Pardon my ignorance of the (video) games industry.
Is there anyone here working as IA/UI/IxD/UX designer in games? Do they have
any use for us? Under perhaps different titles? Is there a place/need in
Nullius in Verba
I have a good friend who is an IA at Electronic Arts Online division
(fka Pogo.com). I'm not sure if it's due to the nature of the
division's online activities, but he's a straight-up IA (Visio, user
flows, wireframes, etc.) that helps develop UI's for games as well as
game levels themselves.
Some ramblings from my in-again, out-again experiences with the game
There are plenty of transferrable skills, to be sure, in the greater
world of game design. The roles of game designer maps most directly;
level designers do to some extent, but they are much less involved with
concept origination and the core mechanics of game play (one -might-
characterize them as "UX production artists").
Game designers are, of course, the primary architects of game
experience. Game designers are responsible for the vision and key hooks
of unique game play: they are the very picture of "architecting a user
experience" (being descriptive here, not referring to the eponymous
disciple as many of us know it). I've seen some story maps from a few
console games(i.e., PS2, GameCube, and XBox), showing flowcharted
branchings of scripted in-game events, and they certainly rival
Enterprise Web development in complexity.
Game designers are as diverse a group as those of us on this list; some
are story-focused, some are all about game science and probability,
some are about big-concept gameplay hooks, some are writers, some are
like movie directors. This is a Good Thing, of course; no one wants the
designers at Valve writing an ultracasual poker game, and no one wants
EA Online designing "Half-Life 2."
All the best game designers understand probability, psychology, and
narrative, just in varying degrees, and in my opinion, it's the mix of
those core competencies that shapes the games they develop.
Of course, many games do need more traditional UI's, especially for the
RTS (Real Time Strategy) and vehicular simulation genres (where dense
controls, broad inventories, or data on multiple units is critical).
Many UI's for console games are even built in Flash. I know of a few
otherwise Web-centric firms that have moonlighted doing game UI's.
Final note: the Hot New Thing in games is ultracasual online gaming,
which finally addresses the non-hardcore gamer who just wants 5-15
minutes of entertainment at a pop...look at RealArcade, PopCap, and
others for examples of this burgeoning market segment.
> Is there anyone here working as IA/UI/IxD/UX designer in games? Do they
> have any use for us? Under perhaps different titles? Is there a place/need
> in their workflow?
I'm currently building a game for Camelot (company that run UK's National
Lottery). Their top priority was cognitive aspects of the game's design.
Considering this project's budget is tiny compared to AAA title video games
- I would imagine (although I couldn't categorically state) that IxD would
be integral to their workflow.
If you're based in the UK, you can get your hands on this free publication:
...packed with insight from all areas of game development.
You may also be aware of Eric Zimmerman (http://www.ericzimmerman.com/), and
his (and Katie Salen's) book 'Rules of Play' - addresses game theory,
criticism, and design.
Martyn Jones BSc
Kode Digital Ltd.
[Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted material.]
>Is there anyone here working as IA/UI/IxD/UX designer in games? Do they have
>any use for us? Under perhaps different titles? Is there a place/need in
>Nullius in Verba
The following link may be of interest:
Microsoft Game Studios (MGS) - User Testing
User Testing at MGS, from what I gather, is more a means to assist a
Lead Designer's vision of a particular game, i.e. leave design to the
designers and User Testing to the Usability Engineers. However, I would
be very interested to see what claim if any Interaction Design has on
MGS turf. For instance, does MGS have an Interaction Design Group? If
not, would MGS be interested in creating an ID Group? Please let me know
what you find out.
The MS Research Games group that was mentioned is a good example. They
hosted a lot of the SIG in Games at this year's CHI in Vienna. Also in
attendance was Nicole Lazarro of XEO Design, which is a company that does
usability testing for games. Sony Online in UK has also hired similar
positions recently. It seems Europe's game companies see more use than
I actually have had informal conversations about this with people in
Blizzard, EA, Relic, Sony and other companies and in general it seems the
video game industry has mostly felt they are doing fine without. As one
person pointed out, the game designers largely take on that role - or the UI
programmer - or the graphic designer etc etc.
I've written a few thoughts on these issues if you're interested:
Kevin Cheng (KC)
OK/Cancel: Interface Your Fears
kc at ok-cancel.com
discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.
com] On Behalf Of Listera
Sent: Thursday, September 09, 2004 4:14 AM
Subject: [ID Discuss] Games
Nullius in Verba
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My first interaction design experience came from a game company. Back in the mid 90's I worked as a Producer for a company that produced educational, fantasy and sports titles. I was asked to join the project because a dev team was working on "the best college football game ever" but they couldn't tell management what it was going to look like "until it was done." I didn't know it at the time, but I was about to have my first adventure as an interaction designer.
I started by asking what the game was going to be like, and through naive questions pointed out areas that needed more thought. Eventually, I created a "storyboard" for the game with a flowchart of game scenes, sketches of key screens and descriptions of movement commands. We then used this document to get buy-in from management for our development schedule and coordinate the packaging and the publicity with the marketing group.
Once we had a written plan, I kept working with the dev team. We solved interaction questions as they arose. I prepared libraries of sound and art assets, wrote help files in RoboHelp, researched and licensed music, and hired and managed contractors (art/voice) talents. After the PC CD-ROM games market tanked ~'96 (long live the Web!) I spent a short term as a Web designer, and then joined Cooper in '97.
