Measuring User Experience in Board Games

Measuring User Experience in Board Games

Jonathan Barbara (Saint Martin's Institute of Higher Education, Hamrun, Malta)
DOI: 10.4018/ijgcms.2014010105


Measuring user experience in board games is broadly unexplored with research mainly focused on digital games. This paper assesses the suitability of using a questionnaire, developed for digital games, for use on board games - thus providing a common measure of user experience between board and digital games. The study involved play testing a themed board game with undergraduate computing students and alumni, measuring user experience via the Games Experience Questionnaire whilst testing for reliability and validity. Findings obtained high scores in both criteria, suggesting that the GEQ is a suitable tool to measure user experience in board games and thus a valid candidate for comparing game design across varied game media such as digital and board games.
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Literature Review

Facilitating a target user experience is the main responsibility of game design (Costikyan, 2002, pp. 32–33), and provision of meaningful play experience is a measure of success for game design (Salen & Zimmerman, 2004, pp. 33–35).

Meaningful play has value, is logical, and worthwhile (Breum & Midtgaard, 2013, p. 14) which is achieved through:

  • Immersion and suspension of disbelief by being coherent and continuous;

  • Mental catharsis and relief of suspense by puzzle-solving and answering mysteries;

  • Empathy, admiration and other emotional feelings through character constancy across platforms (Breum & Midtgaard, 2013, pp. 83–84).

In the context of digital games, measurement of user experience has been broadly explored since interest in the area began in 2004 (Ye, 2004); particularly through the use of heuristics (Desurvire, Caplan, & Toth, 2004) and questionnaires such as the Games Experience Questionnaire (IJsselsteijn et al., 2008) and the recent adoption of the User Engagement Scale (O’Brien & Toms, 2010) in games (Wiebe, Lamb, Hardy, & Sharek, 2014).

Research expanded into augmented table top games (Magerkurth, Memisoglu, Engelke, & Streitz, 2004, pp. 7–8) and their user experience (Al Mahmud, Mubin, Shahid, & Martens, 2008), where the taking over of the operational aspects of the game sometimes led to frustration in the players (Pape, 2012, p. 6). Meanwhile, traditional format board games are attracting new fans from video game players ((Freeman, 2012, para. 5),(Martens, 2012, para. 8)) especially games that employ strategy in preference to chance, such as Space Alert (Chvatil, 2008) and Mage Knight (Chvatil, 2011). Such games are very complex and demand deeper engagement of the player with the game’s story.

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