What is research at home?
Research at home is one of the common methods in games user research, and respondents are interviewed individually in their homes.
Complex projects with more content, or research projects that need to be tested in specific settings
① Selecting and communicating with those surveyed in advance, as well as interviewing in a familiar environment, creates a higher degree of cooperation from respondents and a better match with target users.
② Relatively long time and a large amount of information gained from the environment is suitable for the relatively complex survey.
③ Observing the home environment could assist to help with the authenticity of the interviewee's background and response.
1. Why we need research at home in games user research
People create the environment, meanwhile the environment influences and shapes people. Before starting a game as a player, game users first have their own life, work, and community, and all of these environments may have an influence on their decisions in the game. In the past UX research practice, there are numerous methods that have proven effective to be applied to various stages of game development, such as conducting early demo tests in the demo stage to judge the game's potential; inviting players to conduct lab playtests to experience the latest version and give feedback after the gameplay has been determined ...
These researches are more or less in an unfamiliar environment, where the testers set up hypotheses, use methods to communicate with players about the game and come up with convincing answers within a pre-defined framework. This can solve some of the problems of game development, but it also relies on deeper analysis if we need to know the underlying logic behind players' decisions. To truly understand the player's thoughts, insight into his living environment is necessary. This environment refers to a rich range. To put it more broadly, it is the social environment, the urban atmosphere, but it also includes more detailed places such as the home, workplace, the campus, etc.
The primary reason why research at home ir recommended for game developers is that players are unique and developers can't exactly imagine what their players are like. A developer must be one of the players of this game, but not necessarily the most typical user of this game, and based on limited information, the developers can't exactly describe what the target user looks like.
Take a relatively common phenomenon for example many studios are located in developed cities. In the big cities and fast-paced living environment, it is easy to imagine what a city white-collar wants to get from the game: playing one while waiting for the bus or subway, and playing with friends to learn the latest strategy? But it may be difficult for developers in big cities to imagine, what players in industrial areas are playing, in the brightly lit Internet cafes at 12 a.m., and what are their criteria for selecting games.
"This is a game with anime art style, what are the players who like animations like in their lives?"
"Our game will be launched in China soon, what are the characteristics of Chinese players? What are the differences between players in other cities and players in Shanghai?"
"Our game was first launched ten years ago, the initial players have moved from campus to workplace, starting their family, so have their living environment and gaming preferences changed accordingly? "
Developers should not be limited to their own life circles; for developers, awareness of the uniqueness of players is a big plus.
People are very different from each other, players have complex behavioral logic and emotional needs, and we can't simply apply their data to others. We are able to outline a player image as much as possible through multiple research methods, but no one method is comprehensive enough, and the data obtained indirectly may be inadequate.
We can easily obtain some user profiles, such as 30-40 year old, male, sports lover... but does such a description allow us to clearly imagine how a man actually performs his preferences in his life and how this preference affects his gaming choices?
2. What does research at home bring to game developers?
If we do not think about why and how players play games, but just immediately begin developing latest version after another, this will sometimes make the game more and more deviate from players' expectations.
While the developers were able to recreate the player's usual device configuration in the test lab, in the user's home we are able to directly see his usual settings, be in his home and feel his mood while playing the game. Furthermore, we can know how he plays the game with his family together, what they usually talk about during the game, and what possible contingencies could happen during the playing process.
Many people have always attached great importance to family relations, and we have heard players mention their families many times: "My child is still young, so I can't play violent games when staying with him/her during the daytime, and I play only after the child goes to bed."
Getting into the player's home enables us to directly perceive the player's real gaming conditions, and directly correlate his life state with his gaming decisions.
Another advantage of research at home is that it helps developers get to know the minor player group, those who have difficulty coming to our locations. These potential players include but are not limited to: people who work locally and can't easily leave, people with physical disabilities that difficult to move around, online streamers whose home is also their studio, people whose work/living environment is unique, etc. The covid situation changed people's habits and the work-from-home mode has led to more and more users spending more time at home.
In addition to game developers, community managers and marketers can all gain inspiration from the player environment. How are the players in the countryside enter the game and should they be considered differently in terms of marketing? What we call "research at home" is not necessarily only the player's home, as long as the place where he often plays games: perhaps the workplace, Internet cafe...etc
In the shop that a player runs
Research at home can be applied as a research method in all stages of game development.
3. How to design research at home?
In fact, once you accept that doing research at home with players is a viable and necessary option, it won't be hard to figure out exactly how to conduct it; there are overall 3 main things that need to be done.
As with all research, you need to determine the purpose and subject of the research to recruit players (city, work environment, family characteristics, gaming background, etc.), prepare relevant materials (recruitment plan, confirm research process, interview outline, etc.), enrich the list of questions you want to know as much as possible, listen to the player, and play the game together with him would also be a good choice.
If you think your team is small and hard to invite the right people? Then start with those recommended by your friends, it won't be too hard to start.