Date: October 5, 2005
John P. Davis, — Microsoft Game Studio

Imagine hearing an MS Word user say “Creating a form letter was easy, but it wasn’t very fun,” or an Excel user say “I completed the pivot tables, but it just wasn’t challenging enough!” Maximizing the fun and making a software product appropriately challenging are not issues most user researchers have to worry about, but they are the core concerns in the development of good games. In the Games User Research group at Microsoft Game Studios (MGS), the goal is to gather information from consumers to identify and fix issues in games that prevent consumers from experiencing the fun. If this mission sounds straightforward, consider that games pride themselves on—and distinguish themselves from the competition by—being cutting edge and unique.

These are qualities that tend to strike fear into the hearts of many user researchers because they defy the use of consistent, generalizable principles for making products more accommodating to consumers’ needs and desires. The group has had to adapt accordingly, developing cutting edge (or at least abrading edge) methods to gather useful information from consumers to help make games more fun and playable.

About the speaker
John Davis is a member of the Games User Research Group at Microsoft Game Studios. John has worked in the user research field for about eight years and has conducted user research with thousands of gamers, and summarized thousands of hours of gameplay. Before coming to the games user testing group, John was a Usability Engineer in the Social Computing Group (SCG) at Microsoft Research, where he conducted research to explore various social dimensions of computer-mediated communication and decision making. Before joining Microsoft, he was an assistant professor of Psychology at Seattle University. John earned his B.S. in Psychology from Texas A & M University (yes, he is an Aggie) and his Ph.D. in Experimental Social and Personality Psychology from the University of Washington.