“A focus group is a form of qualitative research in which a group of people are asked about their perceptions, opinions, beliefs, and attitudes towards a product, service, concept, advertisement, idea, or packaging. Questions are asked in an interactive group setting where participants are free to talk with other group members.”
Thanks Wikipedia, but you forgot one really important descriptor: FUN!
That’s exactly what we had last night at our second teacher/student focus group. Just what were we focusing on and why would it possibly be fun? Games, people, games. We have four science-based games that we are alpha testing. Gulp. So, we thought, Why not invite our friends from Pilgrim HS, Codman Academy, Boston Arts Academy and Fenway High School, to come to our offices and play with us? Double gulp. Exciting and scary…
What if they are bored? What if they have nothing to say? All legitimate deep-seated fears of any research and design group, especially one that believes so strongly in the power of play and how that play can transform learning.
The format for the evening was Play, Eat, and Play some more. Simple, right? And that they did! Any fears that we harbored way down deep were quickly put to rest as our guests became fully engaged and immersed in our games. The most powerful moments came during the second Play session when we played as a group. The true test… volunteer students got up in front of the group and drove the games while explaining, in great detail, what was happening, what they liked, what they didn’t like, and what would make the game even better. And luckily, the other participants weren’t shy about adding in their two cents as well. It felt like a true brainstorming session!
So, guess what? They liked all of the games. They had a multitude of ideas, most of which we hadn’t even thought of. One student even figured out a way to solve a light maze puzzle that completely shocked the game designer.
Bottom line. We have three games we love in alpha test stage. We have a long way to go until they are perfect. We also have some new game designers to credit when we roll the games out—a group of smart, thoughtful, and creative high school students from the Boston/Rhode Island area.
Needless to say, we are smiling today.