Game Research Methods: An Overview edited by Lankoski & Björk

Our edited collection just came out from ETC Press.

Print and free pdf available:

An overview presentation at slideshare:


  • Preface Frans Mäyrä
  • Introduction Petri Lankoski and Staffan Björk
  • Fundamentals for writing research a game-oriented perspective Carl Magnus Olsson

Part I. Qualitative approaches for studying games

  • Formal analysis of gameplay Petri Lankoski and Staffan Björk
  • Analyzing time in videogames José P. Zagal and Michael Mateas
  • Studying games from the viewpoint of information Olle Sköld, Suellen Adams, J. Tuomas Harviainen and Isto Huvila

Part II. Qualitative approaches for studying play and players

  • Awkward The importance of reflexivity in using ethnographic methods Ashley Brown
  • In-depth interviews for games research Amanda Cote and Julia G. Raz
  • Studying thoughts Stimulated recall as a game research method Jori Pitkänen
  • Focus group interviews as a way to evaluate and understand game play experiences Lina Eklund

Part III. Quantitative approaches

  • Quantitative methods and analyses for the study of players and their behaviour Richard N. Landers and Kristina N. Bauer
  • Sex, violence and learning Assessing game effects Andreas Lieberoth, Kaare Bro Wellnitz, and Jesper Aagaard
  • Stimulus games Simo Järvelä, Inger Ekman, J. Matias Kivikangas and Niklas Ravaja 193
  • Audio visual analysis of player experience Feedback‐based gameplay metrics Raphaël Marczak and Gareth R. Schott
  • An introduction to gameplay data visualization Günter Wallner and Simone Kriglstein
  • Structural equation modelling for studying intended game processes Mattias Svahn and Richard Wahlund

Part IV. Mixed methods

  • Mixed methods in game research Playing on strengths and countering weaknesses Andreas Lieberoth and Andreas Roepstorff
  • Systematic interviews and analysis Using the repertory grid technique Carl Magnus Olsson
  • Grounded theory Nathan Hook

Part V. Game development for research

  • Extensive modding for experimental game research M. Rohangis Mohseni, Benny Liebold and Daniel Pietschmann
  • Experimental Game Design Annika Waern and Jon Back

About the contributors

Jesper Aagaard is a PhD fellow at the Department of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences, University of Aarhus, Denmark, where he does qualitative research on the relationship between technology, multitasking, and attention.

Dr. Suellen Adams is an adjunct professor in library and information studies who teaches regularly for a number of institutions including the University of Southern Mississippi, the University of Rhode Island and the University of Alabama. Dr. Adams career has included business as well as information education. Highlights include being a founding partner of the video game programming company Westlake Interactive. She currently does some work for Maverick Software LLC, an iPhone app development company. Her research interests lie in the intersection of information and leisure pursuits. She is also the author of Crash course in gaming for libraries.

Jon Back, PhD candidate in Human Computer Interaction at Uppsala University, is a researcher with a love for the breaking point between it is just a game and the moment when real feelings and experience becomes part of it. He studies design for technology-enhanced play outside of the computer, focusing on how to create engagement, feelings and experiences in public place. Previously he has designed both live action roleplaying games and published board games, both for serious use and entertainment.

Dr. Kristina N. Bauer is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of West Florida. She earned her MS and PhD in Industrial/Organizational Psychology at Old Dominion University. She holds a BS in psychology from the University of Pittsburgh and an MA. in Human Resource Management from the George Washington University. Her primary research interests include self-regulated learning with an emphasis on technology enabled instruction and transfer of training. She also has a passion for research methods and statistics. Kristina has presented her work at several conferences, including the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, the Academy of Management, the American Psychological Association, and the Association for Psychological Science, and her work has been published in Military Psychology, Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, Academy of Management Learning & Education, and The Psychologist-Manager Journal. In her free time, she enjoys yoga and trips to the beach.

Dr. Staffan Björk is a full professor at the department of Applied IT at Chalmers and Gothenburg University. He has a PhD in Informatics from Gothenburg University and conducts research within the areas of gameplay design, pervasive games, and interaction design. Exploring novel gameplay possibility through information technology has been a primary strand in his research, which often has been conducted within EU-funded projects such as IPerG and TA2. A common theme in his research is to develop a design language for gameplay design. A primary result of this work is the gameplay design patterns concept and the book “Patterns in Game Design” co-written with Jussi Holopainen and published by Charles River Media. He has been active in promoting game research as a research discipline, being one of the founders of the Digital Games Research Association.

