We focus on getting real data from real gamers. Our experience with video game usability testing helps us to design studies that produce meaningful data along with actionable solutions. Check out the information below to see how video game usability testing can benefit your company, then contact us to see how we can help you achieve your goals.
How does video game usability testing differ from normal usability testing?
Software, hardware, websites and video games all can benefit from standard usability testing. Each has an interface that must clearly and quickly inform the user as to how they interact with the game/application. Each also has a set of inputs, be it a keyboard or controller, that must in some manner reflect the expectations that the user has for interacting with the game/application. These inputs, controllers and configurations should be intuitive so that users can complete basic tasks early on and with little to no instruction. But whereas standard usability focuses on making things consistent and easy to use, video games must challenge the player and provide unique experiences in order to be fun. In these instances fun can be equated to video game usability (i.e., a useable game is a fun game).
Video game usability testing has multiple applications. On one hand, it can be used to look at the interface and controls in a manner similar to usability for applications like Microsoft Word. On the other, video game usability testing can be conducted to evaluate the playability and enjoyment players experience when interacting with the game. This second application is important, because the application of usability techniques and testing must account for the inherent differences in use between games and applications.
Doesn’t the QA department handle video game usability testing?
QA plays a crucial role in video game development, but the questions that get answered by this department are different than those answered by video game usability testing. QA typically answers the WHAT about games: in-game bugs, gameplay issues, enjoyment issues, etc. QA rarely, however, identifies WHY these things are issues or HOW they should be addressed. Video game usability testing is structured in a way that not only allows for the WHY and HOW to be answered, but also promotes the identification of unique solutions to any issues identified during testing. When used in conjunction with the information garnered from QA testing, video game usability testing becomes very powerful.
In addition, QA testers play the game throughout the development cycle, potentially biasing their analysis of the game near the end of development. Video game usability testing utilizes real gamers (and fresh eyes) for each round of testing, thereby eliminating the potential for expert bias.
When can video game usability testing be conducted?
Video game usability testing can (and should) be conducted early and often. When a game enters Beta (and sometimes Alpha) stages it is usually too late to make any useful changes if a large issue is identified during video game usability testing. Testing conducted early in development can use low fidelity techniques (e.g. images, videos) to identify barriers to entry and test out ideas or concepts. As development progresses, video game usability testing can be conducted with sections of the game to evaluate general gameplay mechanics and features. In later stages of development, video game usability testing can be more focused to provide more detail about specific parts of the game.
How can 8-bit Bear help with video game usability testing?
At 8-bit Bear, we recognize and account for the differences between standard usability testing and video game usability testing. We adapt our video game usability testing regiment so that the right tasks are being completed and the right questions are being asked. This leads to better data, which in turn leads to better solutions for issues that detract from the fun of a game. For more information on the differences between standard usability testing and video game usability testing see our white paper on Video Game Usability Testing (PDF) and our presentation entitled Video Game Usability Testing: Answering the Why (PDF).