Kids Got Game

YouTube for User Research (with Cute Cats!)

This blog could also be titled, "What Animals Won't Play with an iPad?" And you'll see why in a moment. I set out with the best of intentions this week, to write about using YouTube for informal user testing information. And boy did I get distracted*.
September 7, 2012

This blog could also be titled, “What Animals Won’t Play with an iPad?” And you’ll see why in a moment. I set out with the best of intentions this week, to write about using YouTube for informal user testing information. And boy did I get distracted*.

If you’ve seen me speak before, you know that I love the YouTube video “Kids dancing to Kinect Dance Central Pokerface.”  I love this particular video because it’s a great example of accidental success – the designers didn’t set out to make a game that five kids under the age of six could play together. The Kinect software has long since given up on trying to figure out who’ splaying, but the game also doesn’t punish them for not playing the way it was designed. It lets them keep playing, and they have a great time for it. Most games blink FAIL FAIL FAIL (or maybe something slightly less mean) and shut down the level, forcing the user to start over.

So I started with that video, thinking that I could then lead into a discussion of some videos of kids playing with various devices and the kinds of informal questions I like to ask. For example, I poke around YouTube to think about questions like:

-What games are kids playing? Are there a lot of videos of 3 year olds playing games that weren’t designed for their age group, such as Cut the Rope or Angry Birds?

-Where are kids playing? Do they play with the iPad in the car or the living room?

-Who’s with the kids when they’re playing? Are they playing together cooperatively? Is there a parent actively engaged (beyond holding the camera)?

-What kind of verbal instructions, scaffolding, or help do other people provide to the child?

But as I started to search, I noticed a link for two cats playing with the iPad.

Two Cats Play With iPad

Then I noticed a link for a dog playing iPad.

Cute Dog Playing Veggie Samurai on iPad

And monkeys…

Capuchin monkeys playing angry birds space

And a frog playing iPhone (Warning, please note that the title of the video is, in fact, accurate…)

Frog eats a dude’s finger FAIL

And to top it all off, I then headed over Maru the Cat. I can’t get enough of this one! I’m seriously responsible for a ENORMOUS number of the views of this clip. It’s awesome. (I realize it’s slow at first, but stick with it. Eight million people are not wrong.)

A disturbingly long time later, I’ve confirmed that it’s difficult to find videos of fish, squirrels, birds, llamas, cows, zebras, and bears playing iPad. Though there are a few cats named Bear who play iPad. Oh! And this just in! Ferrets play iPad too! Hamsters, too.

With that, I’ve cut myself off from YouTube for the moment and I’ll leave you with these thoughts that return to my original thoughts about kids, games, and using YouTube for informal research… YouTube can be a great place to collect informal information about kids and games. The caveat is that it’s not a representative sample, however, as these are people with access to computers who are motivated to post unusual or outlier situations. (How fun would YouTube be if everyone posted the average experiences??? Then we’d call it StatusQuoTube.)

So don’t make snap judgements just because you saw it on YouTube. That’s like basing all of  your design decisions on your four-year-old niece instead of asking a wide sample of people. But instead add it to your collection of tools that you use to gather information on your target audience. And never ever click on the cat link…

If you want to contribute to our YouTube habits or just say hello, find us at or @NoCrusts on Twitter.

PS: Did you ever see this one about the fat cat and the pot?

* Watch videos at your own peril, or at least the peril of your own productivity. You’ve been warned!

Photo © chrisschuepp

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