One of the challenges of having decades of experience is it’s easy to become complacent and think you’ve seen it before. It is easy to jump to conclusions, so it’s important to remain open-minded and to look for fresh perspectives. Here are some of my favourite ways to try and stay curious: A playful spirit Playing games is seen as a childish activity, but it requires the ability to learn… Read More »On a mission to stay curious
A long time favourite artist of mine that I’ve never shared on here is Medusa Dollmaker. You can find her amazing artwork on medusathedollmaker.com as well as available to buy across the internet.
For Christmas I received Red Dead Redemption 2 for the PS4, the much anticipated latest game from Rockstar Games, makers of the GTA series. What amazes me is that despite the huge budgets for these games, they still seem to overlook getting the UX foundations right. There is so much time and effort put into these games; the crunch on this game got some press attention at launch, but ultimately… Read More »AAA Games and UX foundations
Recently I spoke at Design Exchange Nottingham about playful UX. I’ve had a long standing interest in games as well as professional career in UX and I thought I’d talk about how they inform each other. Plus if all else failed I might get some people interested in some new games.
I’ve shared the slide deck on SlideShare:
But I thought I’d write up my notes as well since SlideShare wasn’t playing nicely with Keynote.
The intention of my talk is to look at what we can learn about UX from games, what they can learn from UX and whether games can make us better designers.
Learning from Games
The first game I talked about was Monument Valley.
Monument Valley is a great mobile puzzle game that won the best iPad game in 2014. It had about 2.5 million downloads, before it was mentioned on House of Cards. It has a loose narrative and a beautiful clean art style.
When talking about user experience in the real world, architects create some of the most interested spaces and experiences, such as these:
When we consider architecture in games, we are often talking about level design, whether it is the more traditional Victorian London or a more fantastical setting. But level design is the physical system setting for gameplay and often a key factor in designing your experience.
Frustrated with the lack of local UX events, I’ve decided to run one. Thanks to support from both the Creative Quarter and my colleague Wayne Moir we have now got a UX event in Nottingham. UX Notts has its first event on the 19th November and the Pavilion on Lace Market Square. Which will be looking at Agency vs In-house design. Previously I’ve been involved in running events like Nottingham’s… Read More »New projects – UX Notts
I wrote this Twine at about 4am at the end of Gamecity 8. I wanted to at least link to it from here as I haven’t written a blog post about the event. Twine – Love Letter to Gamecity
If you are not familiar with the Bechdel Test, it is a simple test to apply to films; (i) there must be at least two women in it, (ii) who talk to each other, (iii) about something besides a man.
Many films still fail this test, though it was made popular back in 1985. The test only goes as far to look at the visibility of women in film, and to examine that they are defined by more than their relationship to a man. It doesn’t examine how the women are portrayed and a film that passes the test may in no way be a feminist film. It’s simplicity is both it’s strength and it’s weakness.
I’m interested in how this could be applied to the context of video games. But in order for it to work I think there needs to be some changes. So here is my version:
(i)There must be a female character with whom you can interact, (ii) who doesn’t need rescuing, (iii) and isn’t a prostitute.
Such a test comes with the assumption that there are gendered characters within the game. Some games, such as Flow or Space Invaders, do not have any characters of gender.
Samus Aran from Metroid by Ivan Flores
Conversation vs. Interaction
In film, the story is conveyed to a passive audience primarily through the dialogue of the cast. But in gaming, the game is defined by interactions that the player controls. Whether it is shooting, fighting, flying, walking or talking, different games draw on different actions, but it is the the player that performs these actions.
So in creating a test suitable for video games, I am less concerned about women talking to each other, but rather the actions performed to, with or by them. As it’s through these actions that we experience the game.Read More »Updating the Bechdel Test for video games
Another amazing GameCity, we are in year six now and I’ve attended every year in some form or other. Each year the festival grows and develops in new and interesting ways and this year was no exception. There is no other event like this one, it offers a unique experience to explore and celebrate games, playing, art and their cultural significance. As such it draws a diverse audience from all over and it is these amazing people that really make GameCity the highlight of my year.
So here are some of my highlights and feelings about this year:
Journey and Robin Hunicke
One of the most profound moments in GameCity history was when Robin played Flower in the arcade behind the Council House, then her talk on creative minds in the same year inspired this blog post. So I was elated to hear she was joining us again this year to play Journey, the latest game from That Game Company.
This year we had beanbags in preparation, with the addition of consoles set up around the tent to play along. Given the collaborative nature of Journey this seemed a great idea and was a natural progression from observer to participant.
Beforehand Robin spoke of the process of creating a game that allowed and encouraged co-operative play, and how to encourage the desired behaviour, instead of griefing and competitive play, so often found online. I always enjoy this insight into the design of the user experience in games.Read More »GameCity 6
Games UI Series
For some time I have written about both my professional and social interests on this blog; covering user experience and gaming, but I want to combine them and look at user interface design in games. I think this is an oft-neglected part of games, especially with the usual budget and time constraints, however as with any software design the usability of the user interface can have a profound effect on the user’s experience.
An advanced user experience on World of Warcraft
Usability in games is not restricted to on screen interactions, there is a such diversity of ways to interact with your gaming platform of choice; be it joypad, keyboard, touch screen, or no controller at all. This makes the platform and method of interaction a key part of the user experience in games, as such I will explore the strengths and weaknesses of these human-computer interfaces.
Some games designers and developers think that creating games is completely different to creating other software, because they are creating entertainment rather than tools. However recently as we have seen an increasing overlap between games and applications e.g. Epic Win we can see that these lines are far more blurred than previously considered. Software development has only recently realised the commercial value of user experience, but games developers often consider themselves the audience as well as the creators, failing to realise that their familiarity with their game hampers their ability to see their product impartially; perhaps more frustrated by the focus groups that require them to “dumb down” games than they are in the issues that may cause that confusion in the first place. While games do need to offer challenges in order to evoke a sense of achievement, these challenges should be designed and deliberate and not a hurdle of a poorly designed interface.
I was delighted to see that Edge has added to its staff Graham McAllister; the CEO of Vertical Slice, the UK’s first usability testing company to focus solely on games. This recognition of the need for usability in an industry leading publication can only help raise the profile of the value of understanding your users.
I’m hoping to write a series of game reviews, which look specifically at the UI and give a heuristic review on their strengths and weaknesses as well as offering possible alternative solutions where appropriate.Read More »User Interfaces in Games