Looking back on the situation, I think my product responsibilities gave me a better working relationship with the dev team than many of the other Producers I knew, many of whom were more marketing oriented. However, if you want to get into the game industry, you might consider looking for "Producer" or "Associate Producer" openings. The concept of IxD is more widely known now than it was when I started, and you may not have quite so many raised eyebrows whey you suggest it is a necessary part of the process.
>Is there anyone here working as IA/UI/IxD/UX designer in games? Do they
>have any use for us? Under perhaps different titles? Is there a place/need in
>Nullius in Verba
Do you Yahoo!?
New and Improved Yahoo! Mail - Send 10MB messages!
> I've written a few thoughts on these issues if you're interested:
The notion of "easy to pick up, hard to master" seems to dictate game design
today, running somewhat contrary to what we normally do. My budding interest
in games, though, leans towards the educational side. I'm interested in the
technological infrastructure of games, challenges and all the possibilities,
but for a different purpose.
> However, if you want to get into the game industry, you might consider
> looking for "Producer" or "Associate Producer" openings.
I actually come from a film/video background. Generally speaking, in that
industry, "producer" is mostly a procedural/operational not a
creative/strategic role, though some have more say/ambition than others.
Zobarich, Richard M.:
> Microsoft Game Studios (MGS) - User Testing
I kind of like the notion that a game can be the brainchild of a game
Designer. But it seems like there's a lot of user testing going on and I
wonder if that's just plain bug catching or if there needs to be a buffer
between the game Designer and the implementation stage, in the person of
It's and inside-out question, but can the technology, richness and fluidity
of games be harnessed cost-effectively for other markets, like beyond K-12
On Sep 9, 2004, at 6:12 PM, Listera wrote:
> The notion of "easy to pick up, hard to master" seems to dictate game
> today, running somewhat contrary to what we normally do. My budding
> in games, though, leans towards the educational side.
> It's and inside-out question, but can the technology, richness and
> of games be harnessed cost-effectively for other markets, like beyond
Thanks, that's more like it. And:
The Serious Games Summit DC
October 18-19, Loews Enfant Plaza Hotel
The Serious Games Summit D.C.  gives professionals from the public and
private sectors, policymakers, contractors, military personnel, government
administrators, educators and experts in the game development arena an
opportunity to meet and learn from successful serious games applications, as
well as forge links between the traditional videogame industry and program
managers for homeland security, state and local governments, military
agencies, and educational institutions.
 Apparently the Army spends about $7 billion annually on training.
> My budding interest in games, though, leans towards the educational side.
> I'm interested in the technological infrastructure of games, challenges
> and all the possibilities, but for a different purpose.
I have experience making small scale games, and edutainment / eLearning.
When thinking of IxD in this context - I assume (correctly or not), that
people here are talking about the design of WIMP type interface elements
(I'm using WIMP as a generalisation to refer to interactions within a
traditional application). However - games also involve interactions not
normally experienced within applications (such as word processors,
spreadsheets etc). For example, an RPG may include a WIMP style interface
for organising your backpack, casting "Charm Peasant" spell, etc ... but may
also allow your character to interact with her/his environment using mouse +
keyboard combinations. Is this second set of interactions (game-play
mechanics), which contribute largely to the game's Playability, a subset of
IxD or something else? (usability: how easy to use, playability: how fun to
If game-play mechanics are separate from IxD, then there is probably a
greater need to have game-play mechanic professionals working on titles
where WIMP style elements are minimal (I'm thinking of games like Grand
Theft Auto, where the majority of user interaction, is performed through the
If game-play mechanics are a subset of IxD - is there a need to distinguish
between interaction design of game-play mechanics and interaction design of
traditional WIMP style interfaces?
Sorry - all questions, no answers :(
We sometimes get requests for edutainment, to be realised within an
interactive 3D environment. I say that if you are to introduce game-play
mechanics to edutainment, you have to demonstrate that you are not
introducing an unnecessary learning curve (depends upon familiarity of game
mechanic), or to demonstrate the value of it's introduction. There is an
obvious advantage in making learning games for kids - learning through
playing. We still make game-style edutainment for adult learners, but I try
to remove interactions that aren't related to the task in hand. E.g. I
don't think it's necessary to have to learn how to navigate a 3D environment
(Doom style), before engaging in a French conversation. Your thoughts?
Sorry, I didn't realize you were more leaning towards edutainment. You may
want to look at,
They have links to numerous articles and papers there as well. There are
certainly numerous examples of games that have done well as both educational
tools and entertainment. My favourite of all time was "Where in the World is
Martyn Jones BSc:
> I don't think it's necessary to have to learn how to navigate a 3D environment
> (Doom style), before engaging in a French conversation. Your thoughts?
I look at the game paradigm and see a license to engage the user in a more
fluid environment. It's a license to modulate expectations on a different
plane: virtually anything can happen.
My whole approach to WIMP changed fairly dramatically after having designed
UIs for CD-ROMs a decade ago. For example, I don't think I ever used
OS-based menus after that, preferring a more direct, always-visible
approach, even for enterprise client/server apps.
One of the reasons I love the web is the blurring of the WIMP boundaries,
between the content and the formal UI of the app.
The territory beyond K-12 for "games" lies largely unchartered, haphazard
application of geeky/children game paradigms notwithstanding.