People love games. Games energize and entertain. To see how games bring people together, we need only to look at the way the world stops and puts its collective differences aside every few years to celebrate the Olympics.
The addition of the computer on the gaming scene precipitated a few decades that seemed to alter the nature of gaming itself. No longer were games shared experiences, but rather they were adventures embarked on by one, or at most two, players. As the industry developed, games became more and more complicated, with some games requiring precise mashing of intricate button patterns on 20-button console controllers.
Within the past decade, starting with the success of the Nintendo Wii, the industry has come full circle. Overall, games have been getting simpler in response to a wider demographic of players playing them. Even more important, games are once again socially important and are spreading far outside their traditional confines.
UX professionals who, ten years ago, would never have thought to consider the game mechanics of their projects, are starting to take these aspects into serious consideration. The desire for the things games do so well—engage and entertain—is forcing designers in all industries to put on their game designer hats and look at their projects in a new way. As “Play Your Way to Productivity,” “Games in the Real World,” and this issue’s “On the Edge” column aptly demonstrate, games are no longer just for fun. Rather, with the right approach, nearly any application can be viewed from a game perspective. “Social Games with Words” shows how non-gaming social platforms such as Twitter can be turned into games.
For UX professionals who are already in the game industry, there are two powerful driving forces at work. The first is that a wider audience demands a softer hand teaching and balancing gameplay. As “Simplifying Game Interfaces” to “Designing Games for Non-Gamers” demonstrate, a wider base of users requires significant attention be paid to ensure adoption by non-traditional players.
The second force driving designers is the need to stand out above all the noise. Since games have become such a prevalent feature in society, there are suddenly a whole lot of them out there. “Using Biometrics” and “Electric Racer” show what insights can be gained from user research in games to rise above the crowd.
Game design has come a long way in the past decade, and game-conscious UX, whether in traditional games or gamified-applications, will play an important role in the future.