The Importance of UX Design in Video Gamesby@harrymour
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The Importance of UX Design in Video Games

by Harry MourtzanakisMarch 2nd, 2023
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UX design is the linking part between a consumer and a business; it’s how the consumer experiences or interacts with that business. A better UX design will make it easier for a user to buy, use, or experience whatever the business is promoting. In video games, UX design plays a key role as it helps shape a user's first impression of the game and makes their overall experience easier.
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There are more aspects to creating a video game than its code; one core aspect is UX Design. The goal is to make the user “experience” the game in a more convenient and efficient way. While it sounds simple, there’s a unique amount of depth in the art of UX Design.

UX design isn’t only for websites. It’s also essential for the video game industry as it is the first impression users get of a video game, and making a good first impression is crucial.

Loan “Agony” Merlin has been studying and working in the field of UX design for the past five years, focusing on website design, social media, anime, and video games. Now, he’s joining me to explain the basics of game UX design and the overall importance of UX designers in the video game industry.

We’ll Talk About:

  1. The Differences Between UX and UI Design
  2. What is a UX Game Design, and Why is it Important for Video Games
  3. Most Important Things to Consider While Working on a Gaming Design
  4. How to Get Started with UX Design?
  5. Wrapping up

The Differences Between UX and UI Design

Prestige K/DA Ahri from League of Legends. Image source: Loan MERLIN on Behance.

The terms UX and UI design are often used interchangeably by many, which is a mistake.

As Loan mentions, “indeed, people are often confused about the difference between UX and UI. UX, or User Experience, is focused on the experience of the user. For example, on a website, the goal of a UX designer is to manage the website by making it more ergonomic for new and returning users.

By keeping track of metrics such as eye tracking, amount of clicks, and empathy maps, a UX designer integrates solutions via software such as Wireframe. Before using any software, the process begins by creating arborescence (the structural skeleton of the website/categorization), which sets the foundations for creating an optimal design. Overall, a UX designer is constantly thinking of ways to make navigating a website easier for users.”

In short, UX design is the linking part between a consumer and a business; it’s how the consumer experiences or interacts with that business. A better UX design will make it easier for a user to buy, use, or experience whatever the business is promoting.

“On the other hand, UI, or User Interface, is basically what users see on their screens. This includes the images on a website, the overall composition, the color, the animations, and more. For instance, a core concept in UI is having a great understanding of coloring and complementary colors”, Loan argues.

Overall, UI is - to an extent - a part of UX. UI focuses on the visual aspect of UX, although it also includes other elements such as responsive design and information architecture.

For a more in-depth look at the topic, consider checking out our article on the major differences between UI and UX design.

What is UX Game Design, and Why is it Important for Video Games?

Spirit Blossom Ahri from League of Legends. Image source: Loan MERLIN on Behance.

According to Loan, “UX is a common term that is primarily used for websites with the goal of making everything easier for consumers and optimizing their overall experience. However, this can also apply to game design.”

UX game design comes in between the actual gameplay and provides hints to the user regarding what to expect from the game. It sets the mood and atmosphere and encourages the user (if done right) to try out the game.

For example, Loan argues “Take a moment to check the banner, website, or even the cover of any two video games you want. Try and notice the differences in the composition, color, and overall style.

For instance, Valorant has a Glitch Art style, a trend that has been on the rise recently. You can see each agent and their name with a slightly distorted style and many pop effects. This showcases to the user that it’s going to be a fast-paced game with speedy gameplay and quick movement.

But if we consider a game like Dead by Daylight, the overall look is darker with strong horror vibes. Based on that, users expect a scary, nerve-racking experience that will keep them on edge.

The key part here is that users get an idea of what to expect and get in the mood that fits the game without even playing, only by looking at the game’s UX design.”

Overall, while the core part of a video game is its gameplay, the UX game design is what motivates users to try out that gameplay. It helps improve their experience before and after playing by making sure the game maintains immersion from the moment users find out about it and see its banner on social media.

The Most Important Things to Consider While Working on a Game Design

The Doctor, Meg Thomas, and Leatherface on Dead by Daylight. Image source: Loan MERLIN on Behance.

UX game design comprises many key elements. As mentioned previously, a UX designer has to keep track of various metrics and use them to create a design optimized for the current project. The same is true for video game design.

According to Loan, “One of the most important aspects of a UX gaming design is the previously mentioned idea of complementary color. Color is a key aspect in designing since it aims to bring out specific emotions. For instance, red symbolizes strong feelings such as passion, love, and anger, while green showcases purity, nature, and new beginnings. Colors in a game are used to target specific emotions.

If we take the example of Dead by Daylight, we can see that every DLC pack’s banner has primarily dark colors that inspire anxiety and fear.”

The key takeaway here is that not all colors fit together. Make sure to use the color wheel to find the right matching colors that fit with the purpose of your design.

Overall, making the right choice about color, composition, and style is essential since the visual aspect is a user’s first experience with the game. After all, the first impression is enough for most users to decide whether or not they’ll give the game a try.

How to Get Started with UX Design?

Violet Evergarden anime art. Image source: Loan MERLIN on Behance.

If you’re interested in trying out the field of UX design, there are some useful tips to help you get started.

As Loan suggests, “first, make sure to always look for inspiration. Check out other designs on Behance, Pinterest, and Dribble to find inspiration; be curious to find out why is each aspect of a design formatted in a certain way. Check the text, color, and overall composition, and try some of these elements on your design.

Keep in mind not to reproduce any designs but only use them for inspiration. Through this, you will develop your way to design and make it easier to come up with unique ideas.

Don’t be afraid to manipulate or edit certain parts of an image that you like. Try and isolate elements that appeal to you and fit your style and use them in your next design.”

For instance, if an image that you overall dislike has a certain element that you enjoy (like a tree, a mountain, or any detail), use Photoshop to isolate that element and experiment with it. What is it that you like about it?

Additionally, Loan recommends to “try and create a habit of always noticing color mapping and how the colors work in a design. Focus on the importance of complementary color, gradient maps, and how CC (color correction) works.

Lastly, take your time to learn design software by looking at online tutorials. I highly recommend using Photoshop, Illustrator, and Adobe XD.”

UX Design is a challenging field to get into, and you’ll have to do a lot of research on your own. However, if it interests you and with the right training, you will be able to create unique designs that inspire emotions and motivate users to engage with your content.

Wrapping up

To summarize, UX game design is a crucial part of the video game industry since it influences a user’s emotions and motivates them to try out a game before even playing it.

If you’re interested to learn more about UX Design, consider checking out our list of the top five UX design trends to keep an eye on. This will be a great start to getting some inspiration if you’re motivated to create your own designs.

To find out more about what Loan has been working on lately, see more of his designs, and chat with him about any questions on UX design, you can find him on Behance.

Lead image source: Loan MERLIN on Behance.