Category Archives: games

Listening to the End User: NHL/NHLPA Collaboration with Hockey Goalies

Today we present a guest post by Ragan Wilson, PhD student in Human Factors and Applied Cognitive Psychology at NC State University.

Saying that goalies in professional ice hockey see the puck a lot is an understatement. They are the last line of defense for their team against scoring, putting their bodies in the way of the puck to block shots in ways that sometimes do not seem human. In order to do that, they rely on their skills as well as their protective equipment, including chest protectors. As written by In Goal Magazine’s Kevin Woodley and Greg Balloch, at the professional level this and other equipment is being re-examined by the National Hockey League (NHL) and the National Hockey League’s Player’s Association (NHLPA).

For the 2018-2019 NHL season, there has been a change in goal-tending equipment rules involving chest protectors according to NHL’s columnist Nicholas J. Cotsonika. This rule, Rule 11.3, states that “The chest and arm protector worn by each goalkeeper must be anatomically proportional and size-specific based on the individual physical characteristics of that goalkeeper”. In practical terms, what this rule means is that goaltender chest protection needs to be size-wise in proportion to the goaltender using it so, for instance, a 185-pound goalie would seem more like a 185-pound goalie versus a 200-210 pound goalie. The reasoning for the rule change was to try to make saves by the goalie more based on ability than on extra padding and to potentially increase scoring in the league. Overall, this is a continuation of a mission for both the NHL and NHLPA to make goalie equipment slimmer, which was kick-started by changes in goalie pants and leg pads. The difference between previously approved chest protectors and the approved models are shown below thanks to the website Goalie Coaches who labeled images from Brian’s Custom Sports Instagram page below.



To a non-hockey player, the visual differences between non-NHL approved and the NHL approved pads look minuscule. However, according to In Goal Magazine, implementing these changes have been an interesting challenge for the NHL as well as hockey gear companies such as Brian’s and CCM). Whereas changing the pants rule was more straightforward, the dimensions of chest protectors are more complicated and personal to goalies (NHL). This challenge could be seen earlier in the season with mixed feedback about the new gear change. Some current NHL such as Vegas Golden Knights’ Marc-Andre Fleury (In Goal Magazine) and Winnipeg Jets’ Connor Hellebuyck (Sports Illustrated) noted more pain from blocking pucks in the upper body region. On the other hand, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Frederik Andersen and Garrett Sparks have not had problems with these changes (Sports Illustrated).

What always makes me happy as a student of human factors psychology is when final users are made an active part of the discussion for changes. Thankfully, that is what appears to be happening so far with this rule change since the NHL and NHLPA seemed to be actively interested in and considering feedback from current NHL goaltenders about what could make them more comfortable with the new equipment standards at the beginning of the season (In Goal Magazine). Hopefully, that continues into the next season with all the rigorous, real-life testing that a season’s worth of regular and playoff games can provide. Considering there are already some interesting, individualized adjustments to the new equipment rules such as changing companies (Washington Capitals’ Braden Holtby), or adding another layer of protection such as a padded undershirt (Marc-Andre Fleury) (USA Today), it’ll be interesting what the situation is for this equipment come the next off-season, especially in terms of innovation from the companies that produce this gear at a professional level.


Ragan Wilson is a first-year human factors and applied cognitive psychology doctoral student at NC State University. She is mainly interested in the ways that human factors and all areas of sports can be interlinked, from player safety to consumer experiences of live action games.

Human Factors Psychology Dominates Best Psychology Jobs

Edited because it’s even more awesome than I first thought…

A recent Buzzfeed article listed the “8 Awesome Jobs That Will Convince You To Be A Psychology Major.” I clicked, despite my oath not to read articles that have either numbers in the title or include the word “actually.”

Turns out… three (edit: FOUR) of the eight jobs are held by human factors psychologists.* Of course, if you want any of these jobs you’ll need a Ph.D, not just a psych major.

Get your graduate applications ready for next year, folks. (And use our handy guide to give yourself a leg up).

