Teaching Teams That Make Games A New Way To Play


Teaching Teams That Make Games A New Way To Play

Enabling the Team
UXDX Europe 2020

Nowadays, it seems like everyone says they "put their users first" and “user experience is everyone’s job” but, like “I should go to the gym”, there’s a chasm between intention and action. To create lasting change, you need to adjust a team’s behavior and reboot their mindset. The good news is that designing a new way of working is a lot like designing a product: just swap out your end users and swap in your team members.
Chris Grant from King has spent the last 5 years leading a "player-centered" revolution at King. In this talk, he'll give practical examples of how he's used his UX and Product toolbox with internal “team users” to motivate them to design, test and work as cross-functional teams united by player-centric goals.

  • How to drive change in your teams
  • What to do when it doesn't always work

Well, listen, it is really awesome to be here on day two of UXDX. I say, be here in the figurative sense. Obviously, I would love to be there in Dublin with you. But you know what? We're coping. And I will do my best to share this story with you remotely. And I can say that there is at least one person who is very happy about this. My cat Chesky is sitting right next to me and he's waiting for his big break. Hopefully, you won't see him or you will. I don't know. It depends on how this goes. So anyway, Chesky's there in the wings ready to go. The one thing that we had before we had to all go remote was Twitter. So this is my Twitter handle, and this is the hashtag for this talk. Love to engage with you publicly about this, about my UX Saga. So please make a note. You'll see it throughout the, throughout the slides and looking forward to the good conversation. So as Frank mentioned, this is my UX Saga that I'm going to be telling you today. I'm really excited to share with you this story. It's been up and down. It's been like any good game. It's been a lot of fun and I'm pretty happy with the level that we've reached so far. But first things first. Frank, start with some housekeeping. I have to start with a few disclaimers. You're going to hear me say UX a lot. You're going to be talking about design back and forth, but we do not have a monopoly on the players and designer in UX. We all serve the users or in this case, the King, the players. So I just want to be clear about that. This is all of our job,.Right? And that's the spirit of UXDX overall. I also want to say that, you know Frank mentioned my toolkit, a lot of the tools that I have. I got from this wonderful book, undercover user experience design. Still available. I think it's now in its third edition, the screenshots are a bit old. A wonderful book, I recommend it. If you're looking for even deeper than you can learn from me in half an hour. It's a great book I mentioned. And I got a lot of insights on how to introduce UX under the radar. Under the radar. But do you know, there's one problem with the book nowadays. And there's one problem in general, with the idea of introducing UX or becoming more user centric and an organization, which everybody's really woken to this topic. So you can't do what the book recommends and just kind of slip it in under the radar. People are talking about this stuff a lot. In fact, if we look at Nielsen's famous levels of UX majority, I would say that overall, in most of the tech we're at stage two right now. So awareness is a very big deal. Well, where is this very prominent (inaudible) ? People are talking about it. That could be good and it can also be bad. Right? There's something to be said for talking about something and knowing that it's a big deal, but then it's not quite the same thing as actually doing it. There's another thing we should be aware of that some industries, things are going quite well. They're quite profitable without being as user centric as they necessarily could be. And that this in an environment where everybody's talking about this can lead the people, thinking that there are a lot more useful they're centric than they are. And therefore, being pretty resistant to change. It's funny the economists talk about this. They talk about the resource curse or the paradox of plenty. And basically in a nutshell, what it says is that the places that the countries, the regions that have been gifted with a lot of natural resources tend to be the ones that innovate less. It makes sense, right? They have less incentive to innovate because they can just pull value out of the ground. And the paradox comes from the fact that it's the other places that have less resources. They're actually more likely to innovate. They're more likely to force themselves to find value, to look to things like being more user centric. In order to find mine that value. They're forced to be, they're forced to innovate. So give you some context, certain industries it's kind of hard to get them to change right now. So, does UX is on everybody's list. So how do we evangelize UX in this environment? How do we do it? Well, I rack my brain about this when I joined King. And I came up with three options. Option one, tell people they're wrong. Hey guys, there's a better way to do this. If we were doing it differently, things would go much better. Come on, look outside. I don't know if you can tell, hopefully you can see from the slide, but that little boy being told by a teacher he's not doing it right. I'm not sure if he's happy. Spoiler alert. People don't tend to like to be told that they're wrong. All. Alright. Option two, you can't force people to change. You can make them redesign the way that they're working. I don't know how many of you out there. I participated in the redesign. There's one thing I can say about them, even when they're necessary, users really don't like being forced to adopt a new experience. They don't want to learn new ways of doing things. They want to stick to the tried and true. People don't like being forced to do things. Okay. So I mentioned that there were three options. Done option number one, tell them they're wrong. Kind of badger them. Option number two, force them. What's the third option? Option number three. I'm not sure my video is playing here. Let's see. Hopefully. All right. Just in case, I'll do a quick voiceover. Do you all remember this wonderful scene in 2001? Where this distant ancestor of ours, first discovers that the bone from a carcass can be more than just a tasty treat, but a weapon. That's a pretty happy primate, right? Why? Because the primate in this scene realized, you know what, there's a better way to do it. And that's what users love. They love figuring things out for themselves. They get really really happy by this. All right, I'll move on to the video. Didn't seem to be playing. So I'm just going to keep on, keep on going. So Recapping, option number one, tell people they're wrong. You risk their backlash. People well, we know this nowadays with our polarized political economy, people do not like being told you are wrong. Option number two, force them. People will accept that probably in the short term, I mean, they're employees, right? People are getting paid to be here. So like, you'll accept the rules. But guess what? You risked on a long term, your attrition and just kind of general indifference. Right? That just turns people off. People don't like being forced to do something, which leaves us with option three, adoption. Letting