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I'm looking for some statistics about how people use their tablets when they play a game. We're talking about complicated one with multiple interactions like strategic style.

Do they hold the device in both hand and use thumbs (even if you have to reach the middle of the screen) ? Do they place it on a table/knees and use fingers ? etc...

I've strated to read some research (google, institutes and so on) but nothing conclusive about this specific case. Can you help me ?

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    Interesting question, How will these stats help you? – Okavango Feb 20 '15 at 13:44
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    If they use thumbs, I'll place moft often used buttons close to them but it's a huge constraint because we have a lot. If they place it on a table, I'll be more free and change the way to do it in a better and logical way. – François D. Feb 20 '15 at 13:46
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    I suggest to test the game and add a few button layouts to choose by the player. Even if you find some stats, it’s hard to believe you will be able to tell that it is accurate for your game. Every game is different and so are the players and their surroundings. – jazZRo Feb 20 '15 at 15:20
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I haven’t seen any stats on the issue but I have a suggestion that might help narrow things down to allow you to conduct testing:

Aggregate and prioritise game controls :

Start by aggregating controls into logical entities and prioritise them inline of how you think the game should be played.


Test and refine design and layout:

Test and refine to distil which controls will be most used and bring them closer user action points:

  • Thumbs = Most frequent
  • Index = Less frequent

Keep your design Finger-Friendly:

Another thing to think about is when to use a thumb-sized target over an index finger-sized one. It’s difficult to know whether most of your users will use their thumbs or index fingers on your application. However, if your application is a game, it’s likely most users will use their thumbs to play instead of their index fingers. This is why thumb-sized targets are particularly useful for gaming applications.

source: Finger-Friendly Design

enter image description here

The above clearly suggests that game applications need to optimise their design for thumbs rather than indexes. The rationale being that the use of a smaller hit/touch area (index) requires more accuracy and is associated with more effort, while catering for larger hit/touch area (thumbs) requires less effort from the player.

In line with above, touch surface dedicated to game controls "especially for most frequently used ones" need to align with average width of the index finger and thumb and game controls laid-out accordingly.

An MIT Touch Lab study of Human Fingertips to investigate the Mechanics of Tactile Sense found that the average width of the index finger is 1.6 to 2 cm (16 – 20 mm) for most adults. This converts to 45 – 57 pixels, which is wider than what most mobile guidelines suggest.

source: Finger-Friendly Design

enter image description here

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    As I already know which actions are the most used, I can go throug that. the fact is the main action is to touch a specific point close to screen border (top and bot too). In fact the game experience is optimal on a table but maybe some people are hardliners of thumb use. Best solution is to test it ! – François D. Feb 20 '15 at 14:48
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    I have played many games on tablet and the problem you are describing is very annoying indeed because you can lose concentration trying to reach a control particularly if game action is in progress.Best of luck! – Okavango Feb 20 '15 at 15:17
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The best user experience should be tested by potential users.

If you find that the best experience is to play the game with the tablet on a table, then you should inform your users of this at the start of the game. It would be nice to still offer the ability to switch the controls and maybe warn the user again that for the best experience, switch to tabletop mode or whatever.

I don't know of any research I can point you to but personally, I prefer to have flexibility with regards to how I use/engage the technology while understanding the consequences of my decisions.

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