Ethnography: the Holy Grail of Game Studies? Some Methodological Thoughts.

Kris Naessens, An Jacobs

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingMeeting abstract (Book)


In recent years, the study of computer and video games has gained importance in various scientific disciplines (e.g. HCI, computer science). Sharply rising sales figures and broader acceptance of the medium among the general public has also stirred interest from media and communications studies.
Traditionally, user research in this field is conducted in controlled environments such as usability labs and involves the study of certain aspects of games (e.g. reaction to graphics, controls). However, we argue that such methods are not able to capture the overall experience of playing computer and video games in its everyday context. Also questions on the appropriation and domestication of the technology (e.g. Silverstone & Haddon, 1996) can not be answered using these traditional methods. Ethnographic approaches can be valuable here.
This paper is based on ethnographic research we performed on the use of computer and video games by different types of players. By following five households (families or people sharing a residence) at home in their playing activities for five months, we studied how they experience various genres of games and gaming platforms and how the medium is integrated into their daily lives.
The paper will focus on the multi-method research design deployed in the project. It included various research techniques such as in-depth interviews, observations, logbooks and projective techniques. A detailed description will be made of how and why the different research techniques were employed in various stages. Based on our findings and experiences, we will also provide recommendations for future ethnographic research in the field.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationUnknown
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 30 Mar 2009
EventFinds and Results from the Swedish Cyprus Expedition: A Gender Perspective at the Medelhavsmuseet - Stockholm, Sweden
Duration: 21 Sep 200925 Sep 2009


ConferenceFinds and Results from the Swedish Cyprus Expedition: A Gender Perspective at the Medelhavsmuseet


  • Video game
  • Computer
  • Ethnography
  • Methodology
  • co-design
  • Household
  • Player


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