Deceptive Perception of User Experienceby@farzam
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Deceptive Perception of User Experience

by FarzamMarch 28th, 2023
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Developers can use questions such as "Did you like..." or "How did you feel when..." to gather feedback from gamers during playtesting sessions. However, these conventional survey questions may not provide a comprehensive understanding of the user experience, and their answers may be inaccurate and misleading. Neuropsychology can help developers distinguish between emotions and feelings.
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How Neuroscience can help Video Game Developers?

Playtesting and FTUE tests (First Time User Experience) have been an essential component of game development processes for a significant period. Developers invest considerable time and resources in this process to determine the game's appeal to the intended audience. However, this activity has its advantages and disadvantages, which can be misleading and even harmful to the project.

As a game developer, if you are using a questionnaire to gather feedback from gamers during playtesting sessions, you may want to consider using questions that start with phrases such as "Did you like..." or "How did you feel when..." or "Did you understand..." While these conventional survey questions seem straightforward, they may not provide a comprehensive understanding of the user experience, and their answers may be inaccurate and misleading.

To understand why this is the case, it's important to delve into the field of neuropsychology and distinguish between emotions and feelings. By doing so, we can better understand how to construct effective playtesting surveys that accurately capture users' experiences.

In normal conversations, the terms "emotion" and "feeling" are frequently utilized interchangeably. However, this is erroneous, as they are not synonymous. The dissimilarities between the two can be subdivided into two categories: time and self-awareness. Emotions are quick neurochemical responses to stimuli, lasting for brief periods of a few hundred milliseconds, and can't be recognized by oneself. Conversely, feelings are emotions in their saturated form, exhibiting enduring impacts and prolonged duration. Moreover, individuals are capable of identifying and articulating their feelings.

Games are immersive experiences that intertwine with players' emotions and feelings. Every action a player takes triggers a small change in their brain state, which in turn elicits an emotional response. The combination of these emotions over time shapes the player's overall feeling, allowing them to express happiness, sadness, excitement, and even more complex emotions.

The primary, secondary, and tertiary emotions

However, while there are a few basic emotions, like joy, sadness, and anger, there are also other hybrid emotions that are more challenging to recognize and express and may be easily conflated with surrounding emotions. Frustration and confusion are examples of such hybrid emotions, which can be difficult to disentangle from the other emotions experienced during gameplay. Consequently, players may seem to be in control and to understand all the game elements, when in reality, they are partially experiencing confusion, and as a summary of all the different emotions, some of them would be masked.

This presents a challenge when it comes to using surveys to gauge players' experiences. Surveys may heavily mislead the development team, marketing professionals, and managers making strategic decisions, as players' responses may not accurately reflect their true emotions. As such, it is crucial to consider the limitations of survey-based research when analyzing players' emotions and experiences.

After a long period of developing a Neuroanalytics service, we finally had the opportunity to record a substantial amount of players' brainwaves using EEG devices during playtesting sessions. The results were astonishing.

We recorded +100 gameplay sessions and we asked players to rate their experience and answer questions about their feelings throughout different parts of the game. We discovered a significant disparity between the players’ self-perceived emotions and the emotions we collected from their brainwaves and by evaluating the emotions captured from brainwaves by rewatching the gameplay footage and analyzing the player’s behavior in the game in more than 90% of the cases, the feelings extracted from the brainwave readings matched those observed by watching the recorded gameplay footage.

During one of our services to a client with a mobile F2P MOBA game, an intriguing situation arose. The game developer, having previously released a successful game, had developed a new game with improved visuals and game design. Despite a smooth onboarding process and a reasonable churn rate in the new game, the conversion rate in the second and third stages of the game was not rational when compared to the previous game. The developer was puzzled and could not understand the cause of this discrepancy.

After we conducted sufficient testing with numerous individuals, a pattern emerged, discovering that many players were confused while upgrading their hero in the game’s upgrade menu. Despite answering the survey questions affirmatively, most of these players did not fully comprehend the upgrade mechanism through the complex UI. They had been following the tutorial instructions blindly without a complete understanding of why they were doing what they were doing or how it would affect their gameplay.

This led to a broken monetization system within the core loop, which had been designed based on hero upgrades. The developer was struggling to solve problems that did not exist, causing the system to become more complex.

Upon realizing this, the developer initiated an AB test between the original and a new menu design. Although the new menu was less sophisticated than the initial design, it was more straightforward and contained more visual hints. As expected, the new conversion metrics improved significantly, and the second game became a new success story.

Complicated before, Simple after

There are many instances in our daily lives where we encounter situations that illustrate the impact of our biased and subjective perceptions on our experiences. For example, consider the case of dining out at a restaurant where the ambiance and overall vibe can greatly influence our perception of the food, whether positively or negatively.

Such occurrences serve to highlight the fact that our human nature tends to alter our perceptions, leading to an altered and biased viewpoint of our experiences. This phenomenon underscores the importance of striving for objectivity and unbiasedness in our evaluations, particularly when making important decisions.

Taking into consideration the gravity of a misstep in the classic development cycle, one can easily grasp the adverse impact it can have on a game IP's expected finances and reputation.

Classic Development Cycle

Design by Neuroanalytics is a cutting-edge approach to game development and is meant to be the future of the industry. It is likely that big and successful teams are already using in-house solutions to implement it. As game developers, our ultimate goal is to create better games to enlighten the players as well as generating a positive financial outcome. And it is difficult to envision this future without state-of-the-art Neuroanalytics tools helping game developers and also other digital content creators.

Disclaimer: Although similar to the original image, some of the images used in this article are AI-generated to avoid potential copyright infringement.