January 14, 2023

Games, business, interfaces. Part 4: Experience design tools

Read parts 1, 2, 3.

What can go wrong?

Concentrating only on a set of features and content

You need to work with the player's opinion on the content, not viewing the service as a set of features.

If the service has several audiences, you need to understand which segment you are playing the game with. It makes sense to understand the general concepts: why are you doing this with the players, what will they consider a win, what forms of play do you offer them, and have they mastered them?



If the game is not voluntary, it is not a game. It is hell. If the service is used against people's will, this, of course, ruins everything and takes the product out of the game state. My philosophy of games is about the processes that people enter voluntarily, and we agree that people get value and joy from it. This is not such a revelation. I just decided this for myself, because I like it when people are happy. I like to make people's lives better.

When we begin to abuse the definition of a game: at the very beginning we say that the game is involuntary, or we say people can’t get out of it, we make a concentration camp instead of a game. The prisoners don't receive value from the concentration camp. Therefore they will not love it. No matter how all the other principles of the game are observed, the compulsion to enter the game and the ban on leaving it turn what is happening into a Kafkaesian hell.

You can keep someone somewhere only by the value of the product: here are the flowers, you are bees, fly to the flowers, because you need nectar and pollen for honey. When we get the bees into a jar and close the lid, they are not happy. 

For the product to work, players need to understand what their freedom is, what they will gain, and what they can refuse. Most importantly, if users are successful, how does the service show them their success?


The main idea 

In fact, problematization and reflection are more important than action. If we immerse a person into an activity and then take them out, you just need it to be bright and reckless enough. 

If the activity captures people, they immerse themselves into the problem and then get out of this whole story the right way, we help them deal with the experience, then they manage to extract a lot of useful things from completely nonsense experiences.

For example, a few years ago, there was a trend for rope training, where the organizers simply forced you to perform collective exercises using ropes. It required synchronous interaction and worked with people’s emotions. It’s amazing how it works if it is deeply problematised and carefully reflected on. The difference in “good” rope training and “so-so” one was not in the sets of rope tricks the organizers had. The difference was in how people entered and left the process. How people were prepared to perceive it before and how they were helped to own the experience after.

Another example. If you go on a bike ride together and do immersion and then reflection, I assure you, you will have a lot of different conclusions and a ton of benefits. 

I make such an emphasis on this because, in fact, in most cases, it is done exactly the opposite. In creating a product, people concentrate directly on the interface and not on the plot that happens to a person before and after using it. In business, they fight for ideal regulations. In games, they deal directly with the gameplay.

Gameplay without problematization and reflection is money down the drain.  

Tool 2: The structure of the role

The structure of the role is like a nesting doll, a spacesuit in which a person walks around the game. This is not a canonical tool, there is a lot of debate about what actually goes into what. Here is my interpretation, it is not perfect.

The idea is this: there is a person, they are made of meat and there is a neuro impulse in them. Around them, there is a layer of the player (the one who plays by the rules), and around it – there is a layer of the character (the one who lives in the game world).


Only the person exists outside the game, neither the player nor the character is outside the game. Only the person can experience emotions because only they have neurochemistry.

In a good game, the person must lose themselves in the player, and the player in the character. That is, they must dissolve in a more general layer.

It’s like in ordinary life: we don’t think that our skeleton is walking right now, here is a colony of viruses and microorganisms in the form of a person who is moving here, and archetypes and NLP models are put on all this. We think of ourselves in a more general sense: "I'm going to work," "I'm playing with my son.”



A player is someone who plays by the rules, takes risks, wins or loses. Other than the rules, they don't really care about anything. The rules give them a form of interaction, offer the possibility of winning and the risk of losing.

If the basic gameplay is set by the rules, the game is played in winning categories. Of course, in cases where the plot and role-playing components are excluded from the game. In its purest form, this is quite rare, but when it occurs, the game comes down to who won.



A character is someone who lives in the world of the game, has a background in this world and has connections with other characters. Other participants of the game interact with the character. If everything is done carefully, they don't notice either the player or the person.

Some games don't have a character layer if they are not story-based. For example, football. If we consider it only as a game on the field, with the ball.

In general, this is a fairly common situation when expanding the scope of the game to a super-system makes it role-playing.


Why is a role needed?

A character needs a role so that they have a context of life: the causes of conflicts, the background of situations, their personal plot and game events.

How does this relate to interfaces and business? We live in a large number of worlds, and when we get into interaction with some service, we are immersed in its context. We need to unfold this context so that we understand what the conflict is, what we are fighting here, what plot will be played out here, what events can take place here at all.

A player needs a role so that they have a motive: forms of action, negative or positive incentives (if you don’t act, it will be bad, but if you act, it will be good), challenges (it’s like incentives, only big and complex) and difficulties that need to be overcome so that the rewards do not come for free.

A person needs a role so that they gain experience as a result of the game.

Returning to the topic of UX design, both context and motive are means of shaping the experience and getting emotions from a change in state. If a person moves on, they have questions because they are moving in the zone of proximal development. We'll talk about it later.

Part 5 coming soon.

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