Author’s note: From this point on, I’ll be writing these sections in my own words. It will give me more space to explain why I did what I did, and allow me to make wider conclusions.

This post is about research questions. What are they? Why are they so hard to come up with?

You can boil any research study into a few points. You think there is a problem, you see what other people say about it, you come up with an idea and then you test it. You need to ask the world a question and then come up with an answer. Or part of an answer.

These questions can come from many sources. Sometimes they are given to you by someone; for example the masters projects at York are given to you rather than being fully self-defined. They may come from whoever is paying you to do the research. The idea though is that they come from the literature.

The first two posts of this blog were of my literature review. Your research needs to build on what came before. Your questions then may want to fill a gap in the literature that you’ve found. A lot of studies are still done using student bodies, which in the US and UK are white, young and reasonably well-off. This isn’t a true reflection of the demographics of society as a whole, so your question might be “do we see the same effect in people from other cultures”. It might be “everyone used questionnaires, I want to do interviews.” It might even come from other researchers; many papers (including this one) will have ideas for areas of further research and this can be a good jumping off point for your idea. Your questions might even change and evolve based on your own data.

I found this exercise very hard. I’m still finding it hard in a work environment. The main problem is trying to differentiate between what is important and what is interesting. You can find any number of things interesting, but are any of them going to further general understanding? How do you stop yourself going down endless rabbit holes with nothing to show at the end? I especially found this difficult because there isn’t a lot of work out there on discomfort and digital games specifically, so at times the answer to “what do you want to find out?” was “anything!”.

A good question will keep you on track. Much later when you are analysing your data, you keep coming back to your question. Yes that piece of data is interesting, and probably something new and revealing, but does it answer your question?

These were the questions I came up with, and the ones this project tried to answer. In a later chapter we will look at how successful this was!

RQ1a: What emotional experiences do players find uncomfortable whilst playing? RQ1b: What causes discomfort in the context of gameplay? RQ2: What motivates players to play these games?

These questions will be examined through two studies; the first is an analysis of Steam reviews in order to look at what uncomfortable experiences players are broadly reporting and the second is a more in-depth questionnaire that looks at uncomfortable experiences and the emotions they produce as well as after-effects and motivations for playing them.

Next time is a look at the methodology of the Steam reviews analysis as well as the first attempt that didn’t make it into the end project!