Big Data-Fueled Design: Rapid Iteration and Constructing Compelling Systems

Cody J Reimer, Purdue University


My dissertation, Big Data-Fueled Design: Rapid Iteration and Constructing Compelling Systems, unites game studies and technical communication through a case study of the game League of Legends and the company behind it, Riot Games. By studying Riot’s iterative design practices, my research contributes to discussions about user experience and participatory design. Other non-game software issue updates and patches, but what sets games apart is not just the speed and scope of their iterations, which are often orders of magnitude greater, but the manner in which they involve their users in the process. The gaming industry is at the bleeding edge of system design and iteration, creating what I call “living systems” which are constantly patched, updated, and changed. This ongoing iteration weaves together information from multiple threads, including the players' discourse and the data left by the players' use of the system, as well as the traditional developer input. The pattern these threads weave is underscrutinized in scholarship: despite the games industry's leading practices, the scholarship on game design all but ignores living systems and ongoing iteration. Meanwhile, technical communication scholarship does discuss topics relevant to current industry practice by way of participatory design, user-centered design, and usability, but the tech comm discipline with few exceptions has largely ignored game studies. By studying one of the most popular online games in the world and the design philosophy and development practices that support it, I outline a set of best practices from which we can learn to better create compelling systems. In order to trace how design decisions are made, my study relies on a posthumanist methodology to map out the complex ecology of stakeholders and system design in League. Such work has promise in how we construct courses and other systems, specifically the trend of gamification, the controversial engagement strategy with which people attempt to make routine or bland tasks more compelling. Recently, gamification has been proposed as a boon for educational and curricula design, but the best scholarship advocating it bases its argument on game studies' discussion of game design, which ignores issues like ongoing development and live iteration. An articulation of League's ongoing design offers better insight into contemporary game industry practices, allowing designers, educators, and anyone involved in system development, social or software, to better work with the users to improve the system.




Blackmon, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Design|Technical Communication|Rhetoric

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