Incentivizing Positive Behavior
FEATURE CONCEPT FOR A BETTER GAMING CULTURE
Project Type: UI/UX Design, Mobile App Feature Development
Team Members: Andrew Ma, Miguel Bryan Juteau, Porfirio Moreno, Sara Pope, Zephyr Schwartz
Role: UX Researcher, Concept and Prototype Developer, Videographer
Gamers these days are very savvy and need features that could elevate and support their play sessions. My mission was to help Activision ideate social features to keep players engaged with the game and each other.
Discovered User Problem
Toxic culture is the bane of minority players’ (non-white, non-male, unskilled) gaming experience in competitive titles such as Call of Duty. On top of that, there is lack of interaction and support to help new players learn the game and build communities.
COD Leadership is a feature that allows engagement between players of all skill levels. Beginners get the chance to learn how to play the game from seasoned players.
The goal is to create more empathy between gamers of different skill levels that would extend outside of the feature and become part of the culture within Call of Duty.
I started my process by conducting stakeholder interviews with a set of questions that was geared towards getting to know more about Activision’s main goals for the companion app, who their users are and how they were using the app. I learned that their main focus is on the social aspect of the companion app and how we could increase the interactions between players and come up with ways they can work, play and socialize together. The new feature also shouldn’t interfere or be too dependent on the in-game experience which is made by another company because this was something they wanted to do independently and have ownership of. While the data given was useful, it wasn’t enough to frame a problem statement so I consulted the interwebs to conduct further research about the current players as well as play the game to immerse myself in the world of Call of Duty.
User Interview Summary
While interviewing gamers to gather their thoughts on their current experience with the companion app and the game, we found out that:
- toxic behavior was a common theme that they were experiencing when it came to playing competitive games against other players.
- there was lack of support from the app to facilitate communication between players.
According to Online Research
Of all the research I’ve read, I was really fascinated with the first one that raised the idea of incentivizing positive interaction to create a less toxic gaming environment. In the article, the author talked about developers unknowingly fostering toxicity through the interactions they choose to create and incentivize in the game. Summary of research insights:
- Focus on creating positive interactions in the game should become a focus and a standard in order to prevent toxic behavior in the game.
- Playing with friends is a consistent predictor of continuing to play the game, in both the short-term and the long-term for players at all levels of experience.
- Players (of different levels or skill) in competitive and strategy based games share feelings of interdependence and place value in teamwork and collaboration if they want to win.
To help me build up my concept, I developed a How Might We Statement to serve as a guide for further research and concept development.
How might we change the negative culture and interactions that are driving new recruits away from the game so that we could instead focus on facilitating these casual connections towards lasting friendships?
Other Research Methods
- This method provided me with ideas for content that players could use to support their experience in game.
- Some aesthetic details might have been prioritized over the app’s usability.
- Heavy use of emphasis which does not sit well with the white font and dark background.
- The hierarchy is also not clear with how content is laid out and stacked.
- Finally, although communication is important in this type of game, the companion app does not have any means of interacting between players.
- Forum participants were generally very helpful and detailed. There are players out there willing to sit down to play with you and help you get over the learning curve.
There are disabled players who can’t play the game. CoD lacks accessibility features especially in their companion app.
Not everyone is as bad, one bad game can be used to paint a bad image for the whole gaming community.
To capture ideas floating around my head before it got away, I participated in these activities (Abstraction Laddering and Get to the Bottom of the Stack) to question these concepts and to delve deeper in each one and formulate quick solutions in order to inspire more creative solutions.
One main theme that resonated with a lot of people was the idea of incorporating roles in team dynamics.
Validation and Pivot
Considering all the data I’ve received so far, my first concept was geared towards creating communication accessibility that took shape in the form of an accessible voice chat feature that allowed it’s users to have a gender neutral voice when speaking through the app. The goal was to take out the preconceived notions of players on the receiving end in order to focus on the game and the player’s skill. Although this was an interesting concept, I had to pivot to a new direction because I received feedback regarding difficulty in implementation as well as it did not really tackle the core problem within the toxic culture in CoD.
It is a good sign that the concept was chosen to move forward for further iteration. The final outcome that I presented was a concept for a feature for Activision’s companion app that is built on the premise of mentorship and community. The feature to allow players to become leaders and mentors to teach beginners while allowing novices to learn from veterans how to play the game aligns well with the idea of incentivizing more positive interactions within the game. A long term goal that I had in mind while ideating on the concept was for players to be able to build communities of their own and possibly foster more understanding of other players who have different skill levels or backgrounds.
Although it was well received, it didn’t escape the feedback portion of the presentation. One of the main questions that was raised was how could someone qualify and be labeled as a mentor as well as how can we verify that they really do have sufficient skills to teach newcomers? Another one is what are their incentives or motivations to join the initiative? Finally, there was problem with too much features/actions that was added that really didn’t communicate or standout well during the presentation.
Moving forward with my newly formed team, we will be focusing on how we could flesh out the main idea and experiment on what form it will take. We will also place emphasis on the user’s journey and motivation to really figure out a way to entice players to take time out of their gaming sessions to help and interact with others. Finally, we will strive to get validation from CoD players to see if the feature makes sense or if it something that they would actually use.
In terms of takeaways, mine is how to navigate through a very ambiguous challenge paired with guard rails to limit what type of interactions could be done. Working by myself in the beginning was tought as I did not have anyone to bounce ideas off. I was fortunate enough to have a great set of cohort to work with me to mold the idea. Although it was hard, I think it was fun because it openned the space for me to think through the information that I had and come up with something that was more meaningful for the community that I first thought of. What I liked most about it is the feeling of validation when I someone actually reads your intentions without telling them. According to one user, it has the potential to build communities and have those different groups interact with one another through competitions, games, etc.
Finally, constant communication was really what helped me get through this project. Whenever I had a quetion that I wasn’t sure of, I asked my peers, professors, and Activision for guidance and they were all generous enough to lend me their thoughts.