Learning a card game

Gaming Smile-o-meter


A well known card game company wanted to understand how children learned how to play their game. Research sessions were designed to evaluate the learnability of current game, with the current poster-style instructions vs a new booklet-style instructions. 10 pairs of participants were recruited, with half being adult-child and the other half being child-child. Participants were asked about how they typically learned new games and what types of games they played. They were then presented with the game and given time to read the instructions and play. Finally, participants were asked to give feedback about their overall experience.

The Problem
What is the best format of directions for kids to learn how to play a game? What challenges do kids come across learning from the different formats?
My Contributions
  • Research lead
  • Determine recruiting criteria
  • Structured session and lab set-up
  • User interviews
  • Data analysis
  • Final documentation and presentation creation
  • Recruiting the right pairs
  • Having kids learn from each other
  • Setting up the lab capture the interactions and making the kids and adults feel at ease

Cards, Cards, Cards

Most of the user research I'd done in the past revolved around digital experiences, so thinking about how to set up a study around multiple people playing a physical game with instructions was a unique challenge. I had to figure out how to:

The session guide/script focused on the research questions we had in mind, and was largely structured as reminders to make sure certain questions were answered. But the true challenge was getting the camera set-up right. What I settled on with the IT crew was having an overhead shot that captured the playing and instructions, and two side camera shots that captured the reactions, with a microphone attached to the crane for the overhead shot.

Camera Setup

CAMERA SETUP: This diagram demonstrates what would be captured in the recording of the participants in session.

Gauging Children Responses

Besides the general reactions of the children and their statements, I've found it useful to use a tool to get them to think about how they're feeling about a product or interaction. For adult-based research, I use a regular Likert scale. For children, it helps to have a little more something for them to respond to so I used a Smile-O-Meter, which is a Likert scale with emoticons associated with the different reactions.


SMILE-O-METER: The kid-friendly Likert scale used during the sessions.


I used the Smile-O-Meter at specific points throughout the game, followed by asking the participants their reason for the rating. These points were:

The findings were definitely interesting. The poster-style provided a quick reference but participants found it cumbersome and would not flip it over. Meanwhile, participants liked reading from the booklet-style, but would get to a particular page that would convince them they could start playing before totally comprehending the game. At the end of each session, it was clear that participant enjoyment of the game was related to how cumbersome they found learning the game.

Participant Enjoyment Levels

PARTICIPANT ENJOYMENT LEVELS: Graph showing how the different participant groups responded to learning the game throughout the sessions.


The outcomes of this research have yet to be seen. However, the gaming company was moving forward with the suggestions which included: