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What Board Games can Teach Us about Designing Experiences

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There’s a reason so many board gamers show up UX events. The same skills that make us great information wranglers are the same things that make board games like Catan, Pandemic and yes, even Exploding Kittens so appealing! It should come as no surprise that we’ve seen prominent UX leaders cross over into board game design (Matt Leacock, Dirk Knemeyer).
If we scratch beneath the surface, there’s a set of shared skills (and struggles) common to these different professions. Specifically: the spatial arrangement of information, visual encoding of information, creating designed spaces, a systems view, playtesting / user testing, competing tensions, triggering emotional responses, and many more.
Okay, so what? Sure, it’s kind of neat that we have so much in common. But how might this change what I do at $largecompany? Here’s the honest truth: The game design profession is just a little bit farther down the road than us, and we have a lot to learn from this group if we can look past the superficial differences. We talk about designing for emotions, but let’s face it, game designers are actually winning at this. Processes? We talk about lean and agile, but game designers have mastered playtesting (and the design to playtest ratio should make us embarrassed at how little we actually iterate with users). And there’s plenty more. I’m confident that if we can look our our own profession through the lens of game design, we’ll see plenty of glaring opportunities for improvement, and a few tricks we might pick up, as well.

Published in: Design

What Board Games can Teach Us about Designing Experiences

  1. 1. WhatBoardGames canTeachUsabout DesigningExperiences Stephen P. Anderson @stephenanderson #canux t
  2. 2. WhatBoardGames canTeachUsabout DesigningExperiences Stephen P. Anderson @stephenanderson #canux DesigningTabletop for t
  3. 3. WhatUXcanlearnfrom bakingbread! Marvelcomics motorcyclemaintenance LEGObricks
  4. 4. Why tabletop games?
  5. 5. Rich, nuanced, engaging experiences… Why tabletop games?
  6. 6. A “Board Game” Renaissance
  7. 7. Why tabletop games? Because it’s our job.
  8. 8. Experience design is the design of anything, independent of medium or across media, with human experience as an explicit outcome and human engagement as an explicit goal.”
 
 —Jesse James Garrett Why tabletop games? Because it’s our job.
  9. 9. Game Design Architecture Restaurants Industrial Design Filmmaking Fiction ScreEnwriting Graphic Novels Speech writing / Public Speaking Advertising Music/Entertainment Improv/Comedy Theater / Dance / Performing Arts Fine Arts teaching / Training Behavioral Economics Psychology / Counseling Politics / Leadership nursing & medical consultations Fashion Design Wayfinding Instructional Design graphic design customer support Marketing / PR Service Design Similar / adjacent disciplines that also focus on human experience and engagement… Event Planning
  10. 10. “Game Design and Interaction Design are fraternal twins. 
 They share almost all their DNA”
 
