The gamer experience: investigating
relationships between culture and usability of
Massively Multiplayer Online Games

Aut...
Α preliminary discussion...
• User Experience is a consequence of users’
internal state, characteristics of the designed
s...
Α preliminary discussion...
• Early days:
– HCI research focus on the instrumental quality of
interactive products/systems...
MMOGs
• Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOGs)
represent a new genre in the online games industry
• MMOGs present virt...
The concept of culture
• Culture is “always a collective phenomenon, because it is
at least partly shared with people who ...
The concept of culture
• Theories and models focus on some aspects or
dimensions of culture
• Hofstede’s model supports th...
Hofstede’s cultural dimensions
• Power-distance: this dimension refers to the extent to
which less powerful members expect...
Hofstede’s cultural dimensions
• Femininity vs. masculinity: femininity pertains
to societies in which the gender roles ov...
Culture, interface design and usability
• HCI research focus on culture as a potentially
important factor that can affect ...
Research questions
What is the relationship between the cultural
variables and the usability of the game?
– What is the re...
Context of the study
• EVE Online
(http://play.eveonline.com/en/home.aspx )
– Released on May 2003 by Crowd Control
Produc...
Design characteristics of EVE
• EVE design is based on a multiple window
application following the MS Windows style of
int...
(1) Neocom
toolbar
(2) The Ship
Control Panel
(3) The Overview
scanner
(4) Space
environment
outside the
spaceship
(5) Loc...
Instruments
• Two questionnaires were used in this study: the
Gamer Background questionnaire and the
usability questionnai...
Subjects and data collection procedure
• Online questionnaire in English and Greek version
• No specific tasks - Two weeks...
Analysis & Results
Scores of Hofstede’s Cultural Variables for each Country
Countries

PDI

ICI

MFI

UAI

score

Score

score

score

Argent...
Country and participants allocation in relation to cultural variables
Cultural
variables

Countries represented in the stu...
Usability ratings of EVE Online
Analysis & results
• What is the relationship between Power Distance
and the usability of EVE
– Correlation analyses were ...
Analysis & results
• What is the relationship between Masculinity and
Femininity and the usability of EVE?
• Masculinity a...
Analysis & results
• What is the relationship between
Uncertainty Avoidance and the usability of
EVE Online?
– One relatio...
Analysis & results
Design implications
• For instance, regarding the LPD and HPD groups, significant
differences were found for feedback:
– I...
Design implications
• For example: a Swedish player (LPD) asked for “More
freedom to players!” On the other hand, a Portug...
Design implications
• In purely statistical terms, the correlations
are not strong. Nevertheless, they show that
cultural ...
Limitations and Future Research
• Cultural analysis was completely based on
Hofstede’s cultural dimensions
– A single meth...
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Usability of MMOGs and cultural differences

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  • The Individualism Collectivism Index (ICI) has a typical range of values between 0 and 100 (values higher than 100 are also possible), where a value near 0 reflects strong collectivism and a value near 100 reflects strong individualism.
    The Masculinity/Femininity Index (MFI) has a typical range of values between 0 and 100 where a value near
    0 reflects strong femininity and a value near 100 reflects strong masculinity
  • Usability of MMOGs and cultural differences