Dr. Ashley Brown is a lecturer in Game Design at Brunel University London. She is the author of Sexuality in Role-Playing Games and an editor of The dark side of game play: Controversial issues in playful environments, both from Routledge. She is a board member of the Digital Games Research Association and an avid role-player.

Amanda Cote is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Michigan. Her dissertation work primarily draws on a critical exploration of industry practices, texts and themes, as well as in-depth interviews with female gamers, to explore why gaming is currently facing virulent gender issues, the forces that continue to support misogyny in gaming, and the benefits and challenges of playing games as a woman despite these factors. She is also broadly interested in the interaction of parenting styles and techniques with children’s gaming habits.

Dr. Lina Eklund is a researcher in the Department of Sociology at Stockholm University, Sweden. Her doctoral thesis dealt with the practises and experiences of social digital gaming as a leisure activity. Her current work focuses on uses and practises of digital technologies in managing families as well as the impact of anonymity on digital sociality. Her research interests concern social life and gender issues in relation to digital games and technologies.

Inger Ekman currently works at the University of Tampere, researching design techniques for experience design, with a specialization on game sound design. She has published extensively on game design and user experience, in journals such as Gaming and Virtual Worlds, Simulation & Gaming, Computer & Graphics, books, and conference proceedings.

Dr. J. Tuomas Harviainen (MTh, PhD) is a postdoctoral contract researcher at the School of Information Sciences, University of Tampere, Finland, as well as a recent MBA student at Laurea University of Applied Sciences. His research currently focuses especially on games as information systems. Harviainen works as a Chief Information Specialist for the Vantaa City Library, edits two academic journals, and supervises doctoral students for three Finnish universities.

Nathan Hook is a British Social Psychologist and current PhD student at the University of Tampere, Finland. His main research interests are role-playing in games and how the psychology of players can be changed by ludic experiences playing roles. He has designed and published a series of game-like psychodrama larp scenarios under the green book series. Homepage:

Dr. Isto Huvila is a senior lecturer in information and knowledge management at the School of Business and Economics, Åbo Akademi University, in Turku, Finland, an associate professor at the Department of ALM at Uppsala University in Sweden, and an independent consultant. His primary areas of research include information and knowledge management, information work, knowledge organization, documentation, and social and participatory information practices. He received a MA degree in cultural history at the University of Turku in 2002 and a PhD degree in information studies at Åbo Akademi University in 2006.

Simo Järvelä has a background in cognitive science and human resources management. His current research interests include physiological linkage, embodied cognition, psychophysiology, media experience, emotions, games, and social interaction.

Matias Kivikangas is a researcher at EMOID group and a graduate student at University of Helsinki. His dissertation presents an emotion theoretic view on the psychophysiology of the (local) social game experiences: how the different aspects of social interaction shape the personal experience of playing digital games, and how can they be interpreted from the perspective of emotions.

Dr. Simone Kriglstein studied computer science at the Vienna University of Technology and graduated in 2005. She received her doctorate degree from the University of Vienna in 2011. From 2005 to 2007 she worked as usability consultant/engineer and user interface designer. From 2007 until 2011 she was research assistant and teaching staff at the University of Vienna. Since 2011, she works for several projects at the University of Vienna and the Vienna University of Technology. From 2012 to 2014 she also worked as postdoctoral researcher at SBA Research. Her research interests are interface and interaction design, usability, information visualization, and games.

Dr. Richard N. Landers, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Industrial/Organizational Psychology at Old Dominion University. His research program focuses upon improving the use of Internet technologies in talent management, especially the measurement of knowledge, skills and abilities, the selection of employees using innovative technologies, and learning conducted via the Internet. Recent topics have included gamification, game-based learning, game-based assessment, unproctored Internet-based testing, mobile devices including smartphones and tablets, immersive 3D virtual environments and virtual reality, and social media and online communities. His research and writing has been featured in Forbes, Business Insider, Science News Daily, Popular Science, Maclean’s, and the Chronicle of Higher Education, among others. Homepage:

Dr. Petri Lankoski is a senior lecturer in game research at Södertörn University. His research focuses on game design, character design, play experiences and development-based research. Lankoski received his doctoral degree in art and design at Aalto University. Homepage:

Dr. Andreas Lieberoth is an applied game psychology researcher at the Interacting Minds Centre, Aarhus University, and an associated researcher and game designer at the Centre for Community Driven Research (CODER). His PhD was in cognitive and educational psychology. He has (co-)designed several games, both digital and analogue. His academic work centers on the social psychology and cognitive neuroscience of gaming, especially in the context of game based learning and citizen cyberscience.

