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In today’s multibillion-dollar video game industry, which boasts over three billion players, the landscape is continually evolving. The constant growth, coupled with advancements in artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and virtual reality technology, has led to a shift in the development process. More game studios are recognizing the importance of incorporating UX specialists to enhance the overall gaming experience.

The role of a game UX designer is pivotal, focusing on creating player-centric experiences. This encompasses everything from streamlining the onboarding process for new players to ensuring that UI flows and game mechanics are not only intuitive but also logically structured.

We have witnessed the transformation of the industry and the expansion of UX design. In this dynamic field, portfolio development tailored to the gaming sector emphasizes the significance of networking within the industry and underscores the need for continuous learning to adapt to emerging technologies. Additionally, it involves balancing creative vision with technical constraints, collaborating effectively with interdisciplinary teams, and navigating the dynamic project timelines inherent in game development.

The Game UX Designer: Roles and Skills

A typical career path for UX designers entering the gaming industry starts with a foundation in industrial design. Gaming developers also favor job candidates with an undergraduate or graduate degree in a design field, particularly UX design. However, you may also be able to transition from UI art to UX design. Regardless of your particular path, you will need a portfolio of work that showcases your designs and processes.

Whether you work for an independent, midsize, or major game developer, your role as a UX designer will largely depend on the gaming platform: console, mobile, or PC. In 2022, US digital gamers comprised 162.9 million mobile users, followed by 97.8 million console users, and 94.2 million PC users. Each platform requires a different design approach, and you could work on several platform-specific components, such as gameplay, UI controls, and storyline.

Designing for PC and Console Platforms

High-profile titles or AAA games, such as Fortnite and Call of Duty, are typically designed for PCs or consoles, offering intricate gameplay experiences that demand robust 3D graphics capabilities, unlike mobile games. Consequently, the development of AAA games often involves hundreds of team members and spans several years due to their complexity.

Game UX designers oversee a range of elements in PC and console games, such as character design, UI layout, and game mechanics. Collaboration is key for PC and console game designers, who work closely with diverse stakeholders, including audio producers and level designers, to harness the advanced capabilities of these platforms effectively.

UX designers play a crucial role in guiding users through various game UI components, including the heads-up display (HUD). Positioned at eye level as a transparent overlay, the HUD provides players with essential information such as maps and health status without detracting from gameplay immersion. In games like Zwift, which feature reward systems, the HUD may also showcase player experience points. Another aspect of UI design that UX designers tackle is the hit zone, which denotes areas where characters can sustain damage or other effects. For instance, when crafting the hit zone for Ubisoft’s action-fighting game For Honor, our team meticulously designed its appearance and placement beneath characters’ feet to ensure it remained visible yet unobtrusive, avoiding overlap with other HUD elements or in-game objects.

Designing for Mobile Devices

In mobile game development, UX teams are typically smaller and collaborate directly with developers and game designers, the development timelines for mobile games are shorter, usually ranging from three to six months. Unlike console UX design, which primarily focuses on menus and flows outside of gameplay, mobile UX design is integrated into the interface itself, allowing for a more hands-on role in game creation.

For example, mobile UX designers are responsible for ensuring that player gestures like swiping are intuitive and that the on-screen information during gameplay is both sufficient and unobtrusive. They may also design elements that enhance player experience, such as celebratory animations like confetti showers or treasure chests upon level completion. Additionally, mobile games often feature in-game purchases. UX designers play a key role in designing interactions that encourage players to make these purchases, such as offering extra lives or weapons.

Your AR and VR Design Abilities

The AR and VR gaming industry is experiencing rapid growth, with VR gaming projected to surpass $53 billion by 2028. UX designers specialising in this field are tasked with defining optimal player interactions with virtual game elements like character customisation options, weaponry, and resources, as well as their positioning within the immersive 3D environment. To capitalize on the potential of this expanding market, UX designers need to be proficient in crafting these three-dimensional experiences, which differ significantly from conventional 2D gaming environments.

Challenges in Gaming That UX Designers Can Take On

Besides possessing the ideal set of game UX skills, there are various methods through which a UX designer can contribute value to a player-focused development approach, fostering a favourable user experience that enhances engagement significantly.

To Summaries

Breaking into the gaming industry as a UX designer requires a combination of skills, experience, and dedication. By understanding the unique challenges and opportunities within the gaming sector, building a strong portfolio tailored to gaming UX, networking with industry professionals, and staying updated on emerging technologies and trends, aspiring designers can increase their chances of success. With the gaming industry continuing to grow and evolve, there has never been a more exciting time for UX designers to make their mark and contribute to the creation of immersive and engaging gaming experiences.

Written by

Syed Muhammad Ali

Senior UX / UI Designer

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