Games meet UX

We are living in a world where it’s no longer enough to just have a good idea. Nowadays you need to build the right product for the users.

It’s increasingly common to encounter users who demand new experiences to satisfy their own needs. Thus, every company in the world -no matter the business- must evolve to provide their users a memorable experience and differentiate themselves from the competitors. Video game companies are not an exception to this rule.

To find a solution to this problem, the number of Indie/AAA Publishers who look for “Game UXD” profiles to incorporate into their teams has been significantly increasing in the last few years, but… What exactly is a Game UX Designer?

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BEFORE BEING ABDUCTED BY THE VIDEO GAME WORLD, WE MUST CLEAR UP THE CONCEPT OF A “TRADITIONAL UX”.

UX Design (User experience design) or “UX” is -in general- a term which video game developers are not very familiarized with and it is usually easily misunderstood because of the hundreds of definitions around the world-wide-web.

To identify these professionals, we should locate the nearest office covered in Post-it notes. Inside, you will find a team of eccentric humans with Sharpies and sharp knives in their hands, passionately arguing and trying to solve the most existential problems of each one of the projects put forward by the company.

“User Experience encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.” - N&N Group

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In trivial terms, UX Designers are the connection between the development team and the users who interact with the programs, websites, or applications which are being developed. Their main role is to design the previously mentioned projects based on qualitative and quantitative data in order to provide the users an intuitive, straightforward and seamless interaction.


NOW; GAME UX? ANOTHER TRENDY ROLE WHICH I SHOULD LEARN ABOUT? IS IT NOT THE SAME AS A TRADITIONAL UX?


Although it is true that the practices of these two roles are very similar, I’m afraid that I have to quote Captain Lorca and say: “Context is King”. Why?



Lorca

Well, we can consider a video game as an application, an application where we want to let the players be able to start using it by themselves, to let them focus on how to face the challenges or to let them comprehend the background story and get involved in it without taking a break to re-learn basic mechanics or try to understand UI elements.

Up to this point, we have nothing that a traditional UX Designer couldn’t sort out, but within the context in which a video game player will interact, our solution is completely different than when a normal user tries to complete a premeditated action (for example, book a flight, request an Uber or even check their email).

Generally speaking, when a person sits down to play video games, he’s deciding to let his preoccupation and obligations aside to relax for a moment in the day (Please, note that I’m not speaking about competitive/professional gamers here). In this particular context, it’s crucial to avoid the imposition of an extra cognitive load on the player in order to let him focus on the background story, keeping the real world away.

What we are looking at as Game UXD is that the interactions the user has with our game’s mechanics are simple and intuitive but at the same time challenging.

Thus, while the Game Designer creates new features and mechanics for our game, it will be our duty to assimilate and transform them into clear interfaces keeping the consistency and obliterating every kind of noise which could make the game less unambiguous.

Although a Traditional UX is capable of proposing a solution to solve these kinds of troubles, it could be a faulty solution which might not fulfill the player’s needs because he’s not familiarized with the situation that they are going through. On the other hand, a video game specialized UX will be more assertive at the moment to offer a solution to the presented problem because he knows -or he must know- the target users, their motivations, the game mechanics and their preferences for interacting with a console or device.

Another key aspect to bear in mind is that players love to be challenged and they find motivation in being tested to solve simple and complex problems. This reality must be our moto from now on. However, it’s important to remember that to make this happen, every aspect of the user interface must work properly and intuitively to avoid the attention dispersion which could result in a moment of frustration for them.


How is it possible to design a simple and intuitive experience without neglecting the challenge and the "unknown" that the game wants to prompt?


Well... Designing for deliberate challenge isn't something Traditional UX designers are used to, but they ought to be familiar with designing for the satisfaction of accomplishing a task.

Writing a small equation to sound more intelligent we could figure out that:


Traditional UX + (Game Designer * Mechanic) + Player = GUXD.



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Needless to say that the previous equation is quite complicated and doesn’t have any sense, but let’s hope the following sentence could be easier to understand;

The ability of a UX Designer to improve the fun on complex systems, plus the mechanics of a good Game Designer and an outstanding Storyteller, must seamlessly mix-up to produce a challenging and rewarding game; in other words, an unforgiving experience.

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