From knowing it to "getting it": Envisioning practices in computer games development

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Nandhakumar, J. ; Panourgias, N.S. ; Scarbrough, H. (2013)

he development of information systems and software applications increasingly needs to deliver culturally rich and affective experiences for user groups. In this paper, we explore how the collaborative practices across different expert groups can enable this experiential dimension of use to be integrated into the development of a software product. In an empirical study of computer games development—an arena in which the novelty and richness of the user experience is central to competitive success—we identify the challenges of conceptualizing and realizing a desired user experience when it cannot be readily specified in an initial design template, nor represented within the expertise of existing groups. Our study develops a theoretical framework to address these challenges. Through this framework, we are able to show how achieving a desired user experience requires developer groups to not only work across the boundaries that arise from specialized expertise, but also across wider fields centred on cultural production and software development, respectively. We find that their ability to do this is supported by distinctive “envisioning practices” that sustain an emerging shared “vision” for each game. The key research contributions that we then make are (a) grounding envisioning practices as a means of theorizing the collaborative practices centred on conceptualizing the user experience; (b) identifying how these practices are interwoven with the “producing practices” of software development, thus enabling collaboration to span expert groups and disparate fields; and (c) theorizing the role of vision as an emerging conceptual boundary object in these practices.
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