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Games: Playtime’s Over

Orlando Wood, MD of BrainJuicer Labs, looks at how practitioners are starting to use games in market research, and gives a preview of his session on Games and Play at the MRS this year.

 

Editor’s Note: Our post today is certainly from one of the thought leaders in the industry on pioneering new approaches inspired by behavioral economics: Orlando Wood of BrainJuicer Labs. When I heard about the session he was chairing at the MRS conference I asked Orlando if he’d write up a post about what he was doing and why he was doing it to share with all of us not lucky enough to be attending the conference. Being the incredibly nice guy that he is, he agreed. 

It seems like since Valentine’s Day BrainJuicer has gotten an inordinate amount of coverage here on the blog, but sometimes things just work that way. Looking back we’ve had “content binges” about mobile and social media (and we will again) and coming up next week we’ll be tackling big data quite a bit. Recently the topic du jour has been behavioral economics and emotional measurement, and when we get into that realm, well… the folks at BrainJuicer just kind of own that space. Our goal is to bring our readers the best possible content possible, so as we’re exploring certain topics sometimes that means we’re going to go back to thought leaders in those areas multiple times. I think that is a fair trade to ensure you get the best content possible

By Orlando Wood

Next week, I’m chairing a session at the MRS Research conference on games and play – the first devoted to the subject at the conference. It’s a session that examines how researchers are using games and play to reveal and inform. It may sound frivolous, but it’s serious stuff.

Market researchers take great care, by and large, to create neutral environments for their research. We do this because we worry a lot about influencing or biasing responses. The problem, as anyone with an interest in Behavioural Economics will tell you, is that real-life decision-making is not made in clinically neutral environments. We are subject to all sorts of influences all the time – our surroundings, the people around us and our own fluctuating visceral and cognitive states. If we’re excited we will make decisions differently from if we’re calm; if we feel under time-pressure, the outcome of our decision-making will be different from if we are unhurried, and so on.

This leaves market research with a bit of a problem. If we want to understand and predict behaviour, we need to consider how we might simulate in research the sorts of conditions people find themselves in when making decisions in the real world.

What I finding fascinating about the three speakers at my session next week – Jon Puleston, Andy Barker and Martyn Richards – is that they are all using games and play in different ways to transport participants into different states and mental contexts. All three are, in some sense, research experience architects.

Anyone interested in designing research environments that alter cognitive states will be interested in what Jon Puleston (GMI) has to say. Jon has been playing with games in quantitative research for longer than most. His work shows how games can change the amount of time that people spend answering questions and how much they say, how games can ‘wake up our brains’ and engender new ways of thinking.

Andy Barker (Engage Research) and Lisa Hunt (Heinz) are going to be looking at the use of games in qualitative research. Engage and GMI co-authored an award-winning paper on games in quantitative research at ESOMAR last year. Building on what Engage learned from that collaboration, Andy will outline, with Lisa, their experiments to introduce games and play into focus groups for Heinz. Turning traditional approaches on their head, sometimes with surprising results, Andy and Lisa will show how games can disrupt, introduce pressure for intuitive, quick and creative feedback, and can even counter dominant group members.

Actor-director turned researcher, Martyn Richards (Martyn Richards Research), will explore what we can learn from drama and play therapy when researching children. He will share how – in something closer to a creative workshop – casting, ‘guided visualisation’ and ‘sculpting’ can be used as qualitative research tools, transporting children to reveal and inform.

Knowing that much of our decision-making is the result of fast, intuitive, emotional System 1 decision-making, BrainJuicer Labs has been working with clients to create research environments and game-like experiences that promote fast and intuitive System 1 decision-making by putting participants under time pressure. We have found that this fundamentally changes the results we obtain relative to traditional research approaches, and better reflects sales reality in the real world.

Detractors of games argue that they bias response. This is precisely why they are interesting. But it means that if games and play are to have a future in our industry, my belief is that we need first to understand the mental context (or ‘bias’) we would like to create and design a game or game-like experience that will deliver on that brief.

With everything we’re learning about how we make decisions, I’m looking forward to hearing from all three speakers on how we might use games to simulate context, social influence and cognitive states, and so help us to understand and predict human behaviour better.

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