    1. 1. The gamer experience: investigating relationships between culture and usability of Massively Multiplayer Online Games Authors: Dr. Panagiotis Zaharias Dr. Anthony Papargyris Presented at University of Cyprus 5/3/2010
    2. 2. Α preliminary discussion... • User Experience is a consequence of users’ internal state, characteristics of the designed system and the context of use • Impact of culture is of great importance while understanding user experience • The increasing use of global systems in different cultural contexts and observations that different people think in different ways, put forth the issue of the degree to which the use of such systems is really a matter of culture.
    3. 3. Α preliminary discussion... • Early days: – HCI research focus on the instrumental quality of interactive products/systems – Traditional view of usability: task is the pivotal point of user-centered design techniques • Emergence of User Experience: beyond the instrumental – a broad term related with a wide variety of meanings ranging from traditional usability to beauty, hedonic and affective aspects of technology use – Towards a more holistic and positive HCI – Focus on creating positive emotional outcomes such as joy, fun, pride, intrinsic motivation etc., rather than just preventing usability problems
    4. 4. MMOGs • Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOGs) represent a new genre in the online games industry • MMOGs present virtual worlds with an embedded task-accomplishing scenario (i.e. missions) where participants can engage in cooperative or ‘solo’ practices. – the game’s virtual world is active almost 24/7 and available for a gamer to enter and interact – Most commercial MMOGs require a monthly subscription and gamers assume the role of a fictional character, named as avatar or character – there are hundreds commercial MMOGs released and many others in the stage of development or beta testing.
    5. 5. The concept of culture • Culture is “always a collective phenomenon, because it is at least partly shared with people who live or lived within the same social environment, which is where it is learned. It is the collective programming of the mind that distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from another” (Hofstede, 1980) • Socially shared meanings may be grounded in language, geographical proximity and history at the boundaries of the nation-state shared by people who live or have lived within the same social environment (Hofstede, 1980). – These shared qualities may include common norms, beliefs, and values as well as particular ways of categorizing shared experiences.
    6. 6. The concept of culture • Theories and models focus on some aspects or dimensions of culture • Hofstede’s model supports that world cultures vary along consistent, fundamental dimensions • Dimensional models group together a number of phenomena in a society, which were empirically found to occur in combination into dimensions.
    7. 7. Hofstede’s cultural dimensions • Power-distance: this dimension refers to the extent to which less powerful members expect and accept unequal power distribution within a culture. • Collectivism vs. individualism: individualism pertains to societies in which the ties between individuals are loose and every one is expected to look after himself or herself and his or her immediate family. Collectivism pertains to societies in which people from birth onwards are integrated into strong, cohesive in-groups.
    8. 8. Hofstede’s cultural dimensions • Femininity vs. masculinity: femininity pertains to societies in which the gender roles overlap while masculinity pertains to societies in which the gender roles are clearly distinct • Uncertainty avoidance: this dimension refers to the extent to which the members of the culture feel threatened by uncertain or unknown situations • And a fifth dimension: long vs. short-term orientation. This dimension focuses on the degree the society embraces devotion to traditional values and to forward thinking values (Hofstede & Bond, 1988)
    9. 9. Culture, interface design and usability • HCI research focus on culture as a potentially important factor that can affect user performance and satisfaction (and other emotional states) toward an interface • Two research streams: one focuses on culture effects on Information Technology design (web design, cell phones design etc.) while the other investigates how culture affects the perception and application of several usability evaluation methods.
    10. 10. Research questions What is the relationship between the cultural variables and the usability of the game? – What is the relationship between Power Distance and the usability of the game? – What is the relationship between Individualism and Collectivism and the usability of the game? – What is the relationship between Femininity/Masculinity and the usability of the game? – What is the relationship between Uncertainty Avoidance and the usability of the game?
    11. 11. Context of the study • EVE Online (http://play.eveonline.com/en/home.aspx ) – Released on May 2003 by Crowd Control Production (CCP) - 250,000 gamers – The virtual world of EVE is located in a distant galaxy, with over 5,000 solar systems. – Characters are represented in EVE as spaceship pilots
    12. 12. Design characteristics of EVE • EVE design is based on a multiple window application following the MS Windows style of interaction and controls. • Users mainly rely on the use of the mouse to interact with other objects and control various aspects of the game. – Almost every object is clickable and a drop down menu lists the actions a gamer can perform on it. There are two main interface schemes that a gamer can experience. One while she/he pilots a spaceship in space and one when she/he is docked inside a station
    13. 13. (1) Neocom toolbar (2) The Ship Control Panel (3) The Overview scanner (4) Space environment outside the spaceship (5) Locked objects (6) Chat windows (7) A clock plus any minimized windows
    14. 14. Instruments • Two questionnaires were used in this study: the Gamer Background questionnaire and the usability questionnaire • Usability questionnaire was adapted from a questionnaire-based usability evaluation method, which was developed to assess e-learning usability (Zaharias, 2004) – Usability measures: Navigation & Control, Learnability, Accessibility, Consistency, Visual Design, Interactivity, Content & Resources, Media Use, Learning Strategies Design, Feedback, Assessment, Player Guidance & Support, Socialization and Motivational Usability.
