Between July and August 2018, Stefan Brückner and Yukiko Sato, two PhD students from the Keio University Graduate School of Media and Governance (Shonan Fujisawa Campus) were allowed to use the [j]GamesLab to conduct a series of experiments.

At the Keio University Shonan Fujisawa Campus (SFC), we are currently pursuing a research project to examine the German reception of Japanese games, as well as possible cultural differences in player experience between German and Japanese players. Aside from qualitatively and quantitatively analyzing German and Japanese online user reviews, on a wide variety of Japanese games, we also directly record, analyze and compare the play experience of German and Japanese test players using TAP (think-aloud protocol). TAP provides us with first-hand data, gathered directly during the play session, allowing for the inclusion of momentary impressions in concern to the games, instead of the overall or episodic data available from user reviews.

This has brought us to seek the cooperation of the Leipzig University [j]GamesLab, an ideal environment to carry out a preliminary test of our set-up and record some first data from German players. Between early July and late August, we recorded a total of 14 hours of play by two German students. The students were asked to vocalize their thoughts (i.e. “think aloud”) while playing the games “Dragon Quest Builders” (Square Enix 2016), “Persona 5” (Atlus 2017) and “Way of the Samurai 4” (Aquire/Spike Chunsoft 2012). We recorded their utterances and facial expressions, using a camera directed at the players, and the actual gameplay footage by using an Aver Live Gamer Portable 2 with the corresponding software.

The first lessons we learned from this trial were in relation to our setup: Never forget to double check the remaining battery life of the camera and bring spares in case your brand-new equipment breaks. More generally, our first use of TAP to record player experience seemed promising. The test players did not perceive TAP as source of distraction and were easily able to constantly vocalize their thoughts. However, it still needs to be seen, whether TAP will also be applicable for use with faster paced games.

Currently we are in the process of transcribing the data we gathered. Starting this October, we will continue with recording a group of five Japanese players at SFC and compare this data with what we gathered in Germany. We also hope to continue our work in Germany in 2019.

We are very grateful to the staff of the Leipzig University jLab for their support!