Player experience – introduction

Over the last few years we’ve seen the rise in popularity of phrases like Customer Experience, Business Partner Experience, Whatever Experience. I wrote that Customer Experience is not only a superfluous buzzword, but also a damaging phrase for the industry as a whole.

With players, however, it’s different. The player experience should be viewed a little differently than the user experience, which I’ll try to explain in this post.

Jobs to be done?

The user does not buy a product/service for its own sake. He buys them to perform specific tasks. Completing the task is just another step in achieving the user’s real goal.

The JTBD approach works well for most services and products. The gaming industry (as a subcategory of the entertainment industry) is one of those exceptions. Here it is hard to find a common denominator. There are people for whom games as a tool to gain prestige, money, or as a profession. Most often, however, games are meant to provide entertainment. In a very broad sense, but entertainment.

Non-players hire a product to do a specific job. If we wanted to stick with that nomenclature, JTBD then we expect games to provide us with a specific emotion at a specific time.

Is there a place for JTBD in games? Yes the game interface is such a tool that has to work for us while we want to enjoy the game itself. The interface should be a silent hero of the second/third plan. But this will be a separate post.


Services for non-players should appear as soon as possible and do their job as quickly as possible. Players can wait years.

Expectations from a game are as varied as the game market is varied. Game experience is built with the first rumors about the game’s production. An incredible responsibility rests on the shoulders of the team responsible for media coverage.

Finding the golden mean between indifference and inflated expectations is key here. The range of tools you can use is quite broad. Official and unofficial messages, leaks, screenshots, whisper marketing. It all affects the mood towards players.

This level of pressure is the prerogative of only the biggest players in the market like Naughty Dog or CD Projekt. Both studios released “Most Anticipated” productions last year. Both with very different results. As I write this, TLOU II has just become the most awarded game of all time, dethroning Witcher. Smaller studios that don’t have such a budget shouldn’t neglect this stage of experience building.


Another difference between players and non-players is based on empathy. I am not claiming here that players are more empathetic. We don’t know that. One thing is certain, however. Players often identify with their characters in the game. Such an emotional bond is not found outside of the gaming industry.

“My character” not only means ownership, but is often an avatar meant to reflect the player in the digital world. Awareness of this “unity” should be present among game studio at all times. Here it is worth recalling the second dependency: the player is our customer. This relationship is not unique to the game industry. But if we put it together with an emotional bond it gives us a simple conclusion. The main character of the game is our customer. This is probably a metaphor too far…. or not?

Player Experience, or actually what?

Players don’t hire a game to do a job (JTBD), they expect the game to entertain them. A much more accurate term is Fun To Be Done. If we add to this expectation and empathy we create a user who escapes the proven UX patterns.

What does this mean? That we can’t explicitly translate what I know about User Experience to the games industry. In this case, our old tried-and-true “it depends” should be taken into account much more often.