Are you hoping to find a very cool and very exciting copy of Red Dead Redemption 2, Celeste, Spider-Man, or Super Mario Party inside a pretty little box? What about a stimulating and insightful research game? I think I know the answer to that but digital games and online research have a lot in common when you think about the challenges they both face.

Feasibility challenges

Both game designers and research designers must plan for a wide range of devices that their users will employ but the decision-making process isn’t simply one of whether the game or research tool ‘will work on the newest iPad.’ Indeed, there will always be a newest iPad, newest Microsoft Surface, newest Samsung Galaxy Note.

boardgame, creativity, digital game, game design, innovation, ResearchGame™, Much less considered is the programming languages inside the tool. Remember Flash? Well, that’s mostly dead. If you choose Flash as the software best able to render the graphics and animation you want, your game, or your research tool, won’t work on most mobile devices. Since more than 35% of surveys are completed on mobile devices, that’s not a great outcome for researchers striving for generalizability.

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to test a research tool or game on every device configuration, for every browser, for every browser version, for every upcoming and unknown browser update, and every upcoming and unknown mobile phone release. Trade-offs in feasibility and accessibility testing must be made.

The developers must make decisions about which devices and software they will test for playability and accessibility. Hundreds, even thousands, of legitimate hardware and software combinations must be narrowed down to a very small number of the most likely combinations that will be used by a client’s target audience. This challenge is simply the nature of the technological beast.

Creative challenges

boardgame, creativity, digital game, game design, innovation, ResearchGame™, Both game designers and research designers must also satisfy a range of stakeholders who come at the problem with different needs and desires. In the game industry, stakeholders include people who have a vested interest in a game attracting new players, perhaps broadening the target audience, and becoming financially successful. They may want to emphasize tactics that encourage sign-ups and premium features over genuine play and enjoyment.

In the research industry, stakeholders include brand managers, advertising designers, agencies, and executive leaders who also have a vested interest in attracting engaged research participants who will broaden their understanding of the target audience and help them build financially successful products and services. They may want to measure and investigate every possible nook and cranny over an hour-long project rather than retaining participant engagement by focusing on the key issues.

It’s a balancing act to satisfy the business and research needs of stakeholders who must see a return on their investment and the enjoyment needs of game players/research who simply want to take pleasure in playing a game or sharing their opinion.

Innovation challenges

boardgame, creativity, digital game, game design, innovation, ResearchGame™, Innovation is a hot topic for market researchers. While many innovations in market research give participants a breath of fresh air, they are often ‘a day late and a dollar short’ compared to the innovations and outright inventions resulting from the game industry. Both the research and gaming industries depend on innovation to engage people, gain a competitive advantage, and grow their business. The application of innovation may differ in digital research and digital games, but both industries are obsessed with and challenged by it.

Innovation is powerful, exciting, engaging. It lets us stand out from our competitors. It engages participants and buyers, and it helps to procure funding and make sales. Of course, that also leaves us with the chicken and egg problem. You need innovation to get sales/funding which you need to create innovation. But that’s a story for another day.

The digital game industry has invested heavily in many innovations from augmented reality to virtual reality and beyond. Indeed, fully-fledged inventions have been born from the gaming industry. Kinect, the motion-sensing input device used for the Xbox game console and Windows PC, can recognize and adapt a human’s form and gestures into entertainment experiences. This innovation has been used in drone flight, 3D scanning, and in some sense, is an important part of innovative research techniques.

Not challenging enough?

Perhaps these challenges are simply firing you up to meet and dash them aside. If you’re ready to level up to a real challenge of a fully engaging and insightful research game, online or offline, please get in touch!


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Research Through Gaming helps market researchers, marketers, and brand managers discover more human, actionable insights by immersing people in emotive, engaging ResearchGames. Research Through Gaming Ltd is a GRIT Top 50 Most Innovative Firms (2012,2014), won the NGMR Disruptive Innovation Award (2015), and is recognized globally as the leader in game-based research methods. RTG collaborates with Fortune 500 brands around the world to build online and offline research games that solve a broad range of marketing challenges including ad and concept tests, new product development, pricing tests, usage and attitude studies, and more.

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