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Industry Research:

Perception of Video Game Industry in Texas' Schools

This is an example of a project where I worked on Industry Research, in order to help an organization provide a better User Experience. In this case I carried out primary research, collecting data from a local and specific geographical area that represented a majority of the organization's current and future users. The explicit goal of this research project was to gather statistical data regarding the attitudes, interests, and opinions —AIO survey— of students, teachers, and school communities in Southeast Texas toward the video game industry and its relation to their academic and career choices. The findings of the research were then employed by Lamar University's Administration member of the Texas State University Networkto determine the need and feasibility for offering a Game Development program or major (degree). As a secondary objective, the project hoped to shed some light into how ethnic, gender and other cultural subgroups perceive the industry differently.

 

The Goal:

Expand University's Available Programs

Despite being a medium-sized university with 15,000+ students, and located in proximity to Houston —2 hours by car— and to Austin —4 to 6 hours by car—, Lamar University did not have any official degrees, majors or programs on Game Design and Development. During my first —freshman— year at Lamar University, I joined several student clubs and discovered that there was interest in Game Development among students of diverse backgrounds, but also got the impression that there was significant misinformation and bias toward the game development industry.

 

Toward the end of my freshman year I created the first interdisciplinary student organization called Lamar Interactive Media Organization —LIMO—, and summoned students with diverse backgrounds who were interested in Game Design and Development to discuss what could be done to encourage the university to get involved in the industry. Approximately 22 students showed up to the first meeting; Computer Science majors, Art majors, Sound Composition majors, Communications majors, Literature majors, and even Biology majors. Faculty and University Staff started taking notice of the amount of student interest in the subject.

The Challenge:

Access to Schools, Surveying Students

The biggest challenge I faced in this project was getting access to survey middle and high school students in local schools. I discovered that even official university staff had difficulty getting access to survey schools for different reasons. Despite the warnings from faculty and staff on how unlikely it is I would succeed at being able to survey schools, I decided to move forward with the attempt. I underwent the process of acquiring approval and clearance from the Institutional Review Board. The process of getting approval and clearance from the IRB involved a series a tests, interviews, an online certification, and multiple  submissions for review of my surveying instruments and procedures.

Anyone wanting to conduct research, studies or surveying with populations outside the university had to undergo this process for approval and clearance from the IRB. The process was especially tedious if the populations to be surveyed or studied were vulnerable, such as minors. The unintended consequence of having to go through the IRB, is that I acquired a lot of training and knowledge about how to prepare and conduct research and surveying for special and vulnerable populations and with accordance with the law.

As soon as we acquired approval and clearance from the IRB, we executed our plan to survey local schools. Included in the material the IRB reviewed, was our plan to approach schools in a 20-mile radius from the University, which included 13 public independent school districts and 3 private schools. Our report for the IRB included a demographic and grade breakdown per school that we intended to survey, total number of subjects to be surveyed, as well as a mathematical calculation of the gas-per-milage we would spend doing the research, for later reimbursement.

We visited each and every school administration office, and spoke with directors and supervisors to request their support. Out of the 16 school administrations we approached, we received help from 5 of them, two of which were the largest schools in the area. Thanks to the support from the administrators in those 5 school districts, we were able to survey approximately 1,664 middle and high school students, out of the 3,800 we were aiming for. Considering that university faculty and staff said we would be lucky to be able to survey just one school, we considered the outcome a success.

The Solution:

Data-based Decisions for better UX

We were able to successfully survey 1,664 secondary school students, 375 university students, and 110 university faculty —numbers are rounded. Two of our faculty advisers are experts in statistical science, one in the Department of Mathematics and one in the Department of Psychology. With their help and using Chi Square Statistical Test, we analyzed the data from the 1,664 secondary school students to discern patterns and find statistically significant discrepancies.

After analyzing the data with Chi Square, I assembled some infographics using Adobe Illustrator, to help represent the data visually and highlight some of the findings. Some of our key findings are:

Game genre popularity:

  • Shooter-Military, Action-Adventure, and Sport-Racing were amongst the most popular game genres, being the three most mentioned game genres by secondary school students.

