Understanding Gamers

A user research study understanding young people's gaming behaviours


The brief

UpDownLeftRight (formerly PowaBand) is a platform that takes the activity young people do everyday and transforms it into a better gaming experience. The platform also includes a digital payments service, meaning young people can make in-game purchases responsibly.

This project documents a research study that was conducted in the USA, in order to:

  • Learn the key user needs of gamers aged 7-16 and their parents
  • Gain insight into form, colour and features to be included in the wearable
  • Make recommendations in terms of user experience and messaging


The result

11 families were interviewed in New York and San Fransisco, resulting in a rich source of data.

The insights were themed and synthesised into:

  • A research report
  • A set of personas to guide the product and user experience design
  • A series of presentations delivered to the team, collaborators and investors

6 personas


to capture and share user needs

22 interviews


between New York and San Fransisco


Research methods

A semi-structured interview format was used to obtain rich, reliable and comparable qualitative data.

This was broken down into a series of hands-on and visual activities that were appropriate for the participants aged 7-16:

  • Paper props encouraging the participant to show meaningful objects and talk about their routine
  • Quiz cards to understand how young people receive and spend pocket money
  • A 'build-your-own' wearable activity - ranking form, colour and features

In all of these activities, it was essential to question why and encourage the participant to discuss their though process, or any trade-offs they were making, aloud.

"This one level took all my lives... it frustrated me, I’d done so much today! So I [paid] to keep going."

- 16 year old female

The final section of the interview involved getting feedback on the end-to-end service design of UpDownLeftRight (previously PowaBand).

A stop-motion film was created to show a scenario of use, allowing even the youngest participants to understand how it works in practice. Follow-up questions enabled participants to discuss what they liked, disliked and what could be improved.

A follow-up interview was conducted with the young person's parent to elicit their opinions on gaming and in-game purchases.

"[My son] would play games constantly... but he was so well rounded. It changed my opinion on gaming"

- Mother, San Fransisco

Results and recommendations

Following the US trip, the next step was to turn this huge amount of data into actionable insights for the design team.

This was presented in three key areas:

  • user needs, synthesised into six personas (highlighting behaviours and key motivations)
  • market insights (to inform the business strategy, messaging and marketing)
  • design insights (to inform the product and service design)

Key recommendations made to UpDownLeftRight included:

  • Focus the product on real-world payments, rather than in-game rewards
  • Focus the messaging on giving young people incremental responsibility
  • Flexibility and transparency should be prioritised when sharing from young person to parent
  • Use an LED matrix 'screen', rather than a touch screen, for durability and perceived value

The research insights were further validated with a UK audience before the product launch.

2015-10-07 10.16.26-edited.jpg