Gaming and User-Centered Design

Gaming and User-Centered Design

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8175-0.ch011


Video games are made of information and have many different layers of behavior that exist within their systems to make sure the player is experiencing the game how the designer intends. To make sure that the designer is fully communicating the game to the player there must be many different steps to creating the game in a user-centered way. There must be planning for the game so that as many pitfall as possible are avoided, and testing must occur during all of these phases so that the game mechanics that the designer is using in the system(s) are being communicated effectively. This chapter explores gaming and user-centered design.
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Gaming And User Centered Design

The idea of user centered design, or user experience design, may be standard now, but it has not always been that way. Plus, it can always be improved upon. User centered design, within much of the library and information literature, is linked with the theory of Sense Making. As Tidline (2005) said it, “the methodology was central to a call for a “paradigm shift” to invoke the user (rather than system) point of view in information-seeking research.” (p. 114) The idea is to think of what the user is doing, or how the user would perform a certain action (or prefer to perform it), rather than thinking of the best way to design the system.

Many things are designed from a system point of view rather than a user point of view. Library of Congress Classifications and the Dewey Decimal Classifications are examples of how a system was designed from the point of view of the system, or the content that exists within the system. The content was looked at and organized. A modern example of a similar system that is more user centered, is that of a taxonomy. It is developed for a specific instance of user, and can change rapidly to accommodate the different instances in which it is used. The taxonomies that exist within e-commerce sites like Amazon and Zappos show this flexibility of design and classification in relation to user needs.

What does that have to do with video games and information science? The systems mentioned in the previous paragraph, both the systems centered design and the user centered design systems, are both developed and anchored firmly in the library and information science discipline. Much of the research on user centered design comes from the information field, and can be used to work on more than just traditional systems; it can be applied to video games as well. Video games are an information rich medium, as has been evidenced by the many chapters that precede this one:

Good games give information on demand and just in time, not out of the contexts of actual use or apart from people’s purposes and goals, something that happens too often in schools. System Shock 2, for instance, spreads, throughout the game, the sort of information typically found in a manual. As they move through the initial levels of the game, players can request just the right information (by pressing on a little green kiosk) and make use of it or see it applied soon after having read it... Good games ...find ways to put information inside the worlds the players move through, and make clear the meaning of such information and how it applies to that world (Gee, 2003, p. 2)

Because of the dense amount of information, if it is not organized and/or presented in such a way to make sense to the user, or have it be consumed rapidly by the user, then the game will be a failure. It is important then for game designers to understand the information communication that is occurring within video games, and allows for information professionals to have a role in video games: taking their expertise in all aspects information, and applying it to video games; user centered design is one of the prime ways in which to do that.


User-Centered Design

How can information professionals use their skill sets in the realm of information design? It is less of a stretch than would be imagined. Information professionals are already trained in the use of information and information systems. They are also trained in the needs of users, as was explicitly shown in the chapter on information behavior. It is just a matter of joining the two ideas together and understanding how to make the systems work as well as they can for the user. As Williamson (2005) says:

While the shift of focus from information systems to users has been loudly applauded, there is a need for an acknowledged compromise position and for at least some of the focus to move to the relationship between information types/sources/systems and the information seeker/user. After all, it is from sources and systems that people usually seek or acquire information. (p. 130)

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