 —Christina Wodtke
  11. 11. WHAT can we learn from tabletop games?
  12. 12. A Focus on the Whole FRICTION! Use of Space PlaytestingExperience-Driven Orientation Dealing wtih emotions tactility MDA Onboarding Social interactions SustainingEngagement PlayerMotivations InformationDesign
  13. 13. A Focus on the Whole FRICTION! Use of Space PlaytestingExperience-Driven Orientation Dealing wtih emotions tactility MDA Onboarding Social interactions SustainingEngagement PlayerMotivations InformationDesign Experience-Driven Orientation
  14. 14. Meaningful Pleasurable Convenient Usable Reliable Functional (Useful) Focused on Experiences (People, Activities, Context) Focused on Tasks (Products, Features) © 2006 Stephen P. Anderson | poetp SUBJECTIVE / QUALITATIVE OBJECTIVE / QUANTIFIABLE Has personal significance Memorable experience worth sharing Super easy to use, works like I think Can be used without difficulty Is available and accurate Works as programmed Prioritize Aesthetics (no, not Graphic Design) (visual, behaviors, sounds, psychology) Design for FLOW (boredom vs anxiety) Leverage Game Mechanics/Learning Theory (completeness) Have a Personality Create conversational and context aware interactions (“Adaptive Interfaces”; narrative IA structures) Elicit Desire (Limited availability, limited access, curious and seductive experiences)Simplify, organize, and clarify Display information visually Reduce features and complexity Use language for more natural Add features that support desired ine browsing) Have a believable story Co-create value with customers Connect people in community Are part of a bigger system Appeal to emotional, spiritual, and Create a tolerance for faults at Are tied to a person’s self-image, highly personal Creating Pleasurable Interfaces: Getting fom Tasks to Experiences presented by Stephen P. Anderson | Nov 8, 2006 “It is not enough that we b products that function, tha understandable and usable we also need to build produ that bring joy and excitem pleasure and fun, and yes beauty, to people’s lives.” THIS IS THE“CHASM”THAT IS REALLY, REALLY HARD FOR ORGANIZATIONS TO CROSS
  15. 15. Experience Focus Product Focus
  16. 16. Experience Focus Product Focus
  17. 17. people, activities & context tasks & features outcomes and experiences output and functionality perceptions, emotions, attention, memory… interfaces, interactions, usability, etc. Experience Focus Product Focus
  18. 18. Thinking about the player encourages experience-driven (as opposed to feature-driven) design. As such, we begin our investigation with a discussion of Aesthetics, and continue on to Dynamics, finishing with the underlying Mechanics.
  19. 19. http://www.leagueofgamemakers.com/the-themes-they-are-a-changing/
  20. 20. http://www.leagueofgamemakers.com/the-themes-they-are-a-changing/ The key was to go down a level deeper. At work, we were doing a branding exercise for a product, and we listed off the adjectives we wanted to describe the product. I realized that a similar exercise would work here… I mulled over all the feedback on the mechanics: what type of experience were they creating on their own? What adjectives did players use to talk about the mechanics? Players described the game as simple and elegant. It was calming and relaxing to play. They were surprised and delighted by the richness of the decisions. They said it flowed smoothly, that they could play it over and over again.” — R A N D Y H O Y T , G A M E D E S I G N E R / P U B L I S H E R “
  21. 21. http://www.leagueofgamemakers.com/the-themes-they-are-a-changing/ The key was to go down a level deeper. At work, we were doing a branding exercise for a product, and we listed off the adjectives we wanted to describe the product. I realized that a similar exercise would work here… I mulled over all the feedback on the mechanics: what type of experience were they creating on their own? What adjectives did players use to talk about the mechanics? Players described the game as simple and elegant. It was calming and relaxing to play. They were surprised and delighted by the richness of the decisions. They said it flowed smoothly, that they could play it over and over again.” — R A N D Y H O Y T , G A M E D E S I G N E R / P U B L I S H E R “
  22. 22. This image captured perfectly the feeling that the playing the game produced, and I knew a theme and narrative woven around this could work to produce a great experience. http://www.leagueofgamemakers.com/the-themes-they-are-a-changing/ Tangled
  23. 23. http://www.leagueofgamemakers.com/the-themes-they-are-a-changing/
  24. 24. How often do we really let a singular, desired experience drive every product decision?Takeaway UX
  25. 25. How often do we really let a singular, desired experience drive every product decision? adding features pushing back on customer requests prioritizing the backlog how we design a familiar feature eliminating features Delaying releases Takeaway UX
  26. 26. “Untilmyplayersfeel__________,Iwillnotship”
  27. 27. “Untilmyplayersfeel__________,Iwillnotship” “Games often ship late because they ship based on exit criteria, not deadlines… Either you ship something tiny before you run out of money, or you ship late something that is sufficiently fun. The first are higher risk, but if the core works, they’ll make it.” —Christina Wodtke
  28. 28. A Focus on the Whole FRICTION! Use of Space PlaytestingExperience-Driven Orientation Dealing wtih emotions tactility MDA Onboarding Social interactions SustainingEngagement PlayerMotivations InformationDesign A Focus on the Whole
  29. 29. “The Whole is Other than the Sum of the Parts”
  30. 30. “An Experience is Other than the Sum of the Parts”
  31. 31. != The pieces are the same… …but the final experience here is just WRONG!
  32. 32. Experiences Product
  33. 33. Production. Direction. Balance. Orchestration. Choreography.
  34. 34. “Designing a product is keeping five thousand things in your brain and fitting them all together in new and different ways to get what you want. And every day you discover something new that is a new problem or a new opportunity to fit these things together a little differently. And it’s that process that is the magic.”  — Steve Jobs
  35. 35. Do your processes encourage a focus on the whole and how all parts fit together for a desired effect?Takeaway UX
  36. 36. “Now imagine a different scenario, where the designer never actually addressed the color of any of the buttons at all. Instead they presented their complete vision where real people experienced a complete system with satisfaction… The question of a simple hypothesis of whether a color button would be good or bad would be completely ignored.
 
