Nour is a researcher who loves the academic side of game development and user research, enjoying everything from play-testing to collecting data. She is currently working toward her PhD in computer science, in order to study how to make sense of all that data, specifically in improving the options for visualization.
How did you first realize you were interested in the research side of game development?
I had no idea this was really an option until close to the end of my undergrad. I did an internship back in third year, developing a website to help researchers setup their studies. So I started to learn more about user research and the kinds of techniques that are used in terms of playtesting. From observation to group discussions after play sessions. This was my first grasp into the research side. And then in fourth year I took an HCI course with Pejman, where I learned more about being a user researcher. I wasn’t aware of that side before, which is what really pulled me into this field as I learned more about it.
What are your favorite aspects of UXR Lab?
I love the diversity in our lab, how supportive and friendly the members are of each other, and the connections we have through the lab that provide us with chances to work with people and teams from different backgrounds.
What kind of games do you typically play for fun?
I play a bit of everything, but my favorite genre are ones where I get to explore and build things. So games like Minecraft and Don’t Starve together, where I can explore and find all the secrets in the world. I also love MMOs and mobile games. I like that mobile games are so casual. You can pick up your phone, play a few games and put it down. I tend not to play too many bigger games because I need to be in the right mindset and dedicate a lot of time to get invested in the story. Instead I tend to do something quick.
Where do you see your career going in the future?
I do like to teach, so I see myself staying in academia and user research, being a professor and publishing papers. Hopefully still having ties and connections with industry partners. The idea of being a professor seems scary because there is so much responsibility involved, managing students and finding new areas to research, but that’s what my PhD is about, slowly learning how to do all of that.
Games is such a new field as well, both in entertainment and now in academia so its exciting to see where this is all going to go. And I love that people in this field tend to be more casual because they play games, and love games. So people tend to be more relaxed in how they conduct themselves.
Do you have a dream project that you’d like to work on at some point?
I’m pretty much open to anything. I’d love to do something in game analytics and social network analysis. Visualizing players and how they interact with each other inside of a game. Mapping out how people are connected is very exciting to me. Although I also love what I’m doing now with data visualization, and would also love to work with A.I. at some point.