I’ve started writing the proposal now, and am struggling a bit with the contextual review. However, I’ve not had too much trouble getting my methodology written up. I’ve found it much easier to think of my project as method – objectives – aim rather than the other way round as looking at the project as a whole is a bit disorientating. I’ve written this from the notes I made at the weekend.
This research project will be conducted with a qualitative, inductive approach, as a study of how individuals perceive a piece of art is inherently subjective and experiential, and therefore cannot be measured numerically. For these reasons, a phenomenological epistemology will be used. Phenomenology is the study of human experience, and would be suited to a project that focuses on experience and emotion. Elements of grounded theory will also be used. It is a non hypothesis led research practice, where conclusions and further questions are taken from each experiment, and get more precise as the researcher moves on.
As a piece of practice-based research, a prototype will be created and iterated upon, based on explicit user testing and corresponding interviews. An interpretive approach to interviews will be taken, noting the facial expressions, body language and reactions of participants. There is also scope to use think aloud protocol, a method where the subject will articulate his or her thoughts and feelings aloud while partaking in the testing session. This provides the researcher with a snapshot of the moment, allowing them to understand how the tester is experiencing the phenomena. The questions asked of the participants will be based on the reactions to the previous session, using grounded theory to pick out specific areas of interest.
Supporting documentation in the form of questionnaires using the Licher Scale or PANAS system have been considered, however these are too specific and constrained to work within a phenomenological methodology. The subject should be free to explain their feelings without being restricted by language that is presented to them to allow for the most authentic description of the phenomenon.
Initially, participants who play games and have an interest in emotional depth in games will be chosen. This will help align the project with current works that exemplify the ideals of this project. Once a solid prototype has been produced, a wider demographic of participants will be chosen, including those with a purely consumerist knowledge of games and those who do not play at all. It is hoped that participants with a vested interest in relaxation or stress management will be found. As a participant observer, the researcher will also partake in the testing sessions.
Case studies of the way players interact with and feel about existing works will also be relevant in order to contextualise the project and assure the right questions are being asked. Games such as “Proteus”, “Soundself” and “Flower” all create a relaxed feeling in players, but do this in different ways. How these ways differ and which techniques are relevant to the research project will be determined though a range of criteria, including how game aesthetics and visuals are designed around emotions or ideas, how the formal elements of art have been used in support of emotion and the technology chosen to present the idea.