Cultural Probes


Results  on cultural probe:

Key Moments Battle Journal:

Participants were given a stylized war journal to write down their reflections on a previous match they had just played.  Within the journal they were told to write the key moments of the match, the choices they made, the outcome, and what they would have done differently.  We hoped to really tap into the competitive nature of our group’s members and see just how into the games they would get.  Along with this aspect we also realized how interesting it would be to read the “loser’s” recap of battle events and compare it to the “winner.”

This was by far our most successful and enjoyed probe.  In interviews with our group they all had a lot to say about this probe.  One participant was quoted as saying “after games we always complain and say how we could have won – but writing it down as it happened made me realize that the way it went in my head isn’t always how it actually happened.”  Just looking at the probes we could see the excitement of the players.  Some wrote jokes and even made fun of their bad moves or risks they took.

From this probe we realized that our group really enjoys bonding together over games.  Arguing over who won and why, became yet another playful game for them.  Even the player that lost had a smile on his face afterward.  Our participants, while highly competitive are not sore losers.  They all enjoyed reliving the gaming experience.  Some participants also said they took bolder moves because they were going to be writing them down and actually enjoyed the games more this way.

We were really pleased with this probe, it gave us great insight into how competitive yet friendly all of the group members are with each other and how they interact and view themselves.  We would not change anything about this probe.

Create your own Minion:

Participants were each given their own box of model parts; arms, legs, heads, weapons, and other objects which they were asked to use in the creation of their very own minion.  They were given no restrictions on the number of characters they could create or what pieces they could use together.  In this probe we wanted to get a feel for their creativity – if they would combine and use unconventional parts in their minion or stick to the standard model construction.


This probe was somewhat successful.  Participants were not as creative as we had hoped they would be.  No player created more than one minion and only one person decided to use an oddly shaped object on their minion.  In the interview when asked why he included the large square chunk of plastic he said it reminded him of a shield and that “I’m always the tank character so I wanted my minion to be a tank as well.”  Other players simply followed the standard of the game from which the pieces came.  This told us that if our group is presented with an object from a game they are familiar with, they will stick to the games rules and mindset and seldom venture beyond it.  When considering ludic pursuits this task really was intended to let our group physically get their hands on something and create.

That being said, we feel as though we limited their creativity as we did not have access to pieces from all the different races in Warhammer.  The only pieces we provided were from the same race and therefore, all the minions looked similar.  If we could do this again we would include other races such as the Eldar, Tyranids, Orcs and even mix generations (there’s a futuristic and medival version of the game).  This way our group could really be creative and have humans with creature scythe arms or reptile heads, anything they want.

Yu-Gi-Oh Puzzle Solving:

Participants were all given a variety of 3 Yu-Gi-Oh puzzles to solve.  Yu-Gi-Oh is a popular card game which revolves around strategy and combos.  In these puzzles the subject was challenged with a pre-determined setup which they had to “play” their way out of.  There was only one correct way to solve each puzzle.  The puzzles were classified as easy, medium, and hard and the participants were told which were which.  This probe is less creative and focuses more on seeing if our group will take up a challenge they are not familiar with.  If players are unfamiliar with the game will they take the time to research the game to beat these challenges or simply give up?

This probe was on the less successful end but it actually gave us some great insight into our group.  Even players who do not play the card game took this as a personal challenge. Many of them researched the game’s rules and solved the easier puzzles which was unexpected.  It was thought that if they did not have a good prior knowledge they would avoid it.  Also, showing the strong communal bond the group shares, the one expert player actually called the others over and walked them through the hard puzzle – taking it as an opportunity to teach them more about his favourite game.  The group accomplished something together and while they all didn’t say they enjoyed it in the interview it was a good eye-opener.

The concept of the probe – to see if our group would work for something was good and we would like to keep it.  We aren’t sure if this was the best way to go about it.  We feel as though this may have been too specific (Yu-Gi-Oh) and could have tried something more common such as a word scramble.  It was only because of our group’s affinity for challenges that made this probe a success.

