While game design and UX design are very different fields, there’s a lot they can learn from each other. UX Architect and Game Designer Eytan Majar outlined some ways UX methodology can assist game devs in their craft during his Casual Connect Tel Aviv 2015 lecture.
“UX designers operate in the real world,” Eytan said. “Game designers work in an imaginary environment. … If you eat a flower, you cannot breathe fire through your mouth. It happens only in Mario. How can we use those two different crafts to make the other better?”
Eytan’s full speaking session is available for streaming below.
Eytan Majar is a UX architect and a game designer who has created unique game experiences that use both his areas of expertise to enhance the outcome. Today he acts as a consultant to clients who have a product on the market and want to improve its numbers in areas such as retention and average stay. He also helps companies characterize products that are still in the idea stage. For the past six years, he has been a lecturer at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design. Currently he is teaching introductory classes in UX design and game design, as well as a class in the Master of Arts program.
Making Ideas Come to Life
Eytan has been a part of game production from many different angles; he has been a studio manager, a game designer, a senior designer, a level designer, a producer, a UX architect, and he supervised the development team for one product. In addition, he founded a startup. All of his experience has given him insight into the demands of each role and the ability to communicate with each team member in language specific to their responsibilities.
Whether as consultant or creator, Eytan loves seeing ideas come to life. And when he is consulting he particularly enjoys helping others achieve their vision.
Becoming a ‘Game Person’
As a child, Eytan planned to become a bus driver. Twice a month, he traveled with his mother to visit his grandmother, and to him the bus drivers looked heroic. They were unfazed by their responsibility for a substantial group of people and always knew where they were headed. And they picked up lost souls in the middle of nowhere. He recalls, “They did it all with grace and kindness unmatched.”
At the same time, he was enthusiastically playing Dungeons and Dragons, writing stories and inventing adventures for his friends. By age 11 he was a Dungeon Master with a party that met for four hours every day, so he was constantly writing adventures for them and, as he says, “It was an awesome time!” At the time he had no idea it was possible to have a career creating games, but when the former members of this party heard that he had become a game designer they were not at all surprised. He insists the work he does today is much the same as what he was doing as he wrote adventures for his friends.
At some point in his life he came to understand that becoming a “game person” would be the best career choice for him. One day a friend told him that Beit-Berel College had opened a course for game design and he was thinking of registering. Eytan didn’t need to think about it; he registered that very day.
If you are someone who wants to follow the same career, he says, “Work hard, and remember that you get rewards only for results.”
Transforming into the Game Content
When Eytan begins work on a project, he always starts with thoroughly researching the market. As the marketing team is completing their requirements, he does parallel product research. He reveals, “Besides getting to know the competition, I ‘transform’ myself into the content.” For example, when he is creating a game for physiotherapy, in a way he becomes a physiotherapist.
Similarly, when he created a game for teaching English, he became, in a way, an English teacher. “I don’t believe in creating something alone in a dark room,” he says. “I believe in creating from within a context.”
Only after he has completed his research and is fully cognizant of the market requirements is he ready to begin creation of the actual product. He emphasizes that the purpose of the product is to meet the market requirements, so before you have users, you should be getting feedback from the marketing people. Once you have users, then get their feedback.
For him, the most challenging part of game development is getting everyone on board with the same vision. Since we are all different people, it is not surprising that everyone wants to create a different game experience.
But his ultimate reward comes when the game reaches the market and users use the product in ways he had never anticipated. This demonstrates that the game is broad and solid and allows the fun of learning something new. As an example, he describes how they discovered with the Russian version of TweeGee, a virtual world with mini-games for kids, that five children had made a movie within the virtual world. And for him “it was a very special moment.”
Inspiration & Creation
Eytan finds the inspiration for his games from life. He looks at the people around him, the people walking down the street, the dogs, and the sounds of life. And YouTube auto-suggest clips also spark ideas.
Creative blocks only occur to him if he hasn’t done his homework properly. So if one does happen he goes back and researches until the block no longer exists.
If he could create any game he wanted, he would make a grand-scale multiplayer turn-based strategy game. He admits TBS doesn’t typically work in multiplayer mode because each game session takes a couple of hours, but Eytan believes he can solve that problem.
One of the most difficult times in his career came when he needed to lead a team of developers and designers to create a game for physiotherapy based on the Kinect technology. Unfortunately, at the time he knew nothing about the Kinect or physiotherapy. So he began visiting clinics and registered for depth-camera hackathons, and eventually he reached the point where he, together with the team, wrote five patents pending for BioGaming.
His work on English Adventure was an accomplishment he remembers with pride. When he first met with Dr. Yael Bejerano about the project, he told her he didn’t want to create an educational game to teach English because kids can smell “educational” a mile away; they will refuse to play the game unless they are required to in school. Instead, he suggested creating a game that would teach English but still be able to compete for the children’s attention during their free time.
The first playtest took place after one 90-minute level was ready, and was intended to see if the game could be enjoyable and still teach English. After playing this one level the kids were able to recognize and produce the five targeted words. “It was a proud moment for me,” he relates.
Eytan is excited about the next trend he sees coming in the games industry: layered reality. Although most of his colleagues are interested in VR headsets like Oculus Rift, he believes most people will want to see the real world rather than a fake world someone has created for them. Layered reality offers a new way to experience our world, enhancing rather than replacing it. He and a couple of his friends are already working on a ground-breaking product in this field.
Catherine Quinton is a staff writer for www.gamesauce.org. Catherine loves her hobby farm, long walks in the country and reading great novels.