Finding resources on game user experience design can be daunting. There aren’t many published books out there which makes this specific field somewhat of a niche market. But fear not! Get your library started with these must reads to learn a bit more about UX.
1. The Gamer’s Brain
How Neuroscience and UX Can Impact Video Game Design
by Celia Hodent
This is the game UX bible and a MUST.
Celian Hodent is a user experience expert that has worked on games such as Assassin’s Creed and Fortnite. In her book, she goes into detail about everything involved in the user’s experience from the moment the player first hears about the game to actually playing the game and beyond. She also covers the more unseen parts that happens when the brain processes information. If you want a holistic understanding of games UX, this is the book you need. PERIOD.
2. UI Tenents & Traps
by Michael Medlock and Steve Herbst
Created by a team of experts from Microsoft, this pack of “flash cards” are distilled form of existing UI heuristic tools and research. They provides quick reference for good user interface design and describes common problems that affect our players. Each card describes a specific Tenent or Trap on one side of the card, while the back provides easy to understand examples. These should be in every designer’s toolbox.
3. The Design of Everyday Things
by Don Norman
Are you creating a product? Any product? Including a game? Then chances are high you are creating something for people to use or play with. Because of this, we have to make sure we design around our player’s needs when using our systems. This is where the terms affordance and human-centered design come into play, with Norman being the father of these processes as we know them. In this book he explains multiple actions you can take to be a more conscious designer.
Even though this book isn’t specific to games, it will teach you how to think more about how you make your game by keeping you focused your players.
Still not convinced? Watch this real world example.
4. The Art of Game Design
A Deck of Lenses
by Jesse Schell
While this recommendation isn’t UX specific, I can’t help but emphasize how important quick tools are to the game making process. These cards are another quick reference to help you make the right choices for your systems and general design. They do so by asking you questions based on a specific “lens” (actions, feelings, values, etc) you want player to experience.
The book version is another must have for any game designer.
5. Hooked & Indistractable
by Nir Eyal
These recommendations are focused both on a professional designer level as well as a personal level.
Humans are creatures of habit. Habits are easy to create but can be hard to break. Hooked highlights the intersection between technology, business and psychology by providing examples on how to build addicting products through the creation of new habits. You may also find this book incredibly eye-opening into your own day-to-day technological addictions.
On the flipside, Indistractable covers ways to take back your time by understanding dissatisfaction and how to manage the triggers that cause you to, well, be distracted by things. This may be great for procrastinators on a personal level or simply anyone looking to be better wiht your professional time. But it also helps us understand how designing “too much” for our players can actually distract them from the actual feature or goal you want them to experience.
6. Games User Research
USER RESEARCH! CASE STUDIES! REAL WORLD EXAMPLES! AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH! FEEL MY EXCITEMENT!
This book is the Holy Grail for real examples of the UX process and user research methodologies. For context, real world case studies are incredibly hard to come by as company’s covet case studies and design analysis, hoarding them like little Smaugs with mountains of treasure. Having this resource lets you try different approaches when testing your game and in, the very least, highlights good and bad possibilities your designs can face.
The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking
by Susan Cain
A huge misconception about our world is that extroverts are automatically leaders. The truth is leadership and achievements comes from understanding your own limits, strengths, and what power you can bring to the table.
I highly recommend this book for anyone who considers themselves an introvert or struggles with imposter syndrome. It will help you see how you are different and how that difference is valued.
8. Designing for Emotion
by Jared Spool
Humans are highly emotional creatures. Games constantly tap into those emotions and, for better or worse, can leave long-lasting impression on your players. This means that we invariably have to consider what emotions we want our players to experience as they play our games. While not directly about games, this book pokes and prods you into thinking beyond what’s just “usable”. Delight can be designed, so why not find a way to make your systems delightful?
9. Articulating Design Decisions
Communicate with Stakeholders, Keep Your Sanity, and Deliver the Best User Experience
by Tom Greever
Creating a game takes a team. Sometimes your teammates may not be the most visual people, or may have difficulty understanding your proposals, wireframes, specs, etc. It’s a soft skill many often overlook – especially early in careers – but communication is key on a productive team. This book goes into different ways and moments in which you should talk to your team.
10. Practical Empathy
For Collaboration and Creativity in Your Work
by Indi Young
In product and game design we are often so focused on solutions that we often forget the people we are creating our products for.
Empathy used in design reminds us to take a step back and bring our players to the forefront of our decisions. However, using empathy can be a struggle for some. This book teaches us how to ask questions and listen to what our players are actually saying without the biases, validations, or assumptions we may bring to the table. Its helps us design systems in a way that represents our players – as we exercise active listening techniques during testing and include them in our decisions – rather than simply providing something that’s “usable”.
The 4 Keys to Fun
Nicole Lazzaro is an expert in games and VR. She designed a way we can look at player actions, related them to desired emotions, and how those emotions can then in turn help us design for a specific type of “fun”.