 Why? because the story version of the presentation focuses on the experience people will have and the value they will (hopefully) receive from the holistic design, instead of focusing on the individual featured components — any one of which is quite meaningless by themselves.”
 
 —Dave Malouf https://medium.com/@daveixd/most-valuable-story-523a9fd023e6#.91qy0bsy2
  37. 37. Do your processes encourage a focus on the whole and how all parts fit together for a desired effect?Takeaway UX
  38. 38. Takeaway UX what gets defined as a release? Is it a complete set of things? Do you test small parts or the entire experience? what do you measure? What’s the scope of projects you take on? 
 (more epics and themes vs stories and tasks) what is the critical “core” to your experience? does your team consider how new features might play with or disrupt existing features? Do your processes encourage a focus on the whole and how all parts fit together for a desired effect?
  39. 39. A Focus on the Whole FRICTION! Use of Space PlaytestingExperience-Driven Orientation Dealing wtih emotions tactility MDA Onboarding Social interactions SustainingEngagement PlayerMotivations InformationDesign Playtesting
  40. 40. Research Strategy Design Test/ Validation Measurement Empathize Design Ideate Prototype Test Discover Define Ideate/Test/ prototype Build & Deply Measure User Research Analysis Design Prototype User testing TIME Discovery ideation Design Validation
  41. 41. Research Strategy Design Test/ Validation Measurement Empathize Design Ideate Prototype Test Discover Define Ideate/Test/ prototype Build & Deply Measure User Research Analysis Design Prototype User testing TIME Discovery ideation Design Validation
  42. 42. IDEA!
  43. 43. IDEA! Game is complete enough to begin playing
  44. 44. IDEA! Game is complete enough to begin playing w/ inner circle of friends repeat until fun! Playtest!
  45. 45. IDEA! Game is complete enough to begin playing w/ inner circle of friends repeat until fun! w/ outer circle of friends (to hammer out bugs; to try and break the game) Playtest! Playtest!
  46. 46. IDEA! Game is complete enough to begin playing w/ inner circle of friends repeat until fun! w/ outer circle of friends (to hammer out bugs; to try and break the game) w/ random strangers (to test rule book and onboarding) Playtest! Playtest! Playtest!
  47. 47. IDEA! Game is complete enough to begin playing w/ inner circle of friends repeat until fun! w/ outer circle of friends (to hammer out bugs; to try and break the game) w/ random strangers (to test rule book and onboarding) Playtest! Playtest! Playtest! “Test whatever you can, as soon as you can… Learn whatever you can along the way”
  48. 48. To what extent do you include users throughout the entire design and development process? How early in the process are users able to play with a semi-complete version your product? Takeaway UX
  49. 49. A Focus on the Whole FRICTION! Use of Space PlaytestingExperience-Driven Orientation Dealing wtih emotions tactility MDA Onboarding Social interactions SustainingEngagement PlayerMotivations InformationDesign Use of Space
  50. 50. Before the page, there was space itself. Perhaps the simplest way to use space to communicate is to arrange or rearrange things in it.” “ !om “Visualizing Thought” Barbara Tversky
  51. 51. Scrap Heap our Space Their Space MYSpace
  52. 52. Explorers Trade Deck Scrap Heap Trade Row
  53. 53. Explorers Trade Deck Scrap Heap Trade Row Discard Deck Persistentcards cards played this turn Points
  54. 54. Spatial arrangement can be a powerful signal of meaning.
  55. 55. “GRID VIEW”
  56. 56. How are you using space and the spatial arrangement of information in your work?Takeaway UX
  57. 57. A Focus on the Whole FRICTION! Use of Space PlaytestingExperience-Driven Orientation Dealing wtih emotions tactility MDA Onboarding Social interactions SustainingEngagement PlayerMotivations InformationDesign FRICTION!
  58. 58. “UX design is about removing problems from the user. Game design is about giving problems to the user.”
