Why attend GUR conferences?

2015 was a fantastic year for games user research conferences, with another successful GUR-SIG Summit in San Francisco, the first ever European #gamesUR conference in London and others including CHI-Play and Bungie’s User Research Summer Camp. Conference season is nearly upon us again, and it’s time to look forward to the events this year.

The largest event in the GUR-SIG calendar is their annual US conference, this year renamed to #gamesUR. This event, timed to coincide with the Game Developer Conference in San Francisco, allows researchers from all over the world to meet up and share insights.

European researchers should also look out for the return of the European #gamesUR conference. After the success of last year’s conference, there will be more announcements about the plans for the future of #GamesUR in Europe soon!

Epic will also be hosting their own user experience summit this year, more details about which should be out soon.

In this post, I  cover some of the reasons for researchers to attend these conferences, and want to convince you to get involved with games user research events this year.

The Talks

One of the most useful parts of these conferences, especially for researchers already in the industry, are the talks. Researchers from prominent companies such as Ubisoft, Riot, PlayStation and Microsoft share insights into their processes, methods and the challenges that they currently face. This year at the #gamesUR conference, some highlights include Riot talking about how they’ve embedded researchers into their development teams, Ubisoft talking about testing live during the Alpha and Beta of the new Rainbow Six game and a panel on user research with Virtual Reality.

As researchers, our team have often found that seeing these talks, and following up with discussions with the speakers after have significantly changed the trajectory of how we work, and led us towards new ideas or methods that have provided huge value to the development teams we work with. The sessions for this year’s conference have been announced, and can be seen on the #gamesUR website.

Lab Tours

This year the #gamesUR conference is being held at EA’s labs in Redwood Shores. Previous Games User Research events have included visits to Sony Computer Entertainment’s labs in America and London. Every year, the lab tours are incredibly helpful as an opportunity to see how other teams work, what different set-ups they use for their playtests, and their AV flow, which can be a huge inspiration for the development of your own lab. This year’s conference includes tours around EA’s labs, and a talk from Player Research on developing their own lab, which will be essential viewing for other research teams!

Meeting people

One of the unsung benefits of these conferences is the opportunity to meet other researchers. Games User Research is a relatively small field, and so it’s not too hard to get involved or to meet the conference speakers. The conferences are usually combined with one or two networking events, where researchers can meet to discuss current challenges, research methods or games in general – usually over free drinks!

Getting a job

Because it’s a small industry, it’s really important to keep up to date when new roles open up to be at the front of the queue. In addition to the GUR-SIG’s jobs board, attending conferences is usually the quickest way to know about upcoming positions and opportunities to work with other teams. For recruiters, it’s also the easiest way to target potential new hires, so recruitment happens a lot – at the last #gamesUR European conference, 4 of the 6 sponsors were hiring!

Partner Events

An important part of a researcher’s role is understanding the environment in which their development teams are working. The annual Game Developer Conference is hosted alongside the #gamesUR summit, and includes 5 days of talks about design, programming, art, career development and even some user research. This year there’s a particular focus on Virtual Reality, which is an area I’ve been working on a lot this year, making the conference unmissable!

So in summary, there are lots of great reasons to attend some Games User Research events this year. More information about the GUR-SIG’s #gamesUR conference in March can be found on their website.

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