July 30, 2020
Gaming has always been a big influence in my life. Life skills, making friends and love of competition were all things I learned from gaming. However in January of 2019, gaming became a crutch after I was laid off from my job. 10 hour days of gaming became the norm while I neglected important life tasks. I saw relationships, productivity and health take a backseat while I spent the day fragging. (insert gaming jargon here)
Finding support on this issue was difficult. Resources were scarce and there were many gray areas in understanding my problem. I was eventually able to get help (I’m happy to say that I’m on a good track) but there must be others like me out there that don’t know what to do.
Turns out I wasn’t alone. The World Health Organization estimates over 60 million gamers worldwide suffer from Gaming Disorder.
Defined in 2018, Gaming Disorder is a pattern of behavior that includes:
Since the classification of Gaming Disorder is fairly new, research has not been thorough and there are only a few respected resources for users looking for help.
HealthyGamer.gg is a group led by Dr. Alok Kanojia, a Harvard Psychologist who specializes in video game addiction. Through HealthyGamer.gg, users can find:
While HealthyGamer.gg has great resources, they’re dispersed throughout different platforms. I used HealthyGamer.gg myself and it helped me get off my feet (Thanks Dr. K!) but I found that the content was sometimes hard to find. For someone just getting started like me, this could be a hurdle that halts their progress.
In order to remove my bias, I sought out five gamers who identified as being addicted. My plan was to understand their experience of dealing with addiction. What were there pain points? How have they had success?
Unfortunately, finding these people was harder than I thought. I began by visiting the Discords for HealthyGamer.gg, /r/StopGaming and some other game addiction resource groups. I posted some messages saying that I was looking to speak with gamers that have dealt with or are dealing with an addiction.
Before I got a single response, my messages were removed and I was kicked from almost every community Discord I posted in. I tried to contact the moderators for each Discord group to see what they could do but they didn’t seem interested in me.
I decided to move on to a different group. Instead of those that identify as addicts, I sought gamers with high play times (20+ hours per week) This group was significantly more accessible and didn’t identify as having a problem, so they were comfortable opening up about their habits.
The group I recruited ended up being a pretty diverse cast of characters!
The diversity helped me understand this problem from multiple angles. Sure I had my own experience to pull from, but opening up to the other 60 million helps set my bias straight.
We spoke about games, streams, videos, how we started, how we discover, the list goes on. Here are the patterns I found:
With a strong base of research in the books, I brought it all together to create that special someone that I would be designing for.
Jason is a 26 year old IT worker. When Jason returns home from work he boots up his favorite game, Call of Duty: Warzone. He plays Warzone for 7 hours ends the night watching Warzone streams on Twitch.
Unhappy with his current direction, Jason has played with the idea of changing paths into something he’d love. He’ll often put time into learn something new, but will quit once met with a roadblock.
With less time socializing, learning and engaging, Jason has been receiving concerns from family and friends that gaming has taken over his life. Unfortunately he’s not sure where to start.
How can we create an experience that will get Jason engaged while keeping him motivated for the future?
First step here was to put together an overview for the design. My original idea was probably overambitious. I wanted to create an entire hub for game addiction. Weekly meetings, volunteer mentorship, programs for parents, the list goes on. Mapped out, the design looked something like this:
But I forgot. Jason doesn’t want to deal with fluff. Can’t keep him engaged if he’s got 7 different paths to take. The design had to be much more simple, I had to part ways with the dream of being the Superman of fighting Video Game Addiction.
So out of all of the ideas I threw into my ‘Video Game Addiction Hub’ I needed one or two that could serve as my entire design. I stripped out the Addiction Quiz, Articles, Chat and Profile. That left me with Find an Expert, Weekly Meetings, My Learning and Login.
My original plan had revolved around creating a community, but now I realized that the communities were already there. I didn’t need to build one from the ground up, there’s already thousands of them that exist. What if we could get one of these community leaders to come speak with someone like Jason?
There are a number of successful gaming personalities out there that have a reputation for strong mental and physical health. Jason is a giant fan of Nickmercs, an esports and streaming veteran with a reputation for his strength both physically and mentally. What if we could bring Nick to talk to Jason about the habits and lifestyle choices he made to get to where he is now? Sounds kinda crazy but I think it could be fun to put together.
