Gamification is quite a hot topic in ICT development at the moment. Game elements are increasingly seen as a useful design approach to make everyday tasks or work-related activities more fun and to improve the user experience.
In the TraPIST project, we (together with our iMinds-SMIT colleagues at VUB) have used a similar approach to spice up our research. We created a board game that was used in one of our studies to gather insights into train passengers’ needs regarding the train information system we are developing in this project. More specifically, we wanted to understand what kind of questions passengers would ask if they would have access to an omniscient information system that would go way beyond existing train apps.
For this study we took inspiration from several game principles used in existing board games. The board itself was based on the Game of Life, with a track of squares representing a journey from home to destination. As in the Game of the Goose, we used penalty squares. Landing on such a square would cause participants to skip a turn due to a delay. Similar to Monopoly, we used event cards representing real life problems that passengers may encounter during their trip (e.g. unannounced delays, a flat bike tire, bad weather, …).
During the game, players could ask questions to a mock-up of the TraPIST train information system. They could type their questions on a tablet and the system (that was in fact operated by a researcher in another room, Wizard-of-Oz style) would answer their questions.
Our main objective was to gain an understanding of the kind of questions passengers would ask to the TraPIST system, which worked quite well in this game setting. Being in a fictitious, but familiar, train travel context helped our participants to think about what it would be like to use a non-existent future application. Adding game elements to the study made participation fun and lowered the threshold for participants to speak their minds.
We will definitely use game elements in our research again, as we felt this approach was quite successful. We will present our TraPIST board game at CHI
in Seoul in April.
On Friday, April 4th, we traveled to Izegem. The purpose of this trip was an ideation session at Televic, one of the partners in the TraPIST project, which is about pro-active, multi-source information apps for train passengers. The aim of this particular session was to diverge, which means that we wanted to come up with as many ideas as possible for travel applications that provide train passengers exactly the information that they need, at the moment they need it.
The group of participants consisted of 24 persons with varying backgrounds, although most of them had a technical background. We wanted to make sure that the technical knowledge of the participants would not restrict their creative thinking, and the ideas would go a step further than just another rail company app. In order to do this we chose to utilise a fairly new approach called Extreme Brainstorming, which was created by some of our colleagues. With this approach, we provided the participants with ‘extreme’ inspiration input in the forms of extreme concepts and extreme personas aiming to take their ideation one step further.
Besides our aim to generate as many wild ideas as possible, we were interested in the impact of the ‘extremeness’ of the input we provided on the creativity of the participants. Therefore, we divided the participants in 2 conditions. One condition used realistic personas (e.g. fictitious characters representing four types of train travellers) and the other conditions used extreme versions of these personas (here we used well-known characters from movies and TV). In about one hour time, 80 ideas were generated, which we will now analyse how original, appropriate and feasible they are and to assess the impact of the two types of personas.
To be continued!