GNSD6330 Player Experience

Course Syllabus Fall 2019

Instructor: Ray LC

Course times: Tuesdays 6:00–9:30 pm

Location: Ryder Hall 220



Applies mixed methods in the context of the iterative development of a game and prepares students for their thesis project. The development cycle of any game relies on the understanding of the players, the target market of the game product. Covers more advanced topics that are fundamental for performing game user research such as data visualization and instrumentation in order to achieve such understanding. Offers students the opportunity to learn how to analyze qualitative and quantitative data in the context of a game they develop. Helps students to become individual game scholars in preparing their thesis topic and any relevant preliminary material such as a game and research instruments.


The course consists of two parts. In the first part, the focus is on developing and showcasing your knowledge and skills as a GSND student. In this part you will work in teams on iteratively developing a game using mixed methods. Classes will involve workshops teaching you advanced knowledge and skills. In the second part, the focus is on preparing you for your thesis work. In this part you will work alone. Classes will involve guest lectures, peer critique, and thesis writing workshops.


#Slack and Google Drive

We will be using #Slack and Google Drive for this class. All course materials will be provided through these software infrastructures. Please note that all course related communication should take place through #Slack.


Being Late

You are expected to arrive on time for each class. If you need to be late, contact me as far in advance as possible.


Attendance is mandatory. If you need to be absent, contact me as far in advance as possible. If you miss a significant number of classes, you will fail the class.

Use of Cell Phones and Laptops

Use of cell phones and laptops is not permitted unless the instructor allows for this for teaching purposes. If you have an urgent matter to attend to, please step outside of the class. 

Academic Honesty and Integrity

As a student in the University you are expected to be familiar with and abide by Northeastern University rules of academic honesty and integrity, including plagiarism. Full text of Northeastern’s Academic Honesty and Integrity Policy can be found online on the Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution (OSCCR). All incidents of plagiarism and cheating will be sent to OSCCR for disciplinary review. See

TRACE Participation and Course Evaluation

The best way for instructors to improve their teaching is through feedback. It is therefore highly recommended that you participate with the student survey known as TRACE (Teacher Rating and Course Evaluation). 


Any student who feels s/he may need an accommodation based on the impact of a disability should contact me privately to discuss your specific needs. Additionally, if you have a documented disability you are protected from discrimination and have the right to a reasonable accommodation. Additional information can be found at the Northeastern University Disability Resource Center, see

Writing and English

For those students who have trouble with writing in general, Northeastern has a Writing Center that can help you to improve your writing. I strongly encourage you to make use of this service. The writing center is located in 412 Holmes Hall, see also Then, for students who have trouble with English specifically, the Global Student Success office runs a series of workshops and sessions as well as international student tutoring services to assist students, especially incoming students, see 


Topic Percentage
PX Project 50%
Thesis Preparation 50%


PX Project


Goal: Apply existing and new design and user research knowledge and skills by iteratively developing a game based on player experience insights.

Relevance to degree: In this project you should integrate existing knowledge and skills you have gained on game design and user research and apply this in the development of a new simple yet innovative game. Moreover, you have the opportunity to expand to topics in game design and user research that fit your interests and project, and have to showcase more advanced skills that every GSND student should possess. 

Project Requirements:

  1. Group-based interdisciplinary project of 3 people.
  2. Two iterations and therefore studies are required.
  3. Each iteration should be preceded by a playtest to address bugs and fine-tune the study.
  4. Iterations should be clearly informed by player experience insights.
  5. Illustrate how your existing game design and game user research knowledge and skills are applied to the project.
  6. Choose an advanced topic in game design and game user research andillustrate how you are applying these new knowledge and skills to your project.
  7. Studies should be mixed methods, combining qualitative research methods with quantitative research methods.
  8. The game should be instrumented to collect player data and game data should be used as part of the analysis.
  9. Quantitative analyses should be completed with R, and need to include more advanced statistical analyses. 
  10. Qualitative analyses should include a measure of reliability.
  11. Results should be visualized using compelling data visualizations using R.
  12. Results should be triangulated, i.e., you have to illustrate how the qualitative and quantitative insights are combined in order to retrieve your player experience insights.
  13. Number of participants differs per setup; however, generally the expectation is to have about 20 participants per study.