  • Browser-Based, Serious-Educational, and Casino-Gambling were amongst the least popular game genres, being the three least mentioned game genres by secondary school students.

  • The "Sandbox" term was somewhat unfamiliar to students, and girls were disproportionately unfamiliar with the term.

  • Board & Puzzle, Puzzle-Adventure & Mystery, and Social Games were the only game genres that were mentioned more by girls than by boys.

  • "Serious-Educational" were the least popular (mentioned) genre among boys, and the fourth least popular by girls.

Market behavior patterns:

  • About 1 out of 3 students say they play games almost every day, with boys being twice more likely than girls to say they play almost every day.

  • About 1 out of 3 students believe that the video game industry is important for society and the community, with girls being twice more likely than boys to disagree.

  • About 4 out of 10 students believe the video game industry should be taken serious, with girls being twice more likely than boys to disagree.

  • Only 1 out of 10 students say they have been encouraged by school or family to consider the video game industry as a possible career venue, with girls being three times less likely than boys to have been encouraged. 6 out of every 10 boys, and 8 out of every 10 girls said they have not been encouraged by school or family to consider the industry.

  • Only 1 out of 2 students feel their family would support them if they pursue a career in or related to the video game industry. Girls are less likely than boys to feel supported.

  • Only 1 out of 4 students said they have considered the video game industry as a possible career venue, with a whopping 73% of girls saying they have never considered it.

  • Girls are almost 4 times less likely than boys to pursue a career in or relating to the video game industry: with 27% of boys saying they are likely to pursue a career in or related to the video game industry, compared to only 8% of girls.

In addition to the Quantitative Data collected using Likert-Scale questions in the survey, we also included an open-ended section for questions and comments, leaving room for Qualitative Data collection. In this section we received a number of interesting and thought-provoking comments and questions from the students. A few examples of the kinds of questions students ask are shown below:

In addition to the findings about attitudes, interests, and opinions of future university students —middle and high school students—, we also gathered data from current university students, as well as faculty. The data from college students and faculty has not been analyzed using Chi Square yet, however, some interesting patterns are already visible from the raw data. The following pictures show some of the raw data from the university student population:

Based on the data shown above, it is interesting to note that:

Behavior Patterns:

  • 59% of college students said someone in their family plays video games daily or almost daily, compared to 29% of middle & high school students.

  • The PC Platform was mentioned by 38% of college students, compared to 34% of high school and middle school students.

  • The Mobile Platform was mentioned by 57% of college students, compared to 61% of high school and middle school students.

  • The Game Console Platform was mentioned by 64% of college students, compared to 66% of high school and middle school students.

Attitudes, Interests & Opinions:

  • 82% of university students believe that the game industry's revenue is significant.

  • 30% of university students believe that job opportunities for game developers are limited.

  • 34% of university students have encountered the subject of video game industry within academic settings, such as class discussion, study material, assignments, and research, etc.

  • 48% of university students believe that the video game industry is not relevant to their field of study, compared to 27% who believe it is relevant.

  • 68% of university students said they do not have any interest pursuing a career in or related to the video game industry, compared to 14% who said they do have interest in pursuing a career in the industry.

  • 65% of university students believe that Lamar University should incorporate Game Development into its offered programs.

Perhaps one of the most interesting things to see from this data, is that despite almost half of the student population believing that the game industry is not relevant to their fields of study, about two thirds of them support the idea of incorporating the industry to the university's offered programs.

The following pictures represent the raw data collected from University Faculty:

Based on the data shown above, it is interesting to note that:

Behavior Patterns:

  • 53% of university faculty said someone in their family plays video games daily or almost daily, compared to 59% of college students, and 29% of middle & high school students.

  • The PC Platform was mentioned by 35% of university faculty, compared to 38% of college students, and 34% of high school and middle school students.

  • The Mobile Platform was mentioned by 56% of university faculty, compared to 57% of college students, and 61% of high school and middle school students.

  • The Game Console Platform was mentioned by 38% of university faculty, compared to 64% of college students, and 66% of high school and middle school students.

