Player Experience (PX) Series #1: A Primer on User Experience and Interface Design

This is an installment in a multi-part essay covering board game “Player Experience” or “PX” feel free to start at the beginning, or just jump right in!

Valour with TeapotTo begin our exploration of Player Experience (PX), I feel it’s important to take a step back, and understand some underlying concepts. Luckily, there have been decades of research on human-centered design (and, turns out, board games are intended for consumption by humans). So to set down some vocabulary around fundamentals, we’ll begin with an analysis of board games from a raw “User Experience” or “UX” perspective.

No discussion of User Experience or Human-Centered design is possible without a peek at the research of Don Norman. In his seminal work, The Design (‘Psychology’, in some printings) of Everyday Things, he lays out a series of terms for describing an experience a user can have with a system. He’s gone on to clarify many of these topics through successive editions of the book, and a great online presence. Continue reading

One Step to the Epiphany


The Player Development Cycle?

During a quarterly goals check-in with Andrea, I talked over the status of several Flightless projects, and she asked a question I didn’t have a ready answer for. “Who exactly are your customers for each of these?”

I had a vague idea who I was designing for in each case, but no clue on specifics. “Erm, gamers who like… games… about… things?” Basically some bullshit that would never fly in the startup world where I spend my days and earn my living. Yet somehow I had failed to apply that same type of rigor before spending time developing and iterating on game designs.

Andrea went on to talk out how this could be a valuable tool for deciding who to reach out to about projects, what to include when writing about them, and making sure that my designs were scratching my prospective players gaming itches, so to speak. She, too, was flabbergasted that this had never occurred to either of us in any of our previous goal sit-downs. She said she felt like she’d had ‘an epiphany’. So that became the joke. I added “Andrea’s Epiphany” to my to-do list, which when I later broke out into “develop steps for Andrea’s Epiphany”, made that record-scratch noise in my head. The canonical work on this exact piece of building a business is literally called “The Four Steps to the Epiphany“. I revisited this notion (more specifically via the work’s more-digestible little brother: “The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Customer Development“) and am working to design a model of customer development for tabletop games (…and maybe more).

I’m not ready to show it yet, as I want to run through several cycles of experimentation and revision before releasing, but if you’re interested in this concept applied to tabletop gaming, please email me at woodardj@gmail; we can talk over your experiences, and I’ll share the early phases of my research with you.