Game Requirements:

  1. You have to build a new game from the ground up. You may use existing code and art assets (but acknowledge this use).
  2. It should be very short and simple. There is no time to build an elaborate and game. Additionally, the shorter the game, the shorter the study.
  3. It should be innovative: it should be different from the average game and should have something special or unique to offer to players, which is what you aim to evaluate in terms of player experience.
  4. You should define upfront clearly what the player experience should be and define it such that you can measure this (qualitatively and quantitatively).
  5. The game should not have or include any form of violence (i.e., shooting, fighting).
  6. The game should be inclusive (gender, race, and cultural).
  7. It should have a digital component so you can track player behavior automatically.   
  8. Use Unity. Alternatives are permissible but in such cases there will be less support available.
  9. You should create three versions: the initial version, the first iteration (improvement after 1st study), and second iteration (improvement after second study).
  10. All versions need to be playable but do not need to be feature complete.


  • Game with 3 versions: initial, first iteration, second iteration
  • Process report
  • R scripts and qualitative analyses
  • Poster


P.1: Design Research Pitch (5 points)

A 1-page proposal that outlines your intentions on a high level and should mention game concept, player experience, and research methodology.

P.2: Design Research Plan (5 points)

Informed by the literature, a detailed 3-page proposal that explains exactly what will be done.

P.3: Initial Version (5 points)

The first version of the game you have created. Here only the game is assessed in terms of game requirements (2 points), playability (2 points), and aesthetics (1 point).

P.4: Study 1 (10 points)

Study report of the first study.

P.5: Study 2 (10 points)

Study report of the second study + iteration of the initial version.

P.6: Poster Presentation + Process Report + Final Version (15 points)

The delivery of the poster presentation (5 points), the process report (5 points), and final version of the game (5 points). The process report includes all previous work and a reflection on the work.


Week Dates Description Assignment
1 9/10 Introduction
PX project group formation
Initial project pitches
2 9/17 New technologies workshop [Ray] P.1
3 9/24 Game data/instrumentation workshop [Casper] P.2
4 10/1 Stats/Data visualization workshop [Ray] P.3
5 10/8 Advanced qual workshop [Casper] P.4
6 10/15 Work on project
Peer critique
7 10/22 Poster presentations
Thesis pitches + brainstorming

Thesis Preparation


Goal: Write a thesis proposal that includes a motivation, literature review, preliminary work, and a detailed plan and schedule for your thesis. 

Relevance to degree: The thesis is a culmination of your interests, knowledge, and skills as a GSND student. This thesis preparation ensures that you will be well prepared to execute and complete your thesis project.  

Project Requirements: 

  1. Deliver a thesis proposal based on the template provided. 
  2. Complete any preliminary work necessary for your thesis: an initial game if your project involves designing a game and any research instruments you intend to deploy.  


  • Thesis proposal
  • Any preliminary work relevant for your thesis (e.g., game, data set, instruments)


T.1: Abstract & Pitch (5 points)

Write an extended abstract of 1,000 words describing your thesis proposal. Pitch your proposal in 5 minutes.  

T.2: Annotated Bibliography (10 points)

Write an annotated bibliography with 10 key references around the thesis topic. 

T.3: Thesis Proposal Draft V1 + Materials (10 points)

Hand in an initial thesis proposal draft. This should have a fully worked out introduction and background section, and include any associated in progress materials that are relevant. 

T.4: Testing Design & Protocol (5 points)

Complete the testing design and protocol for the thesis topic. 

T.5: Thesis Proposal Draft V2 + Materials (10 points) + Presentation (3 points)

Hand in an iterated thesis proposal draft. This should be a full draft, and include any associated in progress materials that are relevant.  

T.6: Thesis Proposal Final (17 points)

Submit your final thesis proposal.


Week Dates Description Assignment
8 10/29 Thesis introduction
Citing research + thesis examples
9 11/5 Thesis pitches
Literature/background workshop
Guest lecture: Jeff Crouse
10 11/12 Survey + inter-rater workshop
Guest lecture: Borna Fatehi
11 11/19 Advanced QUAN Part Deux
Guest lecture: Tiago Machedo
12 11/26 Choice:
procedural generation workshop
data visualization workshop
Career workshop
13 12/3 Mini-conference T.5
14 12/10 No class T.6

Grades are due Monday, December 16 at 2:00 pm. No late deliveries are permitted.

Syllabus adapted from Casper Harteveld