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UX Manifesto

(…or simply, “Why I do what I do”)

As game developers, we have a unique privilege: The ability to have an ongoing dialogue with our audiences all over the world, in real-time, as we work. And this dialogue isn’t just a casual exchange; it's infused with the fervent enthusiasm of players who provide us with invaluable, intricate feedback. We have the ability to harness this feedback and use it to shape our work, and to make it better for our players in a continuous, iterative process. This is a luxury that very few other industries have.

Finding my niche

Before I fell into video games, I worked with board games. But it was only once I shifted into digital gaming experiences that I discovered how crucial and fulfilling that ongoing dialogue with your players can be — and it unfortunately just isn’t something that you can have in the same way with physical products. Once board games are done, they’re shipped off to different corners of the world, and are entirely out of your hands. Any reactions and opinions that players might have while playing them are all simply their own to manage. Most of them we, the creators, will never know. With digital games, however, we're constantly engaging with player feedback through various channels — like playtests, telemetry and various online communities. For me personally, I find it incredibly rewarding to get to witness players’ aha-moments during playtests in particular; when we were working on the onboarding for Metal: Hellsinger, for example, the moment the penny drops for each new player and they understand how the rhythm mechanic works is always so glorious to watch… So I quickly realised that my passion lies in the interaction between game developers and players, getting to be a sort of ‘interpreter’ between the two. I help translate the game developers’ vision and bring it to life in a way that players can understand and experience it — and then help translate players’ feedback back to the team, in order to help shape that vision going forwards. Understanding what resonates with players, and seeing them enjoy the experiences we create with that knowledge, is a huge part of what keeps me excited about what I do.

How intersectionality shapes my craft

As a UX Designer that happens to be a queer woman with both a cognitive (ADHD) and physical (Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome) disability, I acknowledge the myriad of privileges I have while also recognising how my personal experiences with marginalisation have helped shape my development within my craft. They’ve provided firsthand insight into a few of the many daily accessibility challenges people face, and underscored the importance of designing games that both accommodate and authentically represent its players. This awareness of the way that various aspects of one’s identity intersect and influence our experiences is particularly relevant in UX design, as it provides a nuanced understanding of how we can shape our games to better accommodate player needs — leading to more inclusive, player-centric design solutions for all players. My goal for everything in life (both in- and outside of games) is to leave everything I touch slightly better than it was before; slightly more engaging and intuitive, and slightly more thoughtfully put together in a way that puts the user’s needs first.

Venn diagram illustrating the concept of Ikigai, with four overlapping circles representing passion, vocation, mission, and profession, culminating in the central intersection known as Ikigai, which is a Japanese concept meaning "a reason for being".

Drive and determination

Reflecting on my journey, I've come to realise that my motivation within my craft doesn't just stem from empathy for people, but also from a curiosity for puzzle-solving. I have a relentless drive to continuously improve things around me, and my ADHD brain loves getting to iterate on problems; on finding—and refining—solutions. Divergent thinking isn’t about ‘thinking outside of the box’; for me, there is no box. One of the joys of having access to things like telemetry for a brain like mine in my chosen line of work, is that getting instant live-data for player engagement around the things that I’m working on lights up my entire dopamine-driven nervous system like a Christmas tree! And when I’m excited about something, big or small, my enthusiasm for it translates into a commitment to challenging norms and advocating passionately for it… Something that is so important for underrepresented communities within our player base, as accessibility in games today unfortunately still remains limited, denying many the opportunity to participate fully. Games could—and should!—be created in ways that allow everyone the chance to experience them the way that they were intended. Every living being on this earth deserves to be able to play. My choice to work in UX stems from a desire to bridge this gap and ensure inclusivity for everyone. I strive to empower players through my work, to evoke emotions in them, to allow them to connect with others, and to provide a platform for exploration, growth and self-discovery in a way that is unmatched by any other medium that we have.

Raising my gaze from my own hands to those next to mine

My love for what I do is not limited only to helping games make a meaningful impact on the people wanting to play them — it also extends to striving to make a meaningful impact on the games industry itself around me, and improve the lives of the people that I live and work with on a daily basis. I ascribe great value to empowering the various marginalised communities we have within our industry, because I know that this diversity is where our collective strength lies. As a young girl, I didn’t know that working in video games was even a viable career option for someone like me — and so today, as a neurodiverse, queer, disabled woman, I’m learning to dare to take space, to be as visible and outspoken as I can on the things that I believe in, and to continously strive to become the type of role model that I wish that I’d had myself growing up. If fifteen-year-old me could see the woman I’ve become today, I know she’d be SO fucking impressed!

Thank you for sharing this moment of introspection with me. I hereby challenge you to reflect and consider what small thing you can do to impact someone’s life within your community this upcoming week… or even today?

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