This is something I can get on board with. Straightforward and to the point. Next up I needed to determine how it would function.
Similarly to my previous exercise, I tried to add in every idea that popped up in my brain. I wanted the user to be able to play games with an expert they get matched up with. The original idea had Jason going through a slew of decision and result pages. At one point, I had sections for writing welcome messages, setting agendas, guest checkout and more.
So I broke it down and to no surprise, I still had too much:
I started to look for things to drop in order to get Jason into his meeting as soon as possible.
First off, we’re not having the experts play games while talking about health. Not sure why I thought that was a good idea. The plan will be for them to work with the user through a track of lessons that teach the user how to build healthy habits.
Search by Platform had to go, no reason searching for a platform since we’re just matching people based on the game.
Viewing the Expert Profile got removed too, we’ll just make a small profile banner. Too much info and we might lose Jason on the way.
Logging In and Registration were axed as well. The user will connect with their Google account at startup then pay with Google Pay. I’m okay with losing users for the sake of convenience and simplicity.
Lastly, we change our business model from paying per appointment to paying a monthly subscription fee. Jason doesn’t have to worry about paying each time he meets and he gets unlimited scheduled calls with on demand calls during certain periods of time.
With the removal of some dead weight, we come to this flow:
You’ll notice a pattern of me trying to do too much. It’s a curse. I often tunnel vision on one idea but as soon as a new (in my mind) great idea pops up, I’m off to that for the next few hours. 6 ideas later and I’ve spent 2 days trying to convince myself that they’re all viable.
I’ve been working hard to brush this habit. It’s not easy, it’s how my brain works, but this project has helped me understand what it means to design something minimal and viable.
Now with an idea of the flow and organization for the design, how did I want it to look visually? Getting started, I thought about how I could make the application direct without being overwhelming. I didn’t want Jason to feel bombarded.
With that in mind, I drew up some rough ideas of how I wanted things to look. To my own surprise, the results weren’t half bad:
I threw my sketches together into a quick Marvel app so that I could get some early feedback. I planned on heading to the local mall after my weekend to ask some passersby what they thought. Unfortunately, that following Monday was March 23rd, 2020. The first full day of the New York State Pause…
From here on out, all testing had to be done remotely. Fortunately for me, many gamers spend most of their time on the internet, they wouldn’t have wanted to meet in person anyway.
So I sent out my sketched up prototype to some friends that I play games with and got some solid feedback. These comments helped me as I moved on to my low-fidelity screens.
The screen for Scheduling was troublesome for a few users. Some got stuck here, not knowing that selecting a date would show the times. They mentioned that the date numbers didn’t look like buttons and instead went for the arrows first. In the low-fidelity version, I ended up separating the date and time into two separate screens. Users would choose their date, then their time.
The Intro needed some work as well. Three screens to get the user into the main flow seemed unnecessary, users tried to tap through them as quickly as possible. The intro was condensed into more of a welcome screen in my next version, didn’t need all that nonsense holding up the user.
That feedback brought me to these low-fidelity screens:
Being happy with the results, I needed to start making things look pretty. How did I want this program to be represented?
First thing’s first, I needed a brand for this project. I wanted to create something that included elements of health and gaming without it being too saturated with both.
On the health side, I wanted to inspire a feeling of wellbeing and balance without looking strictly like a medical application.
I had to consider my goals when it came to the inclusion of gaming in the brand. Remember, we are trying to help gamers get healthy, we don’t want the brand to be too saturated with gaming innuendo.
The name actually came to me fairly quickly and Health Points seemed like a strong identity. Health Points are the universal unit of measurement for a character's life or stamina in a video game. Ironically, I have a great relationship with Health Points in games. I’ve played Tanks in pretty much every game that I could. Pulling aggro, protecting healers and initiating team fights runs in my veins.
While the name came easy, the logo and colors did not. I planned to take inspiration for the logo from the health bar in the Diablo series, a large orb that depleted as users lost health. I ended up with this:
At first I was happy with this but after sitting on it for a few hours I had to make some changes. The elements were too spread out and the letters were a bit cartoony for my liking. So I jumped back in and emerged with this:
I was starting to feel better about this! What I now started to call “The Orb” was tighter and less of a generic sphere.