Benny Liebold graduated in media and communication studies and is a junior researcher and lecturer at the Institute of Media Research at Chemnitz University of Technology, Germany. His research interests include states of focused attention during media use, emotional virtual agents, media effects, game based learning, and media research methods.

Dr. Michael Mateas is recognized internationally as a leader in computationally-focused design and analysis approaches in playable media. He is currently faculty in the Computer Science department at UC Santa Cruz, where he holds the MacArthur Endowed Chair. He founded and co-directs the Expressive Intelligence Studio, one of the largest technically-oriented game research groups in the world, and is also the founding director of the Center for Games and Playable Media at UC Santa Cruz. His research interests include interactive storytelling and autonomous characters, procedural content generation, AI-based interactive art, and software studies. He received his PhD in Computer Science from Carnegie Mellon University.

Dr. Carl Magnus Olsson is an associate professor of the Computer Science department at the University of Malmö, Sweden. His research interests lie in experiential computing and the challenges for designing consumer technologies and software products. His teaching focuses on game design at the game development bachelor program. He has spent time as guest researcher at Northern Illinois University, and has a PhD from the University of Limerick, Ireland. In his PhD, he explored the mediating role of context-aware applications by designing, developing and assessing the impact of a context-aware game for backseat passengers in close collaboration with three automotive and software development organizations.

Dr. Raphaël Marczak holds a PhD in game studies from the University of Waikato (New Zealand), two Master’s degrees in Computer Science (Engineering and Multimedia) from the University of Bordeaux (France). He has spent the last three years developing a model for video game classification in New Zealand by identifying which quantitative data sets, from psycho-physiological data to gameplay metrics can be used to enhance the assessment of gameplay experience. Before this project, he worked at LaBRI (Bordeaux, France) on the VIRAGE project, a collaboration between science and art.

Dr. M. Rohangis Mohseni graduated in psychology at the University of Cologne in 2005. After that, he became a scientific assistant at Osnabrück University. Until 2011, he worked at the university’s Teaching Evaluation Service Point, and after that at the Center for Information Management and Virtual Teaching. His diploma thesis about moral courage inspired him to write a doctoral thesis about virtual emergency assistance. His research interests include computer game research, e-learning, mobile learning, and forms of (im)moral behaviour like aggression, helping and moral courage.

Dr. Frans Mäyrä is the Professor of Information Studies and Interactive Media, with specialization in digital culture and game studies in the University of Tampere, Finland. Mäyra heads the University of Tampere Game Research Lab, teaching digital culture and games since early 1990s. He is widely consulted as an expert in socio-cultural issues relating to games, play and playfulness. His research interests range from game cultures, meaning making through playful interaction and online social play, to borderlines, identity, as well as transmedial fantasy and science fiction. He is currently leading the research project Ludification of Culture and Society. Publications include: Demonic texts and textual demons (1999), CGDC conference proceedings (ed., 2002), The metamorphosis of home (ed. 2005), An introduction to game studies (2008), and a large number of articles and conference papers.

Dr. Daniel Pietschmann is a research associate at the Institute for Media Research, Chair of Media Psychology, Chemnitz University of Technology, Germany. Research interests include psychological and physical aspects of experiencing digital media, virtual reality environments, computer game research, TV studies and Transmedia Storytelling.

Jori Pitkänen is a professional drama instructor and game educator, currently doing his doctoral dissertation about the thought processes of gamers in video games and roleplaying games (live and table-top). In his theses at the University of Helsinki (MA in Education) and the University of Applied Sciences in Helsinki (BA in Theatre Arts) he researched the application of live action role playing games in teaching and theatre directing. He used the stimulated recall method to research the thought processes of sixth-graders to find traces of historical empathy and its development during gameplay. He also used stimulated recall when he researched the unique, gamified teaching environment at Østerskov Efterskole in Denmark.

Dr. Niklas Ravaja is a professor at the Department of Social Research, University of Helsinki, and director of research at the Department of Information and Service Economy, Aalto School of Business. His areas of research interest and expertise include the psychophysiology of attention, emotion, and temperament, and media psychology.

