A Study of User Interface Modifications in World of Warcraft

Targett et al’s article “A Study of User Interface Modifications in World of Warcraft,” discusses a survey study conducted by the team of researchers in 2007 and again in 2011 that was interested in the World of Warcraft users that were creating and using user interface modifications or UI mods.  The goal was “to study the effect that user created interfaces have had on WoW and its community of users” (Targett et al).  In order to study these effects, the researchers created an online survey that specifically looked at four aspects of the UIM (user interface modification) community. These four aspects were “(R1) the backgrounds of its members, (R2) their attitudes towards modifications and the community itself, (R3) their use of UI modifications, (R4) the characteristics and motivations of users who create and share modifications” (Targett et al).

The researchers used a scientific approach to formatting the write up of the study. They began with an introduction that discussed HCI or Human-Computer Interaction in tandem with the popular trend of user interface modding within the gaming community and the success that World of Warcraft has had because they allow players to make game modifications. The researchers hoped to find “a middle ground between HCI and Game Studies” (Targett et al). The researchers then provide background information that provides definitions for key terms such as HCI, User created content, and UI modification to provide readers with accessible information about the topic(s). This background includes screenshots from World of Warcraft to illustrate the user interface and example modifications that players may use. The following section focused on sthe research instrument and methodology. The survey was developed with the R1-R4 aspects listed above and was conducted online in from Jan. 1, 2007 to Feb. 28, 2007 and again in 2011 from June 1 to July 31 in order to do a comparative study. It was advertised through a Google AdWords campaign and on several online forums related to WoW, including Curse, a mjaor WoW UIM hub. The purpose of the study being conducted twice was to verify “survey participants’ suitability for study and reliability as a resource from which to extract information about the game” (Targett et al).

In the discussion section, the researchers noted that based on their findings that they support “the idea that an interface for a game is best developed in association with its users” (Targett et al).  They also discuss that there may be evidence that Blizzard has actually made user interface changes based on the UIM community. However, the researchers also note “that one disadvantage of a user-modified interface is the pressure it places on the user community to create and support software” unfunded (Targett et al). It is against Blizzard’s terms of service to get any compensation for creating mods.
For me, this study was really interesting and in depth, particularly with the use of statistics. Despite my limited experience with statistics, the charts and information were presented clearly and it was easy for me to follow along as the researchers reported the results. I would recommend this article, specifically to anyone looking to do more quantitative data collection using video games or video games communities, because it is easy to follow and provided in depth review of methods and methodology, as well as connections to previous literature and potential openings for study.  The references section also provides a link to the technical report done by the researchers that allows the reader to view the questions asked on the survey as well. I found this really helpful because it provided such specific examples and information about the study and how it was conducted and I think many articles lack these details because of various constraints.

Works Cited

Targett, Sean, Victoria Verlysdonk, Howard J. Hamilton, and Daryl Hepting. “A Study of User Interface Modifications in World of Warcraft.” The International Journal of Computer Game Research. 12.2 (2012): n. pag. Web. 06 Feb. 2016.