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I'm currently working on a DPhil in HCT at the University of Sussex. This section of the website is for an on-going 'learning diary', for me to write my thoughts and notes on various courses and my thesis.

Entries in self-promotion (6)

Tuesday
Feb262013

They played it!

The lab group. They played our game! For real!

Well, kind of. Actually, we only got through two seasons (well, and the intro). In about an hour and a bit. Clearly there are some issues there, as I seriously expected it would take a maximum of about 15 minutes per season. But we had 8 people logged on simultaneously, and it did not fall down in a big heap. 

I'm not claiming there weren't errors. Mostly they were fixed by either trying to do the thing again (I really need to check my hibernate stuff, there were unclosed transactions all over the shop and I really thought I'd caught all of them) or restarting the flash player. That's clearly not acceptable, but for the first time we've ever run it as a group I'll take that. 

There was a lot of feedback around the (lack of) feedback - which I was aware of, but not quite aware how pervasive it was. I know this game intimately, it's so hard for me to work out what a new player won't know. There was also a lot of clicking on things that aren't buttons, and mis-reading things that are (exit and home didn't actually mean what people thought they meant). I still don't have drop-downs working 100% well.

So much useful stuff to see and take on board, so much coding to do! But that is a really big step. I think we've been at this for 2.5 years now, from the very first paper sketches of the screens, to our PowerPoint prototype with the Flintstones as our family members, to a static flash prototype and now finally to people logging in and playing. Quite a long journey, and a lot of code. 

What I'm most pleased about was the buzz in the group. They wanted to get past the issues, they wanted to keep playing. I have had this nagging doubt in the back of my mind that even if we made this work we would actually be creating a game that noone wants to play. So if nothing else, I am hugely reassured that this is not the case. 

I guess the next big step will be throwing that in front of people we don't know, who don't know how much effort has gone in or have to talk to us next day. I think it would be nice to iterate and show the group again, and see if we can get that playing time down. I still think that 15 mintues per season is do-able. Just need to improve that interface! 

Wednesday
Feb132013

CHI!

I got a workshop paper accepted at CHI! Looks like I'll be attending the workshop for Designing and Evaluating Sociability in Online Games

I'm pretty excited. I've really enjoyed the conferences I've been to so far, particularly the workshop I attended at Fun and Games. This looks like it's right in my area, so I'm bound to get some interesting (possibly painful? I'm trying to see it all as useful, good or bad) feedback. It will be good to meet people working in this area too. 

Of course, then I looked at the price of the conference. Oooooch. That's the bit people don't mention so much. Still, academia and research demand publishing, conferences are the best way to meet other academics, it needs to be done. So the money will be found, the Eurostar will be booked, and accomodation will be sorted. At least I'm on the right continent for this one! 

(Probably not looking at staying in the campsite in the Bois de Boulogne in late April - tent and Brompton might be a cheap option, but there are limits.)

But yay! CHI! 

Thursday
May312012

I won!

You know how I wrote up my research in plain English post? Well, I got the prize! I know it was just a random draw, but a prize is a prize is a prize. 

Just need to decide what to spend it on now... Probably a stats book the way things are going, and since they all look rather pricy this will definitely help to soften the blow!

Thursday
May102012

In plain English

The Sussex Library has a special area called the Research Hive for graduates and researchers. In theory it's supposed to be a collaborative space, but in practice it tends to be a very quiet area! They also put on different events and workshops for students. Currently they are 'inviting' (some might say challenging!) doctoral researchers to write about their research in plain English - or at least plain enough for someone outside their discipline to understand. And there's a slim chance of £15 of Amazon vouchers! Naturally I had to give it a go.

We all know that game play can be massively altered by the rules of the game. For example, deliberately kicking the ball off the pitch in rugby (where returning the ball to the field of play gives either team a chance of winning the ball back) is a much more acceptable practice than in football (where the team who last touched the ball is disadvantaged). Do the rules also change the way we feel about our fellow players?  
 
I am part of a project team that is trying to create an online multiplayer game based on two board games. These board games have very different rules around the way that players relate to each other. I am hoping to use aspects of social identity theory to analyse these rule differences and predict the effects on the game players. Social identity theory examines the effects different group situations have on the individual's commitment to that group. For example, if people cannot change their group membership they identify more strongly with that group even if the group is not doing well. In one of our games, players are able to change teams whilst in the other they can't. This suggests that players should bond together more strongly in the game where they can't.
 
I am aiming to test the two board games and also make two versions of the online game, which will hopefully allow me to compare the effects of these rule differences in both face-to-face and online situations. Ultimately this will allow us to choose the most appropriate set of rules for our game, as well as showing that we can use findings from other disciplines to shape social interactions in a game.
What do you think? Plain enough? English enough?! Too many commas is my normal problem! Actually, it took me longer than I thought it would to come up with that. Kind of sounds a bit too simple now. 
There are things afoot here, studies in the offing and things like the annual review on the horizon. Plenty to keep my little brain whirring, and hopefully more to post about very soon.

 

 

Monday
Oct032011

Presenting style

There's a kind of meta game to going to conferences, and that's looking at presentation styles and slide design. Looking back over my notes from multi.player, I have left myself all sorts of comments about the speed of the presentation, the slide design, the slide contents etc. 

More recently I went to dConstruct, which is not an academic conference. It aims to be an inspirational one, with a theme to talk around rather than a specific technology to discuss and learn about. The speakers are professionals who also do a lot of presenting at conferences. I found it fascinating to see the differences in approach.

By and large, the slides were much better at dConstruct (granted at a design-oriented conference you'd hope for good slide design). There was less reliance on them, and less data displayed. In Don Norman's case, he didn't use slides at all and I don't think the presentation suffered for that. In Matthew Sheret's talk, the slides and more particularly how he moved between them (he'd hacked a toy sonic screwdriver) were a key part of the talk, but didn't distract from what he was saying. 

On the other hand, the academics had a much more rigid structure to their talks that in at least a few cases made them much clearer than those at dConstruct: 

 

  1. Background of topic
  2. Research questions coming from that background
  3. Methodology used to explore research questions
  4. Results and discussion.

 

Just like a paper, or a poster, or... well, most academic presentation I guess! 

So what have I learnt? From my time with American Express as well as what I've seen at conferences, I try to put as little as possible on my slides. They should not make sense without me there to talk around them. Putting tables of data on the slides doesn't work because a) it's almost impossible to make them legible and b) they distract people from what I'm saying. Use slides to show people things you can't say, so a picture (SINGLE picture, easy to see), not necessarily quotes. Have a structure so you know what your overall story is, although perhaps make it slightly less obvious in the talk than standing there and reading through it. 

Stylistically, dark backgrounds with light text is more robust if your room is too light. Talk at a reasonable pace, not everyone speaks English as a native and there's no need to pound people. Stay on topic - random 'surprise' slides are only really funny once. Test any tech on a machine other than the one you created the presentation on, just to make sure.

I think you have two goals as a conference presenter. You are trying to be interesting and informative (and I mean you, not your slides). If I can crack that, I'll be doing well!