Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: The Humanity of Board Games: Getting to those Nooks & Crannies that Technology Cannot Reach
Presenter: Oana Popa Rengle, Anamnesis
Summary of Conference Session
In this engaging session at the 2020 QRCA Annual Conference, Oana Popa Rengle carefully built a framework around how board games can be used to generate (and not just communicate) insights.
Oana identified four main ways in which board games very naturally create an environment that can be conducive to unearthing real insights:
- Intimacy and connections – we tend to play board games with friends and family, so there can typically be a circle of trust around board game players.
- They encourage bluffing, deceit, creativity, etc. which are all elements that can be leveraged as strong tools to generate insight.
- There is a certain element of physicality about board games. In this highly digitized world, board games can bring back a fresh approach – players must either roll the dice or move pieces while playing board games. It could implicitly grant them more freedom in expressing themselves, which could result in richer insights.
- There is a level of ownership that comes with board games. Players can bend (or even break!) rules, they can create their own “house rules”.
Board games gives us a potentially novel way to give respondents control over the research process. They can tell their stories in their own ways, which can be quite powerful. Drawing on these four characteristics, researchers can transform a traditional focus group session into an engaging board game.
Key Session Takeaways
This was a session rich in content and lessons, and as such, there were many takeaways. Here are some of the critical ones:
- Oana was advocating for game-based research, and not gamification. This means that for board games to work, researchers need to have a mental model of the subject of inquiry – or at the very least, a mental model of how human motivation works. This mental model then needs to lend itself to a game-based format. Researchers will need to have a strong narrative underpinning the game and may find themselves needing to rethink their approach to posing questions and getting answers.
- Any board game needs to be competitive. This means participants "earn" points and they need to go through conditions that require them to "spend" their points to advance to the next stage. This creates a powerful "pain of payment" moment and forces them to make real choices about what they really need, and what they can live without – a tactic that can certainly be helpful when trying to determine what features are important in a product.
- Researchers can also take this opportunity to have their clients play against the players, especially in cases where in order to proceed to the next stage, or earn resources, players are required to highlight things that frustrate them about client products. This can create a powerful moment of empathy, where clients can firsthand experience the voice of their customer and see what it feels like to be a consumer of their products.
- There can potentially be limitations – a focus group format can provide opportunities for the moderator to dig deep into a participant observation/opinion, until it turns into insight. In a board game, a participant might make an interesting (or a highly promising) observation, but the chance to dive deeper into that observation may be very limited. One potential way around this limitation may be to create a "bonus" card or a bonus choice, where participants are able to earn additional resources for elaborating further on that observation.
- Board games are a great opportunity to bring fun. Laughter can break the ice, and in building a shared, trusting environment, can create a pathway to insight.
I really enjoyed Oana’s unique presentation, so much so that I couldn’t limit my “aha-moment” to just one.
- Oana’s simple yet deeply powerful understanding of the insight generation process made this session one of the best at this year’s QRCA conference. This quote in particular, will always be something I come back to – "Insight isn't always buried in depths. Sometimes, it is just at the surface, waiting for someone to find that connection."
- It was absolutely ingenious the way in which Oana brought in an element of play into the presentation itself – using red and green glowsticks to make the audience indicate their preferences. It brought laugher, a certain level of excitement, and was a live demonstration of how that element of play made a 50+ strong audience communicate their real preference (i.e, they would much rather hear Oana talk about board games than engage in an activity – which goes against most presenters’ initial hypotheses about engaging audiences).
This session really had me thinking through how a board game format can potentially be used to test messages. It truly was an incredible session that took the exact opposite route of digitization – and instead focused on something so fundamentally human – play!
QRCA Reporter on the Scene: Meena Aier, Crestview Strategy