Games and UX Design

I’m a fan of video games. I have my lulls when it comes to gaming.  As a kid you have more time to play but as you grow up, you gain extra responsibilities or have changes in your life, that take up more time. There’s nothing wrong with that and that’s just how life is. I have my moments where I get really into gaming again and go nuts and then life gets busy again. But my love and interest of games never really left me. I remember as kid growing up I would play Super Mario when he was just a few pixels who could only jump up and go down warp pipes. Now, he’s this fully fleshed character who can do all these crazy jumps, use multiple tools, living in a robust world. Like, look at him below! What. A. Glow. Up.

Little Pixel Mario to Fully blown 3D Mario!

Little Pixel Mario to Fully blown 3D Mario!

Gaming has really developed in the last 30-40 years from dumb entertainment to this extremely engaging medium that is a beautiful combination of art, humanity and technology.  We still have silly games but the industry as a whole really has evolved. Whether it’s from Triple A companies or small indie studios of One, the world of video games is so vast and interesting. Video Games are all about the User Experience. It’s the most UX thing there is, entertainment wise, in my opinion. Every single detail is thought about in most games so that the user, you and I, are given a feeling of either joy, fear, happiness, excitement, sadness and every feeling in between! An industry doesn’t generate multiple billions of dollars if the experience it provided sucked.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not to say that every game is perfect or amazing. There’s plenty of mediocre or subpar games out there but there’s plenty of awesome ones too, especially in the indie scene. Gaming has pushed technological advancements from the beginning especially when it comes to graphics, physics, narrative and so much more. Look at EPIC Games’ tech demo for Unreal Engine 5 that ran on the PS5 that they released this week. The amount of detail is insane. Take a look.

In case you didn’t know, I am on the path of becoming a UX Designer. I am growing everyday and I find that so exciting. But when I saw this video below about UX Design in video games, it had never occurred to me that there was UX Design behind modern games. I just took gaming for what it was and didn’t think beyond story, development or visuals. I understood that there are game designers, developers, artists, sound engineers, directors, producers but I never thought about the UX Design aspect of video games.  I was so fascinated with the research that the DICE team did on their Battlefield games and how they used that to tweak the gaming experience.

This took me down the Youtube Rabbit Hole of Game UX Design/Research in addition to the standard UX Design/Research videos I was already watching. These channels focus on not only the UX of video games of also Narrative, Level Design, Game Mechanics, Game Logic, the importance of Inclusion and Accessibility in video games and so much more. I’ve been going through the playlists of both of these channels:

Game Maker’s Tool Kit by Mark Brown

As well as Design Docs who delves into similar topics and his Good Design/Bad Design Series is a fun lesson in what can make or break a game.  He has other great videos to check out and learn from.

I figured it would be fun to kill down some of my Nintendo Switch and Playstation 4 backlog during this lockdown we’re all going through by creating a   Games and UX blog series. So with each game I play, I will write about some cool UX/Game mechanics in a blog post (I promise not to give any spoilers on the game. I’m not a jerk). The first 2 games I have in mind are “Florence” and “What Remains of Edith Finch” which I finished last month. For me, these posts are about not only showing games some love but also applying my UX Learnings to the games.

I’m aiming for a post or two a month depending on how long the games take to finish. These won’t be as in-depth as Game Maker’s Toolkit, Design Docs or Snoman Gaming but it should be fun. If you’re interested in getting really deep, check out the Game Developers Conference (GDC) channel  as well. Thanks for reading and don’t forget to take care of yourself during these crazy times. Play a game or two! Or share some of your favorite games in the comments below!

-A