5 More Things that UX Design Should Learn from the Gaming Industry

Jerzy Bartoszewicz
Jun 28, 2019 · 6 min read

Video games must be well designed to keep players interested because unlike digital services, the process must be a reward itself. That’s why it’s worth taking gamedev as an inspiration during the design process.

My first article about five things that digital product design can learn from gamedev met with a warm reception. I feel honored because it was even curated by Medium staff in Design, Gaming, and UX categories. It inspired me also to write more, because as a User Experience Designer, gamer and video games journalist, I have many more examples. Here is the list of another five aspects that are worth taking as inspiration.

1. Allowing users to improve the product

Initially, in World of Warcraft players did not have mission objectives marked on the map during making quests. Blizzard designed it in such a way to force players to read quests descriptions. It was undoubtedly climatic, but also inconvenient. And that’s why users often visited Internet services such as WoWWiki, Wowhead, and Thottbot, which aggregate tips to the game. The addon “Quest Helper” became very popular as well, which was used to provide markings on the map. Something exactly similar was introduced to the Blizzard game itself with the addition of Wrath of the Lich King. And while some complained that the game was getting too easy, the new feature was implemented because there was a need.

Quest Helper for World of Warcraft adds points of interest on the map and guiding arrow on a screen

Takeaway:

Blizzard watched how players solved the problem of lack of information on the map and then developers implemented the most appropriate solution. Similarly, you can proceed in the design of digital products, for example by inviting users to participate in surveys regarding the planned development of a given product.

2. Caring for accessibility issues

Video games are often the only form of entertainment in which people with disabilities can compete with able-bodied players on equal basis. A helping hand is often drawn by game developers and console producers. Microsoft offers a special controller compatible with the Xbox One console designed for players with severe hand disabilities. In addition, some games allow you to change the control to the less demanding manual — for example, in World of Warcraft there is an option to control only with a mouse. Some action games allow gamers to choose the option of holding buttons instead of mashing.

Microsoft Xbox controller for disabled players is a big thing in industry

However, it is common to provide settings related to the screen. The size of the font, the background color on which font is displayed, and even the schemes for players with color vision disorders. The Division 2 created by Ubisoft even has the option of reading UI through the speech synthesizer. Shooter Rage 2 offers a possibility of disabling motion blur and changing the field of view, which is a blessing for players suffering from motion sickness.

Takeaway:

Options for changing colors or enlarging fonts are not too expensive in development, but for a certain group of users can be crucial when using the product. It is worth remembering during the design process.

3. Tutorials that help instead of annoy

A first-person shooter Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, released in 2013, focused on two things — retrowave style straight from the turn of the 80s and 90s, and jokes from its own genre. Bad video games tutorials were also the topic of a laugh. Blood Dragon starts with a pop-up window with the inscription “Press Enter to demonstrate your ability to read”, and then further windows appear describing the individual buttons. In the worst, boring form which even the main character can not stand, commenting on the situation with irritation.

Skyrim shows that even loading screens can bring some interesting info on game mechanics or lore

Currently, bad tutorials are a rarity in games, fortunately. The player can immediately jump into the action, and the individual game mechanics are introduced gradually, most often during the first mission. Often, games gently remind them sometime after in small windows with hints. In addition, game developers make the loading screens more attractive using hints and additional lore info — it works just like in Skyrim or World of Warcraft.

Takeaway:

We should let users enter the designed system early and learn by playing with it. Tutorials should be shown in context, and more advanced features should be explained in a proper time.

4. Digitizing the things we know

One of Nielsen’s heuristics says “keep compatibility between the system and reality.” Game developers use that very often to create virtual worlds. For example, in the popular Hearthstone card game, the animation of opening new card packs is created to maximize the excitement of the buyer, like in case of unpacking the boosters of the physical collector’s games like Magic: The Gathering. After the package “opening” animation, the cards are revealed one by one. It is accompanied by flashes and shouts of the narrator.

Hearthstone shows that even opening virtual cards can be exciting

Other examples are the old games from Resident Evil series which had a very iconic door opening animations. In-game locations were small to save computing power of consoles and PCs and animation of slow opening doors was simply a loading screen. It had an additional role too because it was making exploration scarier. Because we didn’t know what monsters waited for us in the next room.

Takeaway:

During the design process, we should search for known associations. Young people are now currently brought up with technology practically from birth, but we live in the real world. And many mechanical things accompany us on a daily basis. And these are things we should take for inspiration as designers.

5. The most important: the passion for what you do

Although video games are much more often designed to maximize publishers’ profits, the people who work on them are enthusiasts. The rates in game devs tend to be lower than eg in fintech and much is said about crunch (overtime). But still so many enthusiasts dream of creating games. They are gamers themselves and they love video games. This is also evidenced by the growing popularity of indie games — many creators choose to give up a job, to develop own project. An example of this is the creator of Minecraft, who abandoned well-paid job to deal with the project, which today is one of the most popular games in history. Passion cannot be forced, and the creative process requires commitment.

Legendary game designer Shigeru Miyamoto (father of Mario Bros) still enjoys his work

Takeaway:

Recently, UX and Product Design are growing in popularity. On the internet, you can find a lot of courses advertised with the slogan “become a designer and earn a lot”. For some, it is tempting to enter the IT industry without having to go straight into very technical aspects and hard skills, such as programming. The problem is that in the design there are no universal, always working solutions which can be just memorized.

Without a passion for design, interest in the world of technology and simple curiosity about how the world around us works, there is no possibility to create a really good product. That is why it is worth drawing inspiration from gamedev. The world of video games is driven by the passion of the creators and the players themselves.

10Clouds

Design, Development, User Interface and User Experience knowledge from 10Clouds Team. We are here to inspire!

Jerzy Bartoszewicz

Written by

UX Designer @ 10Clouds / video games journalist after hours

10Clouds

10Clouds

Design, Development, User Interface and User Experience knowledge from 10Clouds Team. We are here to inspire!

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