Rule Changing card: 

Participants were given a simple post card like card in which they could change any rule in life.  This was a very simple yet interesting probe as we hoped it would open up our groups imagination and really get at what is important to them.  We wondered if they would change rules out of convenience to themselves or out of curiosity.

Not a single participant started or finished this probe.  This was definitely the most surprising result of all our probes because, this was the most simple and easy one.  All participants had to do was write a single sentence and yet none of them did.  When asked about this in the interview it was discovered that they all forgot about it while they played other games and completed other probes.  We suspect this happened because this was our only probe that did not have direct ties to games or gaming experiences.  Despite them not filling it out we did gain insight to the fact that when the group is interested in something (the other probes) they become highly engaged with it and seemingly get tunnel vision to what else they have to do.  This likely happens frequently with school work as one of them admitted in the interview.  This was meant to allow participants to enjoy the ludic pursuit of exploration and playfulness as they magically changed the world around them, although it failed.

Our initial thought for this probe was to have them change a rule within one of the games they like to play.  Under the advice of our professor we changed it to be more general.  We believe if we attached the probe to a game it would more than likely get done.

Defend your Base:

Participants were given a map of the lower mainland, a monopoly house, and a few soldiers to protect their house with.  The scenario they were provided with was very loose and merely stated your house is under attack from zombies.  We wanted to see how strategic their soldiers’ positions were and how they would compare with each other.

 The results of this probe were largely unhelpful in terms of identifying trends or personalities within our group.  All formations looked the same and not more than 10 seconds was spent on this probe by any one person.  They simply wanted to get on with playing other games or interacting with the other probes.  This tells us that if our group is not immediately interested by something they will abandon it quickly without thought.

Because this probe was so unhelpful we would likely just cut it out or replace it with something completely different.

1.3 Summary-

  • We learned that our group, when interested in something, are highly motivated and engaged to the point where they will forget about other tasks or work.
  • If uninterested they quickly shift attention to something else.
  • When in the club setting they care most about discussion and activities directly related to games and not much else.
  • Members of the group are highly competitive with each other but do not mind losing either.  They simply enjoy playing the game.
  • The group will take on most challenges presented to them even if they have to do some work beforehand.

Process and Reflection:

Once our group was decided upon some of our initial research and casual questions into what they liked and didn’t like influenced our use of cultural probes.  Our group, the Roll to Hit club is a group of highly creative individuals.  When reviewing the cultural probes we decided that an inspirational approach would be better than an informational one.  Information probes are geared toward getting specific pieces of information but our team was not even sure of what we wanted to know.  This combined with the fact that our group likes playing games we decided to gear all of our probes away from what we thought was boring information gathering into fun games.  That way we felt that our group would actually enjoy the probes and we would have a higher return rate of completed probes.

When creating the actual probes we asked ourselves what would be fun, what do people that play games like this want to feel, experience, and remember.  It was this line of thinking that allowed us to create the key moments probe.  We had hoped to see how much fun people were having, and if there would be any differences between winner’s and loser’s recap of events.  Another member of the team thought it would be interesting to see how creative members of the Roll to Hit club are.  To explore this we thought up the create your own minion probe.  We wanted to know if people would get crazy with the pieces they added to their character or if they would stick to the norm of what “proper” model pieces look like.  At this point we thought that there might be too much creativity in our probes and wanted a more rigid probe to see if Roll to Hit members will put time and effort into something they may not particularly be familiar with.  To this end we created the Yu-Gi-Oh puzzles probe that had varying levels of difficulty to see how far they would go.  We rounded out our probes with two that had no particular purpose other than to see what people would do with them.

From all of our probes we hoped to inspire the group members along with ourselves.  We kept an open mind and we were ready to be surprised by this group of eccentric people.


Cultural Probes Results Poster

Cultural Probes Analysis


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