January 29, 2008
Around CMS: Jesper Juul, Beth Coleman, and Market Truths

I wanted to start out this morning by passing along a few interesting stories that readers and colleagues have passed my way of late. The first comes from a few games-related stories here at MIT.

For those who are not familiar with his work, Jesper Juul received his doctorate from the IT University of Copenhagen and is the author of Half-Real: Video Games between Real Rules and Fictional Worlds. He is now a video game researcher here at the Program in Comparative Media Studies, in the Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab.

Earlier this month, Jesper delivered a talk here recently, upon his arrival in the new position, about how "casual games [ . . . ] are not casual in use." CMS Professor Beth Coleman provides a good summary of his thoughts, pointing out that these "casual" games "are games that users spend a lot of time playing, which often translates into money or ads viewed. His research looks at how (design) and why (users) casual games can produce two kinds of anomalies in the last decade of very complex, non-newbie-centric immersive video game design."

See in particular his concept of juiciness, but also Coleman's notes about the importance of consequences in game design.

Also, Beth is running an interview with Mary Ellen Gordon of Market Truths on how market research strategy differs in the real world, online, and virtual world sites, tied to the concept of "avatar-based marketing," first coined by Paul Hemp, who was one of the speakers at our first partners retreat here at C3, back in 2006.

See the first part of the interview, with the second and third parts to come. Market Truths is the first group to do what Beth calls "universally respected market analysis" in Second Life.

Beth asks them for details about how they solicited consumers, the criteria for participation, and how the research was conducted. Turns out, during the two iterations of their study, there were 190 participants and then 201 participants, who participated in surveys, in-world focus groups, and in-world interviews. Gordon said, "Our positioning has always been at the intersection of marketing, research, and technology and doing quality, in depth research. That made virtual worlds a logical target for us. By being first, we hoped we might be able to avoid the whole negative spiral that online surveys have experienced [ . . . ], as we could be part of shaping the environment and expectations about research. It was also a way for us to stand out more from the whole pack of companies offering online surveys."

It's worth a read, and keep your eyes open for the other parts of the interview. Thanks to Beth for bringing this to my attention.