Dr. Julia G. Raz earned her PhD. in Communication Studies from the University of Michigan. Her dissertation research employed a textual analysis methodology to investigate exergames and the construction of women and motherhood. Her other projects drew on ethnographic research and in-depth interviews in public spaces and industry trade shows to study the meaning of casual games. Dr. Raz is currently part time faculty at Santa Monica College and the New York Film Academy of Los Angeles.

Dr. Gareth Schott PhD, is a Senior Lecturer at the School of Arts, Screen and Media Program at the University of Waikato, New Zealand. He was the principal investigator and grant holder of the Royal Society of New Zealand: Marsden Grant that funded the research disseminated in this collection. He has published widely in the field of game studies prior to, and since its inception in 2001. He is co-author of Computer Games: Text, narrative and play (Polity Press) and sole author of Violent Games: Rules, realism & effect scheduled for publication in 2015 (Bloomsbury Press)

Olle Sköld (MA) is a doctoral student with one leg in archival studies research and the other in the field of information studies. His research interests range from matters relating to archival appraisal and the preservation of videogames to the study of memory-making, knowledge production, and documentation in online gaming communities. Sköld currently pursues his PhD at the Department of ALM (Archival Studies, Library and Information Science and Museums and Cultural Heritage Studies), Uppsala University, Sweden.

Dr. Mattias Svahn received his PhD from the Stockholm School of Economics. He has in collaboration with the Interactive Institute Swedish ICT researched the media psychology of pervasive games, in particular the consumer/players´ experiences and reactions when exposed to pervasive persuasive games for learning and advertising. He consults to large Scandinavian media houses and has published and presented at many international conferences on the consumer psychology of ambient media and pervasive advertising. His work bridges consumer behavior sciences, game design science and play theory. He was also senior coordinator and research leader for business development of pervasive games at the EU IST framework programme 6 project Iperg that developed prototype pervasive games and ambient media (see

Dr. Jose Zagal is faculty at DePaul University’s College of Computing and Digital Media and visiting faculty at the University of Utah. His research explores the development of frameworks for analyzing and understanding games from a critical perspective. He is also interested in supporting games literacy. His book Ludoliteracy: Defining, understanding, and supporting games education was published in 2010. More recently he edited The Videogame Ethics Reader (2012) as an entry point for reflecting upon and discussing ethical topics surrounding videogames. Zagal is Vice President of the Digital Games Research Association (DiGRA) and received his PhD in Computer Science from Georgia Institute of Technology.

Dr. Richard Wahlund is the Bonnier Family Professor in Business Administration, focusing on media, at the Stockholm School of Economics (SSE). He is also Head of the Department of Marketing and Strategy and the Center for Media and Economic Psychology at SSE. His research projects are mainly in the intersection of marketing, media and economic psychology, and he has above 100 publications. His latest projects focus on media and sustainability issues. Professor Wahlund is a member of several boards within business and academics, and also a frequent guest lecturer within industry and society.

Dr. Annika Waern, professor in Human-Computer Interaction at Uppsala University, is a research by design academic with a background in computer science and human-computer interaction. She has dedicated the latest ten years of her life to understanding games, and more specifically, pervasive games. During 2004–2008, she acted as the coordinator of IPerG, Integrated Project on Pervasive Games, an EU-funded project with nine partners spread around Europe. She acts as editor in chief for ToDIGRA, Transactions of the Digital Games Research Association and frequently participates in programme committees for scientific conferences in the fields of human-computer interaction and game research.

Dr. Günter Wallner serves as senior scientist at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna. He holds a doctorate degree in natural sciences from the University of Applied Arts Vienna and a diploma degree in computer science from the Vienna University of Technology. His research interests include the design, development, and evaluation of digital games as well as computer graphics and visualization. Currently his research focuses on the analysis and visualization of game telemetry data. His work has been published in international journals and conferences, such as Computers & Graphics, Entertainment Computing, and ACM SIGCHI.

Kaare Bro Wellnitz is a PhD student at the Department of Psychology and Behavioural Sciences, Aarhus University, Denmark. His main research area is motivation and educational psychology, where he is currently investigating the relationship between ways of organizing school and student engagement using a combination of quantitative and qualitative research methods.

Published by lankoski

Petri Lankoski, D.Arts, is a Associate Professor in Game Studies at the school of Communication, Media and IT at the Södertörn University, Sweden. His research focuses on game design, game characters, role-playing, and playing experience. Petri has been concentrating on single-player video games but researched also (multi-player) pnp and live-action role-playing games. This blog focuses on his research on games and related things.

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