*One is officially I/O, but I think HF can claim him since he’s been President of HFES, an HFES Fellow, and Editor of the journal Human Factors.

Recent Research Potpourri

Just a small plug for some recent research from Anne and me. The topics are ones that we’ve discussed on the blog:  games and cognitive training and e-health tools.  First, Anne and colleagues recently published a paper showing that playing World of Warcraft can boost some measures of cognitive abilities in older adults:

The effectiveness of a game-based cognitive training intervention on multiple abilities was assessed in a sample of 39 older adults aged 60–77. The intervention task was chosen based on a cognitive task analysis designed to determine the attentional and multi-modal demands of the game. Improvements on a measure of attention were found for the intervention group compared to controls. Furthermore, for the intervention group only, initial ability scores predicted improvements on both tests of attention and spatial orientation. These results suggest cognitive training may be more effective for those initially lower in ability.

Meanwhile, my group has recently published a paper looking at the barriers to older adults’ adoption of electronic personal health records:

Electronic personal health records (PHRs) have the potential to both make health information more accessible to patients and function as a decision-support system for patients managing chronic conditions. Age-related changes in cognition may make traditional strategies of integrating and understanding existing (i.e., paper-based) health information more difficult for older adults. The centralized and integrated nature of health information, as well as the long-term tracking capabilities present in many PHRs, may be especially beneficial for older patients’ management of health. However, older adults tend to be late adopters of technology and may be hesitant to adopt a PHR if the benefits are not made clear (perceived usefulness). Toward the design of a useful PHR, a needs analysis was conducted to determine how people currently manage their health information, what they perceive as useful, and to identify any unmet needs. This paper describes two qualitative studies examining the health information needs of both younger and older adults. The first study used a 2-week diary methodology to examine everyday health questions or concerns, while the second study examined maintenance of health information and perceptions of PHRs through the use of a three-part interview. User’s perceptions of the usefulness of PHRs are provided as recommendations for the design of e-health technology, especially those targeted for older adult healthcare consumers. The results suggest that both older and younger adults would deem a PHR useful if it provides memory support in the form of reminders, provides tools to aid in comprehension of one’s health concerns, is interactive and provides automatic functions, and is highly accessible to authorized users, yet one’s information is kept secure and private.

Cataloging the Rights Along with the Wrongs: Angry Birds

Charles Mauro provides a detailed analysis of reverse engineering an engaging interface: the Angry Birds game. For those who haven’t heard of it, Angry Birds is a wildly successful iPhone and iPad game.

The post covers:

  • the usefulness of examining existing artifacts that through their success must contain desirable attributes
  • scaffolding training
  • increasing challenge through cognitive manipulations
  • adding “mystery”  through artistic dadaist elements
  • auditory motivation
  • the importance of look-and-feel

I also enjoyed reading some of the well-thought out comments. An example from A.X. Ian:

One thing I would like to add is the superior level reset in Angry Birds. So many games fail to pay attention to the mechanics by which the user would restart the level (i.e. putting random buttons on secondary screens, unnecessary splash objects, etc.). I do not believe that it is an accident that you can quickly cut your losses and start from scratch before your brain is able to calculate the reward/punishment statistics in terms of continuing the game vs. doing something more productive.

Even in restarting the level you’re still performing a motion that does not disturb the flow. On tricky levels where birds must be all accounted for to hit the 3-star score you cannot fumble your opening shot. The pause/restart action becomes just as essential and sees heavy use. The level reset is wonderfully integrated into the game where you perform an L-shape move. It does not take your out of the game or put random screens with tons of options on it (like many others do).

Here’s the level with the pause/restart slide with dropped opacity to show the path of the finger in red arrows. http://img848.imageshack.us/img848/8531/angrybirdsl.jpg

The final horizontal swipe is not necessary but it keeps you occupied for a split second. From a UX perspective it’s non-obvious to the users, but milliseconds matter and keep them in the game. In sum, it is important for mobile games to have a well-though-out restart function that feels natural and blazingly fast.

 

Photo credit astroot @ Flickr.com