitive dissonance creates friction. There are some aesthetics of friction that can be part of that. According to the authors of the Aesthetics of Friction, this approach is behavioural and manipulated by choices given to the user.

But what does it mean for games UX? Well, this can be more complicated. Since games are dynamic, players get feedback quite quickly. Game analytics measure player behaviour, and most of the time these are done via game telemetry data. This means that player behaviour might be at times disconnected from player attitudes, due to the nature of the data collection method. This is because measuring behaviour looks more ‘quantitative’ and the attitudes are more ‘qualitative’ (in a nutshell and very simplified form!). Thus, mixing both can be a good alternative to understanding what and why about your game. But games go beyond ‘product design’. Games are like live organisms and might mean different things to different people. Thus, because of that, while combining attitude and behaviour in terms of playing a game, we may need a different/adapted approach. For instance, a game designer might say that creating friction and discomfort is indeed part of the experience; therefore, the results and data collection method need to be revised and aligned with the game intent. And this might have something to do with the questions we ask while conducting a gameplay study. This is difficult because in games a lot will happen in terms of behaviour via player embodiment. So perhaps the way to look at it is through the lens of qualitative behaviour; and more on studying (and redefining) player experience. As much as analytics can show numbers and quantitative engagement, I wonder if that suppresses creativity and game design intent. We may want to continue recipes of games that work and are profitable, but maybe this is because analytics show the games work and generate income. But maybe more experimental games can do the same if we find ways to understand player experience.

While having this reflection, I came across this paper on games and quantum physics. Because the game changes us and we change the game (if we can – I guess here it depends on how much agency is given to players) at the same time. For game UX, in particular, this can be fascinating and it can bring a brand new area for the field to explore and understand. And this is why – perhaps – player experience might need to be redefined. So far I will continue my readings and perhaps update this post as soon as I can. Note: I am not a game studies scholar but this can be the approach needed to revise some of current UX practices in games design.

Some (current) reading:

Fizek, S., 2022. Playing at a Distance: Borderlands of Video Game Aesthetic. MIT Press.

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