Video game engagement testing with prototypes: comparing video game prototypes in different development stages by testing these on six to eleven years old kids
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The goal of this thesis is to research how fun and engaging the game is during different development and prototyping stages. Need for this research comes from real life. Game developers usually make several prototypes or proof of concepts of a game to find out if the core mechanics are fun. This thesis helps to find out how comprehensive these prototypes have to be to test the engagement of the game so in the future game developers can maybe spend far less time developing the prototypes. This is important because from the authors’ experience every next logical step in the prototype design increases the scope of the development multiple times. For example creating a paper prototype may take only several hours to make but developing a working playable game prototype may take several days up to several weeks. There is very little academic research done in the field of game development and game design as the field itself is still quite young — only about 30 years. There is very little academic work regarding playtesting especially with children. Testing object of this research is an educational kids’ iPad game that authors have been developing with a small team themselves. This game is also going to be released in 2015 to the public. So the research focuses on playtesting with kids who are 6 to 11 years old. Testing was conducted mostly at the public school with the help of teachers who already use video games in their curriculum. Playtesting has been divided into three parts as there were three game prototypes to represent the different stages of game prototyping: paper prototype, low fidelity prototype and high fidelity prototype. Pretest and posttest surveys were created based on Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s theory of flow and psychology of optimal experience but during the tests authors also used the observation of kids and how they played the game. Authors consider the low fidelity prototype to be optimal in the context of game testing and measuring the flow with elementary school kids.