Attitudes, Interests & Opinions:

  • 39% of university faculty have encountered the subject of video game industry within work settings, such as teaching, class discussions, seminars, research, etc.

  • 28% of university faculty believe that the video game industry is relevant to their field of work or research, compared to 52% who believe it is not relevant.

  • 55% of university faculty said they believe that Lamar University should incorporate Game Development into its offered programs, compared to 65% of university students who believe so as well.

Similar to the pattern seen with university students, it is interesting to see that, despite more than half of the faculty population believing that the game industry is not relevant to their fields of work, even more of them support the idea of incorporating the industry to the university's offered programs.

The data collected by this research project was instrumental in convincing the university administration to incorporate the Game Industry into its offered programs. Even before we were done analyzing our data, the university hired Dr. Timothy Roden to lead the design and development of a new Game Development concentration within the Computer Science department. Dr. Roden has a history of designing and developing successful game development programs in other universities. He launched the first course of the program, COSC 1324 Introduction to Computer Game Development during my senior year in Lamar, which I took as one of my optative courses.

I also helped Dr. Roden designing some promotional materials for the program, such as a Brochure, and spreading the word amongst the student population in departments outside of Computer Science. Dr. Roden designed the COSC 1324 course to be non-programming focused and open to students of any department / major, as part of an effort to highlight the interdisciplinary nature of game development.

Image from left to right: Charles Bray, Dougal Mac Gregor, and Josh Wilson presenting research findings and ideas for educational innovation at the Clinton Global Initiative University 2015 at Miami, Florida.

Charles BrayB.Sc. in Communication— and Joshua WilsonB.Sc. in Computer Science— played key supportive roles in the project. Charles Bray was instrumental in helping me with the design of surveying tools, and acquiring access to local schools. Joshua Wilson was instrumental in coordinating efforts with the Computer Science department, the student ACM organization, and reaching out to university student populations.

 

 

Students Md Aminul IslamM.Sc. in Mechanical Engineering—, Troy ChambersB.A. in General Arts—, Kimberly Ann Hardy & Jonathan RossB.A. in Arts and Graphic Design—, and Mizzael AvilaB.Sc. in Communication— for their help in promoting the Game Development program and reaching out to students in other departments and student organizations.

 

 

Faculty who coached and advised our research project, contributing expertise from their respective fields and areas: Dr. Kumer Pial Das —Department of Mathematics—, Dr. Edythe Kirk —Department of Psychology—, Dr. Timothy Roden —Department of Computer Science—, Mr. O'Brien Stanley —Department of Communication—, and Dr. Kabir C. Sen —College of Business—.

University staff and faculty who facilitated our research effort in one way or another: Ana Pereda, Carly Broussard, Chantelle Brockett, Dr. Brenda Nichols, Dr. Cynthia Cummings, Dr. Enrique Henry Venta, Dr. James C. Rush, Dr. Jennifer Scarduzio, Dr. Karen Nichols, Dr. Kay Abernathy, Dr. Kenneth Evans, Dr. Mary Evelyn Collins, Dr. Melissa Hudler, Dr. Nicki Michalski, Dr. Paul Hemenway, Dr. Rachael Dubois, Dr. Sherry Benoit, Jennifer Wagner, Joy Tate, Maggie Cano, Mr. Dave Mulcahy, Ms. Cheryl Black-Fitzpatrick, Ms. Jasmine Fields, and all the university faculty and staff who kindly participated in our survey.

Special thanks to the school district administrators who made the research project possible by facilitating access to surveying their students: Ms. Cynthia Laird —Nederland ISD—, Ms. Dawn Helton —Silsbee ISD—, Dr. Kimber Knight —Beaumont ISD—, Ms. Carrie Martin —Bridge City ISD—, Mr. Kenneth Daigre, Ms. Melissa Oliva, and Ms. L. Chambers —Port Arthur ISD—, and all the students who participated in our survey.

To learn more about my research for LU and Game Development college programs, please contact me.

To learn more about Lamar University's Game Development program please contact the university's Computer Science Department at cs@lamar.edu  or visit the program's website.

Acknowledgements