Learn more about the opportunities, responsibilities, and salaries of UX/UI designers in the video game industry here.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
The user experience is arguably the most important facet of video game development—strong UX design can make the difference between a chart-topping hit and an unplayable dud; it can engage players for hours on end or lead to game-quitting frustration; and it can even make or break a game development studio, with class-action lawsuits filed against developers who release glitchy games.
Game designers and testers have historically done the work of UX designers—it has often fallen on them to understand player behaviors and thinking processes, test their games with real players, and iterate based on feedback. But as video games have gotten bigger, more complex, and more ambitious, dedicated UX staff—from designers to analysts—have played an increasingly important role in ensuring that the game designers’ vision translates into a fun and intuitive player experience. Whether it’s providing feedback on user interface choices, dialogue, or commands, “each small choice could have minimal or monstrous implications on the players’ holistic experience,” according to Player Research. Because of this, UX professionals have become a “player-centric voice in the studio directing the team’s attention, reality-checking design choices, informing the team’s judgment, and facilitating communication.”
Here’s another way to think of the role of UX designers in the video game industry: “Game design defines rules, creates mechanics, balances gameplay, designs toys, activities, and things to do in the game,” according to Mun Lum, a senior visual designer at Riot Games. “UX is the bridge between game design and the player.”
At its core, UX/UI design in the video game industry isn’t too different from UX/UI design in other industries—the ultimate goal is to create a positive user experience that will lead to stronger user engagement, retention, and, depending on the product or service, conversion. But the specific applications of UX/UI design can differ greatly, and in video game development in particular, UX/UI designers play a significant role in helping games succeed.
Some of the major ways that UX/UI designers make a difference in the video game industry include:
Most UX/UI designers bring technical design skills to the table such as the ability to conduct and make sense of user research; wireframing and prototyping; interactive design; visual communication; information architecture; and proficiency with tools such as Sketch, Invision Studio, Proto.io, Webflow, Balsamiq, and Axure. But UX/UI designers in the video game industry need the added skill of understanding video game mechanics and striking a balance between clearing obstacles for players without defeating the purpose of a game
“The focus is not to make the game easy, but rather to make it so the player is able to easily experience the game,” according to UX designer Philippe Chambon. “The game could be really hard, but it should be easy to figure out how to play it and improve.”
Some of the key responsibilities of UX/UI designers in the video game industry include:
Among hiring managers, UX/UI design is one of the top five most in-demand skills, according to a LinkedIn report, with the demand expected to rise throughout 2021. And as video game budgets get bigger, games themselves become more ambitious, and the player experience bar is raised, so too will demand for designers who can optimize user experiences.
UX/UI designer salaries are typically determined by education, years of experience, location, and organization type. As of 2021, the average base salary of an entry-level UX/UI designer in the video game industry is around $64,343. The average base salary of a senior-level UX/UI designer in the video game industry is around $90,503.
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