UX in the Gaming Industry

An inside look at UX in the gaming industry

UX in ATX hosted a panel of UX designers currently working in the gaming industry to discuss the unique aspects of UX in this industry.

Panelists

  • Stephanie Sarvis, Rotational Designer at Zynga
  • Amber Holkenbrink, Associate UI/UX Lead working on Call of Duty: Warzone at Raven Software
  • and Sydney Terris, UX Designer at Raven Software

Watch the UX in ATX meetup recording

How to position yourself to move into game UX

Using your network and making new connections in the industry  is a great way to get your foot in the door.

Basic and fundamental mastery of UX concepts is important, but a formal education is not required. Overall, the barrier to entry is pretty low. What’s important is to show people that you want to solve the problems in this space. Then you can give examples of how you’ve done that.

Bootcamps and individual study teach basic UX concepts. After that, focus on gaining experience to strengthen your resume and portfolio, which will ultimately attract potential employers. You can do this by redesigning the UX/UI of a game that could benefit from a better experience. Then, problem solve by moving through the UX process.

Whether or not you have professional UX experience, it’s important to showcase familiarity with the industry you want to enter. Therefore, having a game focused project on your portfolio will help to stand out to potential employers.

The panelists highlighted that to be a good UX/UI designer, it’s important to empathize with the medium you are creating for. The gaming industry is filled with a lot of passion. If you haven’t been frustrated by a gaming experience before, or do not play video games, it will be more challenging to empathize with other players. Additionally, playing other video games is part of your research, so it is helpful to enjoy playing games. That doesn’t mean that you have to be the best player, but having a passion surrounding gaming will allow you to be a stronger designer.

Is the UX process any different for the game industry?

The core UX process is transferable across industry sectors; including the gaming industry. According to our panelists, the process begins with gathering inspiration. One way could be viewing sources of entertainment, such as a movies, art, and games, then pulling out the elements that may be attractive to the player. After brainstorming how those elements might be adapted to the experience the team is working on, the process begins to looks more traditional.

The game design team works with the UX team to create wireframes. Then, they test the concepts on players to receive feedback. Once the functionality is nailed down, the UI team set the mood and the tone. After that come constant iteration based on player feedback. If you want to learn more about the basics design thinking, check out the article ‘The basics of innovation and design thinking’ by Cindy Brummer or ‘Design thinking’ by the Interaction Design Foundation.

What is good game UX?

A good gaming user experience makes sure the player has the information they need to progress through the game with some resistance.

It’s important to have the right amount of friction; the game should be fun and exciting, but not so hard that it discourages the player. Our panelists said players need to receive critical information at an exact moment when moving through the game to have a successful experience. Having a complex menu system, confusing UI, or key information that does not present itself creates unnecessary friction that can hinder the overall user experience. Gathering player insights and accepting constructive feedback is crucial to creating a good user experience. Both direct, and indirect feedback are beneficial to better understanding what the game is like for the players.

Is it important to know tools like Unreal and Unity?

In short, yes. It’s important to have some experience with these tools, such as knowing how to navigate through them. It’s an expectation for UX roles in the gaming industry. It is typical for teams to flex, especially at smaller companies, so being able to contribute in various areas of the process makes you an asset to the organization you are working for.

There are free tutorials to help familiarize with these tools to help understand the basic principles of a game engine. Also, it’s ok to be honest during your interview if you don’t have too much experience with game engine tools, but is beneficial for improve communication with the engineers.

Resources

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