Play with data - an exploration of play analytics and its effect on player expereinces
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In a time of 'Big Data,' 'Personal Informatics' and 'Infographics' the definitions of data visualization and data analytics are splintering rapidly. When one compares how Fortune 500 companies are using analytics to optimize their supply chains and lone individuals are visualizing their Twitter messages, we can see how multipurpose these areas are becoming. Visualization and analytics are frequently exhibited as tools for increasing efficiency and informing future decisions. At the same time, they are used to produce artworks that alter our perspectives of how data is represented and analyzed. During this time of turbulent reflection within the fields of data visualization and analytics, digital games have been going through a similar period of data metamorphosis as players are increasingly being connected and tracked through various platform systems and social networks. The amount of game-related data collected and shared today greatly exceeds that of previous gaming eras and, by utilizing the domains of data visualization and analytics, this increased access to data is poised to reshape, and continue to reshape, how players experience games. This dissertation examines how visualization, analytics and games intersect into a domain with a fluctuating identity but has the overall goal to analyze game-related data. At this intersection exists play analytics, a blend of digital systems and data analysis methods connecting players, games and their data. Play analytic systems surround the experience of playing a game, visualizing data collected from players and act as external online hubs where players congregate. As part of this dissertation's examination of play analytics, over eighty systems are analyzed and discussed. Additionally, a user study was conducted to test the effects play analytic systems have on a player's gameplay behavior. Both studies are used to highlight how play analytic systems function and are experienced by players. With millions of players already using play analytics systems, this dissertation provides a chronicle of the current state of play analytics, how the design of play analytics systems may shift in the future and what it means to play with data.