Getting a Job in the Video Game Industry: General Tips & Focus on UX roles

Making video games for a living is a dream for many. The demand to secure a job in a game studio is quite high and as a result it can be difficult to enter the game industry, especially if you do not have a good network. A couple of decades ago, the game industry was very small and there was no real formal educational path to it. Today, many universities offer videogame-related courses and degrees. The upside is that students are better prepared for a career in the game industry. The downside is that they are legion. 

Given my background in user experience (UX) applied to video game development, I’m often asked how to get a job in the game industry, mostly from students and UX practitioners who want to transition into the game industry. I’ve been advocating for UX even before it was called that way in the game industry, first at Ubisoft (in France and Canada) in 2008-2011. Later on, I put together UX teams at LucasArts, and Epic Games (until 2017 when I started to work independently). From my experience hiring UX folks, I’m offering here my humble advice for getting a job in the game industry. Here’s the content:

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Ethics in the Videogame Industry: A Mythbusting and Scientific Approach

This article on ethics in video games is an enhanced write-up of the talk I gave at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in March 2019.

Videogames are one of the most popular forms of recreation in the world and they will generate over 150 billion US dollars in 2019, yet they often generate terrible press. For example, some games are accused of making players violent, or to turning them into addicts. I’ve been in the videogame industry for over 10 years and the latest game I’ve worked on (as director of user experience at Epic Games until I left on October 2017), Fortnite, is played by about 250 million players. It’s also under scrutiny by many concerned parents who fear that the game might have some negative impact on their children. Some parents have been reporting, for example, that their children play Fortnite at the expense of their education, health, or even personal hygiene. It saddens me that videogames can have a negative impact on some people’s lives but I’m also frustrated by the fearmongering I’ve been witnessing, most of it with no solid scientific ground. This fearmongering — and sometimes even scapegoating — around videogames can distract the public and lawmakers from identifying and addressing the real potential of  videogame play, and tech in general. As a result the game industry is often defensive when responding to the horrible things it’s accused of, which is understandable but fails to build a constructive dialog. We, videogame developers (i.e. all the professionals participating in crafting a game), have a responsibility as content providers to foster this dialog. 

GDC Talk Slide: "Ethics in the Game Industry"
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Understanding the Success of Fortnite: A UX & Psychology Perspective

Fortnite is one of the most successful video games in history, and this success fascinates and confuses many people who have made efforts to account for how a game could have become such a phenomenon so quickly. As the former Director of User Experience (UX) at Epic Games, where I worked on Fortnite from 2013 to late 2017, I would like to share the different steps that were taken by the Fortnite team to build what would later become the phenomenon we now know, through the lens of UX. Having a UX mindset means, in a nutshell, offering the best experience to the target audience of a product, service, system, or video game. A UX approach pertains to the usability of a system, its ability to engage its users (especially if the purpose of the system is to entertain), but also ethics and inclusion considerations (such as if the product is respectful of users and if it’s accessible). My background in psychology, my occupation as a UX strategist, and my personal work on the game likely bias my perspective since we are all susceptible to unconscious biases. However, this analysis, unlike those that have been proposed thus far, is a firsthand account that was presented in several Game Developers Conference (GDC) talks that I gave before Fortnite was released, and in my book The Gamer’s Brain: How Neuroscience and UX Can Impact Video Game Design (2017). 

The Fortnite team had a precise vision and collaborated very closely with the UX team to deliver a game that would be true to this vision and that would appeal to many different types of players. My contention is that the success of Fortnite is partly linked to their efforts in adopting a UX mindset. My goal here is to explain how to develop such a game UX mindset and build a UX strategy to help game developers around the world delight their players more efficiently with the games they are crafting. This is especially crucial for independent developers who have fewer resources yet still compete with the thousands of games released every year. 

I will detail here the three most important steps to develop a game UX mindset, which were taken during the development of Fortnite:

  • Understanding the player’s brain
  • Following a game UX framework (guidelines to usability and engage-ability)
  • Applying the scientific method & establishing a UX pipeline
Simplified diagram showing how the brain learns
Simplified diagram showing how the brain learns
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The Gamer’s Brain, part 3: The UX of Engagement and Immersion (or Retention) – GDC17 talk

This is the last part of my GDC trilogy about the gamer’s brain (how cool is that!). A warm thanks to all of you who liked my previous talks, gave me constructive feedback, and supported me! 🙂

This post is a transcript of my talk with the slides. You can find transcripts of the first two parts of my Gamer’s Brain talks here and here. If you’re interested, you can also check my book. Thank you!

 

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The Gamer’s Brain, Part 2: UX of Onboarding and Player Engagement (GDC16)

The Gamer's Brain, Part 2: UX of Onboarding and Player Engagement (GDC16)

These are the slides from my GDC 2016 presentation. This session is meant as a follow-up to my GDC 2015 talk about How Neuroscience and UX Can Impact Design (hence, “part 2”). Since it seemed to generate interest, I wanted to do a deeper dive on one of the critical aspects of a game’s user experience: the UX of onboarding and player engagement. You can watch the video of this presentation here.

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How We Introduced UX to Epic Games’ Production Pipeline (GDC16)

How We Introduced UX to Epic Games' Production Pipeline (GDC16)

These are the slides from the my GDC 2016 presentation with Heather Chandler, Senior Producer on Fortnite (Epic Games). Therefore, this presentation is about both UX’ (Celia) and Prod’s (Heather) perspectives. You can watch the video of this presentation here. Also, if you’re interested in UX, go check our Game UX Summit happening on May 12th 2016 (we have an amazing lineup! :)).

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Cognitive Psychology Applied to User Experience in Video Games

This article was originally published by Springer in February 2016 as part of the Encyclopedia of Computer Graphics and Games. Article reproduced here with their authorisation. 

 

Definition

The user experience (UX) entails a person’s perceptions and interactions with a product or software (such as a video game) and the satisfaction and emotions elicited via this interaction. UX overall refers to an over-arching discipline focused on evaluation and improvement of users’ experience of a given product or software in development.

Cognitive psychology is a discipline dedicated to understanding the human mind via mental processes such as problem solving, language, perception, attention, and memory.

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5 Misconceptions about UX (User Experience) in Video Games

Illustration by Laura Teeples

Illustration by Laura Teeples

UX Invaders: We Come In Peace!

User Experience (UX) is becoming very trendy albeit fairly new in the video game industry, so there are still a lot of misconceptions regarding what it is (and what it’s not). I will try to tackle these misconceptions and convince you – if need be – that UX is indeed your friend.

To explain it in a nutshell, UX explores how it is like for the target audience (the players) to experience your game (and everything beyond, such as downloading the game, consulting forums, etc.). It uses neuroscience and psychology knowledge and applies game user research methodologies (e.g. playtests and analytics) to make sure that the game has good usability and is immersive (although I prefer to refer to it as gameflow).

When thinking about my experience advocating for UX (or neuroscience) in a game development team, there are 5 main misconceptions about UX I very frequently need to address:

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Developing UX Practices at Epic Games

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GDC Europe 2014 / MIGS 2014 talk

I’m sharing here my slides from my GDC Europe 2014 presentation, which I also gave at MIGS 2014 (How we are using UX Practices on Fortnite). Since I didn’t find any good slide sharing plugin (speaking of bad UX…) I just added all the slides in jpeg and put my speaker notes below.  😉

The content of this presentation is a mix of academic theories, Ubisoft Design Academy training about usability, and my own experience interacting with game teams. The following is certainly not set in stone – it’s a constant work in progress – and I’d be very interested to get your feedback.

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