Kids See Potential Beyond Gaming for Virtual Reality (Part 1)
In March we conducted what we believe to be the first ever qualitative user testing research with kids and tweens using the Oculus Rift. The research (in conjunction with Dubit) was a series of six one-hour play sessions with pairs of boys and girls aged seven to 12.
We wanted to investigate the following:
- Gaming Usage – how they reacted to wearing the Oculus Rift headsets, how they acclimatised to being in a virtual reality environment and their reactions to the games they played.
- Game Design and Ideation – how well they could come up with new ideas and genres for games suitable for VR.
- Branding – which companies they thought should sell virtual reality headsets.
- Pricing – how much they should the headsets should cost.
All the kids/tweens were happy to put on the headsets and none of them reported any signs of dizziness during or after playing the games. Some of the younger ones felt the headsets could be made lighter and this was more prominent when they played games they involved lots of head movements.
They played rollercoaster games, chicken walking, dragon flying, space games and Fairy Forest. Overall, they preferred games with anchors in the real-world as opposed to more abstract type games.
All the kids/tweens quickly picked up on the importance of controllers and felt that having controllers that more naturally drove their gaming experience would add a lot more realism to the experience (rather than a keyboard, mouse or console controller). Wireless controllers were also identified as important, particularly for the tweens.
Interestingly, all the kids/tweens identified first person as opposed to third person game perspectives as more suitable and more realistic. Being able to look down and see their body was also important to them. Boys wanted ‘shoot-em ups’ whilst the girls wanted driving and dress-up games. Both sexes also wanted to play Minecraft in virtual reality.
Looking at game mechanics, the younger kids were happy just to look around a VR experience (and/or be ‘on-rails’) whereas they older tweens wanted the ability to explore and roam the environments.
Game Design and Ideation
All ages of testers wanted content creation tools – they wanted to be able to build their own homes and mini-worlds and then play in them with their friends. Being able to be inside their own creations with their friends was very compelling to them.
In addition to Minecraft being mentioned several times, The Sims was also referenced. In this context, the tweens were particularly keen on being able to ‘do jobs’ inside a VR environment, as realistically as possible. These ‘jobs’ included being a taxi driver and running a restaurant.
When asked to come up with new types of experiences that would ‘be cool’ in VR we were surprised that many of their ideas were not strictly speaking game-centric concepts but instead leveraged some of the underlying attributes of VR – they saw beyond gaming.
Some of the ideas they came up with included scanning their real-world teddie-bear or favourite toy, re-creating it in VR and then being able to interact with it (girl aged 8). An older boy (12) wanted to be able to explore a Harry Potter movie-set. A boy and girl (both aged 9) wanted to become animals, ‘live’ like them in their natural habitat and interact with other animals.
During these ideation sessions we were also surprised that almost all of the testers identified education as a great use of virtual reality. In particular the concept of ‘Virtual Field-trips’ was popular.
They wanted to use VR in the classroom to make lessons more interesting. Specifically, some of the examples they came up with included visiting a rainforest, exploring a tudor house, being on the Normandy beaches and our favourite, being shrunken down to a microscopic level and travelling through the human body.
Another facet to their feedback was experiencing history from different perspectives, such as being on the Titantic and being able to switch from being the Captain, to a first class traveller to a deck-hand.