 — Raph Koster, Game design vs UX design http://www.raphkoster.com/2015/06/29/game-design-ux-design/ “People play games for no productive reason. You go out of your way to put up with unnecessary obstacles…”
 —Randy Hoyt “The friction is the game. In UX a lot of what I did was around eliminating friction. Friction is almost always bad (and only sometime strategically good). You’re just ruthless about getting rid of it. In games it’s the total opposite. Whenever I’m ruthless about getting rid of friction, there’s no game left. For me, the practice of game design is the practice of thoughtfully using friction to create a great experience.”
 —Dirk Knemeyer
  59. 59. Bad Friction -VS- Good Friction
  60. 60. About the wrong stuff, yes. About the critical stuff though, we should be thinking!
  61. 61. About the wrong stuff, yes. About the critical stuff though, we should be thinking! Is there learning or understanding involved, or should there be?
  62. 62. Game
 Experiences Learning Challenge &accomplishment (Elementof Play, Learning, Discovery, Pattern Recognition…) introduce friction to create a…
  63. 63. Game
 Experiences Learning Challenge &accomplishment (Elementof Play, Learning, Discovery, Pattern Recognition…) introduce friction to create a…
  64. 64. Game
 Experiences Learning Challenge &accomplishment (Elementof Play, Learning, Discovery, Pattern Recognition…) Product
 Experiences —VS— introduce friction to create a… may (or may not) already contain inherent friction begging to be reframed as a…
  65. 65. “People play games for no productive reason. You go out of your way to put up with unnecessary obstacles…
  66. 66. •…but people do enjoy things that are not easy to learn. There’s a sense of accomplishment. Most things that are rewarding aren’t that easy to do… Within UX, there’s a lot to be said for other kinds of experiences, not just the usability or how quick something is to learn.” •—Randy Hoyt “People play games for no productive reason. You go out of your way to put up with unnecessary obstacles…
  67. 67. In what mays might you introduce friction to achieve a desired effect? In what ways is your work about more than ease of use or efficiency? Is there learning challenge inherent in the experience you’re working on? If so, could this be reframed as a playful learning experience? Takeaway UX
  68. 68. A Focus on the Whole FRICTION! Use of Space PlaytestingExperience-Driven Orientation Dealing wtih emotions tactility MDA Onboarding Social interactions SustainingEngagement PlayerMotivations InformationDesign
  69. 69. Learning through Play
  70. 70.
  71. 71. PATH
  72. 72. PATH SANDBOX
  73. 73. ⟳PATH SANDBOX
  74. 74. PATH SANDBOXLOOP
  75. 75. PATH SANDBOXLOOP
  76. 76. ENDS IN AN EXCHANGE PATH SANDBOXLOOP
  77. 77. ENDS IN AN EXCHANGE ENDS IN LEARNING THROUGH DISCOVERY & CONSTRUCTION PATH SANDBOX LOOP
  78. 78. ENDS IN AN EXCHANGE ENDS IN LEARNING THROUGH DISCOVERY & CONSTRUCTION ENDS IN LEARNING THROUGH PATTERN RECOGNITION PATH SANDBOXLOOP
  79. 79. Games. Play. Simulations. Role-Playing. Making. These can be powerful tools for learning. More than ever, we need new tools and systems to help us understand each other and the world we live in. More than ever, we need tools to help us learn through safe, playful interactions.
  80. 80. “It feels rewarding to overcome a difficult challenge. You put a game back in the box and we’ve not changed the world at all. But we’ve changed something about ourselves.”
 
 —Randy Hoyt, Foxtrot Games
  81. 81. Change hearts & Minds get everyone to embrace the mental model behind an agenda
  82. 82. Change hearts & Minds get everyone to embrace the mental model behind an agenda create a shared, emergent mental model by working together Work & Learn together “
  83. 83. Thank you… StephenP.Anderson @stephenanderson www.poetpainter.com | www.slideshare.net/stephenpa …and go play some games!
  84. 84. LUNCH!StephenP.Anderson @stephenanderson www.poetpainter.com | www.slideshare.net/stephenpa
  85. 85. Interested in learning more? http://bit.ly/uxandgames

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