    15. 15. Subjects and data collection procedure • Online questionnaire in English and Greek version • No specific tasks - Two weeks, 307 gamers responded from 19 countries worldwide – Netherlands (15.31%), Canada (14.33%), Greece (13.36%), Sweden (12.05%), and France (10.10%), etc. – Most of the gamers were males (98.37%) and adults (46.91% between 26 and 36 years old and 32.57% between 36 and 50 years old). – 51.14% reported playing on an average of three to four hours per day, while 13.03% more than six hours per day. – The majority of the participants were old and experienced gamers (34.85% one to two year old and 20.20% more that two years old)
    16. 16. Analysis & Results
    17. 17. Scores of Hofstede’s Cultural Variables for each Country Countries PDI ICI MFI UAI score Score score score Argentina 49 46 56 86 Australia 36 90 61 51 Austria 11 55 79 70 Canada 39 80 52 48 Denmark 18 74 16 23 Finland 33 63 26 59 France 68 71 43 86 Greece 60 35 57 112 Hong Kong 68 25 57 29 Japan 54 46 95 92 Netherlands 38 80 14 53 New Zealand 22 79 58 49 Norway 31 69 8 50 Portugal 63 27 31 104 Singapore 74 20 48 8 Sweden 31 71 5 29 Switzerland 34 68 70 58 Turkey 66 37 45 85 United Arab Emirates 80 38 53 68
    18. 18. Country and participants allocation in relation to cultural variables Cultural variables Countries represented in the study and number of participants representing each cultural variable Participants representing each cultural variable LPD Argentina (1), Australia (20), Austria (12), Canada (44), Finland (10), Denmark (22), Netherlands (47), New Zealand (8), Norway (10), Sweden (37), Switzerland (9) 220 HPD United Arab Emirates (1), Turkey (5), Singapore (1), Portugal (6), Japan (1), Hong Kong (1), Greece (41), France (31) 87 IND Australia (20), Austria (12), Canada (44), Denmark (22), Finland (10), France (31), Netherlands (47), New Zealand (8), Norway (10), Sweden (37), Switzerland (9) 250 COLL Argentina (1), Japan (1), Hong Kong (1), Greece (41), Singapore (1), Portugal (6), United Arab Emirates (1), Turkey (5) 57 MAS Argentina (1), Australia (20), Japan (1), Hong Kong (1), Greece (41), Austria (12), Canada (44), Switzerland (9), United Arab Emirates (1), New Zealand (8) 138 FEM Denmark (22), Finland (10), France (31), Netherlands (47), Singapore (1), Portugal (6), Turkey (5), Norway (10), Sweden (37) 169 LUA Denmark (22), Canada (44), Sweden (37), Singapore (1), Hong Kong (1), New Zealand (8) 113 HUA United Arab Emirates (1), Turkey (5), Switzerland (9), Portugal (6), Norway (10), Netherlands (47), Japan (1), Greece (41), France (31), Argentina (1), Australia (20), Austria (12), Finland (10) 194
    19. 19. Usability ratings of EVE Online
    20. 20. Analysis & results • What is the relationship between Power Distance and the usability of EVE – Correlation analyses were performed between each of the usability variables and the participants’ country scores for PDI. – One relationship was found to be statistically significant (at the .05 level): Power distance had a correlation with Media Use of r =.119 • What is the relationship between Individualism and Collectivism and the usability of EVE? – One relationship was found to be statistically significant (at the .05 level): Individualism and Collectivism had a correlation with Feedback of r =.138
    21. 21. Analysis & results • What is the relationship between Masculinity and Femininity and the usability of EVE? • Masculinity and Femininity had a correlation with: – – – – – – – – Navigation of r = .-178 (significant at the .01 level), Learnability of r = .-115 (significant at the .05 level), Consistency of r = .-183 (significant at the .01 level), Visual Design of r = .-165 (significant at the .01 level), Interactivity of r = .-133 (significant at the .05 level), Media Use of r = .-119 (significant at the .05 level), Feedback of r = .-119 (significant at the .05 level), and Socialization of r = .-195 (significant at the .01 level)
    22. 22. Analysis & results • What is the relationship between Uncertainty Avoidance and the usability of EVE Online? – One relationship was found to be statistically significant: Uncertainty Avoidance had a correlation with Feedback of r = .-152 (at the . 05 level).
    23. 23. Analysis & results
    24. 24. Design implications • For instance, regarding the LPD and HPD groups, significant differences were found for feedback: – It seems that participants from countries that represent LPD rated higher on feedback; (gamers’ requests for feedback from experts i.e., game developers in accomplishing tasks and solving problems via the game’s communication channels) – When people from LPD countries interact with a less structured and formal Web environment, they usually prefer shallow hierarchies and do not seek authoritative feedback and guidance.
    25. 25. Design implications • For example: a Swedish player (LPD) asked for “More freedom to players!” On the other hand, a Portuguese gamer (HPD) notes: “Every time me or a corp/guild mate have a problem, GMs look like robots on their response and they almost never help . . .” • Assessment was also rated higher by participants from feminist-oriented countries – Assessment refers to opportunities for self-assessment in order to increase the chances for success and to reach the game’s objectives. In EVE include try-and-error followed by detailed analyses of the results based on the game’s mechanics and logic but also on open discussions with other gamers to find expert advice – self-assessment is mainly done in reference to the other gamers; such mutual exchange of ideas and cooperation is favored by feminist groups
    26. 26. Design implications • In purely statistical terms, the correlations are not strong. Nevertheless, they show that cultural and usability dimensions are correlated. – they highlight the need for MMOG designers to seriously consider the cultural differences that affect a game’s usability – some usability aspects such as media use, feedback, and consistency call for special design treatment, since they were perceived differently by heterogeneous cultural groups
    27. 27. Limitations and Future Research • Cultural analysis was completely based on Hofstede’s cultural dimensions – A single method was used to assess users’ perceptions of usability (user survey) • Further investigation with larger sample sizes and participants from other countries representing more diverse cultures would increase the validity of the findings • These studies can be more effective if new –more cultural sensitive- usability evaluation methods and tools will be employed

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