2014 SXSW Interactive Session Spotlight: Press Start to Begin – UX and Video Games

Written by Megan Simpson | January 27, 2014

Mike Dunn has organized a panel about UX and video games for SXSW Interactive 2014

A ten-year veteran of SXSW Interactive, Michael Dunn credits the festival with being a vital part of his career. Today’s Session Spotlight features the panel he is organizing for the 2014 event, “Press Start to Begin – UX and Video Games”. Dunn’s is one of many gaming panels at this year’s SXSW Interactive Festival, which offers over 800 sessions on a variety of topics. Connect with him on Twitter @uxFOOL.

SXSW: Please tell us what you will cover your SXSW Interactive panel.
Dunn: As the number of gamers and the devices they play them on grows, game designers and developers are starting to look in the direction of User Experience to help them craft interactions that not only make it easer for users to play their games, but to enhance the experience of the game itself. This panel of game journalists and game designers will talk about how UX has impacted the game industry, what developers are looking for out of UX, and how UX can take games to even greater heights.

SXSW: Is this a topic that you’ve spoken about before?
Dunn: No, but last year I started a website called pressstarttobegin.com in an effort to collect knowledge from around the industry focusing on the UX of video games. There is a lot of interest but not a lot out there for someone who wants to learn more.

SXSW: We know you’re the moderator for this session, but what about the speakers? Can you tell us a little bit about each of them?
Dunn: I wanted the panel to have representatives from multiple areas of the game industry: Ron Burke is the Editor-in-Chief of gaming news site www.GamingTrend.com and has played and reviewed thousands of games in the last decade plus. He will provide the point of view of a critical player of games. David Sinclair is a UX designer for triple-A game developer Crytek working on the GFACE and Collectables projects. He is going to provide the point of view of an actual UX practitioner in a games studio. Richard "Lord British" Garriott is the creator of the ground-breaking Ultima series of games and currently working on its spiritual successor, Shroud of The Avatar. Richard is one of the original great game designers in the industry. He will be providing the point of view of a game designer and will talk about how that role is concerned with UX.

SXSW: Who do you hope attends this talk?
Dunn: We hope that this panel attracts UX designers and game designers alike who are interested in how the two fields intersect and interact with each other. Gamers themselves will likely appreciate the discussion of how game and UX designers approach the creation of the experiences in the games they play.

SXSW: Is this a topic that anyone can understand or do you need to have a background in gaming and UX?
Dunn: While more experienced UX practitioners or game designers will likely get more out of the panel, anybody who is interested in how experiences and interactions are crafted for video games should enjoy the discussion.

SXSW: What excites you most about this session?
Dunn: I’ve often defined User Experience as what happens between the screen and the user, and I can think of no greater example of that definition than video games. Games, more than any other media, engage users through narrative and emotion, encourage problem solving and achievement, and have the capacity to educate and inspire. They represent the purest form of UX, which is why its surprising that UX principles and methodologies are so inconsistently invoked by games and the systems they are played on. It is my hope that bringing more attention to the user experience of games will bring a BETTER experience to games, and a deeper appreciation and understanding of UX to those who make them.

SXSW: Now a question for fun – what is your favorite movie of the last year, not necessarily related to your SXSW topic?
Dunn: I loved Pacific Rim. Giant robots fighting monsters will always get my attention, but this one was especially fun.

SXSW: Lastly, what is your favorite vacation spot and why?
Dunn: What is this 'vacation' you speak of?

Watch this website for more installments of the 2014 SXSW Interactive Session Spotlight. Click here for the complete list of programming for March in Austin. Register now to attend “Press Start to Begin – UX and Video Games,” and other programming at SXSW Interactive 2014.

Michael Dunn photo by Julia Hart.