Have you signed up for the Bungie Beta
? If you haven’t, our User Research team needs you. We know it can be intimidating to donate your body and your mind to Science, but we promise that our series of tests and interrogations won’t hurt a bit. To put a human face on the machinations of our lab, allow me to introduce you to one of the kindest people to ever don a lab coat.
Who are you, and what do you do at Bungie?
My name is Brandi House. I am a User Researcher. This means I do everything in my (significant) power to understand the player-experience goals of our designers and artists, and then translate that into studies that measure how well they are meeting those goals. I bring real people like you into our Laboratorium to play our games, and I watch, and I laugh, and I analyze your delicious precious brains. And! I go back to tell our designers how so many of you delightfully missed most of the cues they thought were so brilliant.
In short, I dissect your brains and kill the souls of designers. Awesome.
That is awesome. We need people to help us know the hearts and minds of the gamer. But, when the day is done, and there are no more gamers to scrutinize, what do you spend your time studying?
Beagles! And, subsequently, hiking and walking – those buggers have more energy than a room full of 5-year-olds. Also, games of course – these days I’ve been stuck on mobile/iPad since I don’t get much couch time. Dead Space on iPad is gorgeous, and the translation of the Catan board game is also pretty sweet.
For as much time as you spend poking and prodding the gamers who submit to our tests, I suppose it’s only fair that you are one as well. Have you always worked on games?
I was a contract User Researcher in the Microsoft IT department. The upside – I got some good experience running usability studies. The downside – I learned that I have no patience for wall-to-wall meetings.
We should schedule some time in a conference room to discuss that. For now, I’m curious if you have always harbored a desire to dissect brains. What did you want to be when you grew up?
Anything but an engineer. My dad’s an engineer, and it sounded sooo boring. Turns out, I should have listened to my 8-year-old self sooner – preferably before I was half way through a PhD in the darn field.
Did you finish that PhD? If I looked at your transcript, what series of accolades would I find?
I have a Bachelor’s in Engineering Science and Music, a Master’s in Electrical Engineering, and I got half way through a PhD in systems biology before I jumped ship to start a career in user research. I took a couple of graduate-level courses in UX Research that were a great start for my current career, and I still use some of the math and statistics from my other degrees.
In truth, a lot of what I learned in my bumpy road is that I need to work with people, and engineering is too lonely for me.
One thing that we have a lot of at Bungie is people. Would you remember for us how you began the process of becoming one of them?
I was a guild officer for a Microsoft friends-and-family guild, so I lead raids and hosted picnics and board-game nights for locals. I was enthralled by being in a group of people who, on average, were even more awkward than me!
So… I met an engineer at Bungie at a picnic, and she learned that I was on the hunt for a more permanent job in User Research. She gave me a referral. Win #1! I got to a phone interview and learned that John Hopson (known to me only by his game name at that time) was on the other line. He was my first ever raid leader, and I was terrible. My fears were unwarranted – he kindly chose not to mention the number of times I accidentally blink-pulled the boss. Win #2!
What the hardest part of the boss fight that is the Bungie Interview loop?
Endurance. My brain turned into mothballs by about the 6th grilling.
Now that you are a valued member of our “guild,” what’s your favorite thing about aiding our own quest for world domination?
The designer facepalm. It’s great getting a designer in the room to watch people play their part of the game, only to discover that all their fears really can come true.
For the players that live outside of our realm, describe a day in the life of the Bungie village.
Dark man cave, an unearthly glow from the men’s room, occasional climbing of the walls. You know, the usual stuff. Oh and relatively few pointless meetings. Woo hoo!
Aside from the minimal time we spend in our conference rooms, what is your favorite reward that comes from the life of science that we provide?
Newbie lunches. We get to take new-hires out to lunch and get ours covered by the company too. I love meeting people, so this one is a double win for me.
Can you recount your favorite win? What’s that one accomplishment that has given you more pride than any other?
DeeJ thinks I’m awesome.
Sarcasm! You clearly have one of the most important skills to go the distance at Bungie. Of course, having skills is just as important as improving on them. How can a User Researcher learn and grow in this dark man cave?
Finding challenging problems around the studio and learning to apply UR in unique and exciting ways. I’m learning to crush the souls of engineers and artists in addition to designers!
There just might be some would-be scientists lurking out there who would love to crush souls for a living. What would you say to help them join you in the lab?
If you have passion for User Research, go give it a try. Every tech company on the planet needs usability professionals. Take a couple of classes and/or work as a contract UR. If the passion lasts and your talents have been proven, you’ll be ready to tackle the game-specific domain of user research.
There are some eager souls in our midst that need crushing. I can feel their anger. We’ll need to bring this to a close with one final question: Experience, Work Ethic, or Talent? Rank them in order of importance to your role.
1. Passion – love the crap out of studying people, digging through piles of data, and inflicting pain for the good of the whole (work ethic is lame… everyone works hardest when they’re passionate about their job)
2. Talent – UR may sound fluffy, but working with people AND data means you need to have some capacity in both parts of your mind.
3. Experience – Also important, but in truth, anyone who meets the top 2 criteria can learn some of the necessary techniques while on-the-job.
And with that, we return Brandi to craft new and exciting mazes for us rats to run. She practices a very unique (and crucial) discipline that allows Bungie to make games. If the study of the mind is not your chosen quest, there are many ways to raid our world. You can learn more about all of them in the Breaking In