The colors were also simplified. I often feel that ~ gamer aesthetic ~ is far too vivid and overwhelming and that’s the last impression I want to make.
The color scheme for the majority of my design looked like this:
The primary blue was meant to inspire a feeling of freedom and trust to the user. The darker secondary blue seemed like a good compliment, further pushing that trustworthiness and an emphasis on health.
I wanted to keep my conversation about usability testing to later in this case study but I have to bring it up for a second. When testing my prototype, a piece of feedback I received from a few participants was that the design felt far too medical. Users felt that they were entering a doctors appointment and that wasn’t exactly what I was shooting for.
The primary blue was changed to a neutral green to establish a feeling of growth and balance. Many games use green to represent Health Points so it felt like a strong fit. The secondary blue changed subtly with the addition of some purple. I was more comfortable with the results.
The last thing that I needed was a way to represent my users, and Open Peeps was the perfect solution for me. Open Peeps by Pablo Stanley (OpenPeeps.com) is an open source illustration library that allows me to make high quality user avatars for free. Not only could I create high quality generic users, but I could also create accurate versions of the experts I end up using in my examples.
With the branding finalized, I threw together a style guide that included all the elements I would bring together in my design.
With my assets created and compiled into a well organized guide, I began putting together what would become my final product. I worked for a few hours then took a quick break to see my progress. I took a look at my screens and realized something. They were boring, plain and time consuming!
I had forgotten again about Jason! He has issues with giving up on things once they require a bit of work. He doesn’t want to deal with all these questions just to get into his meeting with our expert.
I talked about this previously, but this is the point when I removed Search by Platform, Expert Profiles, Logging In and Registration. They took too much time, I could do without them.
I had iterated on the intro many times and at this point, I decided to trash it. If a user has made it to the point where they download and plan to subscribe to the service, they probably don’t need to know how it works.
This is when the scheduling was also taken out in favor of a queue system for meeting with the expert. If an expert is available, they can wait a short period of time then start their meeting. I knew this was somewhat unrealistic but I think it’s fun to imagine having a person that could always be available.
These, along with some other small changes, brought me to the following wireframes for my main red route of meeting with an expert.
The wireframes were completed and I put them together into a prototype for testing. Thanks to the 10 volunteers I spoke with over the course of my 2 usability tests, the flaws and errors of my design became apparent to me.
The majority of participants from my first round of testing raised a similar concern. They wanted to have a way to schedule a meeting with their expert if they didn’t have time to meet immediately.
One side of me wanted to disregard this sentiment, but the other side knew that I needed to bring this feature back for a second try. I didn’t want Jason to have to wait for his meeting, what if he loses motivation during this time and pulls out before he can start? However, I had to test what the people wanted!
I went into the next round of usability testing with confidence. Users could now choose to schedule their meeting or jump into it almost right away! I covered all the angles, they’ll love it! Or at least I thought...
Yes, it was nice to receive praise for the scheduling system, however, nobody even used it! As each participant navigated the prototype, they all acknowledged the ability to schedule a call but decided that they wanted to have their meeting now!
As it stands, I would take out the scheduling feature in favor of having all meetings be queue based. If I were to continue working on this design though, I would look further into whether or not scheduling is a good fit.
The last major bit of feedback that really hit me was that the colors made the design seem more medical than I had intended. While I did want to help people seek ways to better their health, there weren’t any medically licensed professionals and programs involved. I made some changes to the color palette and ended my project here:
This brings my story to the present day!
I’m happy with the results of the work I put into this project. Every step until this point has shown me a new way to approach people and the problems they have.
Sometimes my experience needs to take a backseat, even when I think it may be beneficial. I can’t forget that there’s 60 million others out there like me, I’m a drop in the bucket.
It also showed me the importance of thinking convergently. In the past, I often got myself mixed up in multiple ideas. Thinking so far into each one that I lose my place. Understanding that one good idea is better than ten unorganized ones will help me work more efficiently in the future.
If you’ve made it this far, I applaud you. Maybe I’ll pull Health Points out one day and take it further. This is a space that’s incredibly important to me, and if I could help even just one struggling gamer it would all be worth it.