people figure out for themselves that there's a better way to do it. Put them in the driver's seat. Give them a sense of agency. Make them feel smart. When I was like I said to the team is, let the user in this case, the internal user, let them have the epiphany. You'll never go wrong, letting people choose their smart. And here's the funny thing. We actually use this when we tried to sell products. Right? We don't spend a lot of time focusing on how dumb the people are that aren't using the right product. We focus on how much better their experience could be if they were to upgrade. If they were to try that new thing that they saw on TV. They don't dwell on the user being wrong. They dealt, they show them that there's a right, better way to do it. And they let them make the call. So when I joined King, I thought about these three options. I reflected for a while. And I decided that I would go, obviously you can tell right now that I went for option three. Right? I would let them do it. And I came up with a lot of different ways to do this rebuild frameworks. The team did most of the heavy lifting here. I just kind of came to strategy, but we came to those frameworks. We came up with what we called UX tools ways to do it. But there's one example that I'm really proud of. One example where we really changed things. And we got people to get excited. We got our internal users to buy into a product and that is player testing. I think it's a great example. And I'm going to go into a little bit of detail here because I think it shows how when the strategy of going for adoption gets practiced and action it can work. So first things first. A little bit of context. King doing well. All right. Mobile gaming, it's a good industry King leader in our industry. We definitely had the money and the resources when I joined in order to build a lab and start paying agencies to recruit players for tests. And in fact, we did do online remote testing. What we're missing though, is the rich insights you get from FIC data. Right? When you bring in players every single week and you have one on one interactions and the team is there. Right? When they get that, what Jared Spool calls those exposure hours. We weren't doing that. So I didn't think about it, I thought, well, listen, if we have the resources to do this, and we're kind of doing it online, so people know that exists, why aren't we doing it? Is it because we can't afford it? No. Is it because we don't have space? No. We just need a way to fit this into how we make games and to overcome some of the reluctance. Right? The same reluctance that you just have one. They have to switch to the new product. And so what I decided was, instead of going big and building a lab and trying to make a big splash, we would go small. We would go garia. You can say it here in Spain. We would try to do something that we didn't need a lot of resources for, and that would allow people to start to see. And remember that agency idea, right? That adoption idea. Get excited about the process. And the good news was that the team was already working on this. The team had actually started to bring in players. They weren't doing it every week. But they did do this really cool thing where for one of the new games being built in the studio that I was working, they brought in their moms. And they ask their moms to come in and have a look at the game and give feedback. So the team was quite excited and that meant that there was some early signal in the noise that this could work. There's a great thing. Also, when you bring in your moms and this happens in this counteracts. The number one argument that I'm sure you've heard about all these players is users dump. They don't get it. People aren't going to say that about somebody's mom and the team. So armed with that first insight with a little bit of momentum we had for mother's day, we decided to go really really good for you. And the first thing we did was we went, so garia, we didn't actually test with real players. We got people from the rest of the company. Barcelona is the largest King office. We're not the headquarters, but we are the largest office. And we have a lot of shared functions. We have folks like payroll, marketing, finance, we have a big HR and recruitment department in Barcelona. Which means they are quite keen on participating in the process of testing the games and getting feedback for the games. Let's say, but they don't know exactly what the teams are building though. So that's happening to another force. So they were perfect as a first way to start. So a really really easy way was to start internally. Didn't need to spend any money to do anything. And I'm not sure if the video's playing, but if you could tell if you're seeing what I'm seeing right now, you'll see Carmen Hevia, our fabulous UX designer. She and I were there. Shoulder to shoulder, elbow to elbow from the beginning. And she's doing a test with this lovely volunteer from HR. And you can see they're having a lot of fun because this is a great way to interact with your fellow teammates. Carmen's gonna appear in a minute. Again, and I'll mention that, but just so be on the lookout for Carmen. So, like I said, we started really good, we started testing with actual people from the company. We named Brigham people. When things were ready, we decided to start targeting players in Barcelona. So what did we do? We ran ads on Facebook and we're lucky enough that we also have our own internal platform to run ads. We did that as well. But you don't have to necessarily be a big company that has your own internal ads platform. Performance marketing on social networks allows you to target very very gradually. So you can find the exact right person. We didn't only do that. We didn't only stick. Sorry, I jumped ahead of a slide, my finger slipped. Let me just go back. We didn't only go for high tech. We went for very low tech as well. We had these cards printed out. They do not cost much. You can get them done for, I think it was about 20 Euros for us to get a stack of cards. And we had, we used some existing assets to make a really nice design and we put an email address on the back. We'll put a phone number and we handed them out to the team. And we said, every time you see somebody playing one of our games on the Metro, on the bus. You guys remember when we used to do that, we'll just be on the Metro and the bus? Like we interacted in real life. Anyway, back in those days and people would hand you things and you weren't scared about being infected. We said pass out one of these cards. Super super low tech. So we have a printed card and an email address. The email address had an autoresponder with a link to a Google form. So people get signed up automatically for zero work for the team. And we were just filling out our little database. And where phone number, the phone number was for WhatsApp. Being here in Spain, I think it's like 95% penetration rate. You send a message there, we respond right away with that same link to that same form. Okay. So still very very low tech. Heck, we were so low tech that we even decided to use our own video conferencing system and the iPhone's camera.. First, I can tell you that you can record for 45 minutes of video with your iPhone plugged in at least an iPhone 10. That's what I had at the time before the battery overheats, even though it's plugged in. But that's what we wanted to do. We wanted to start and you could see the little arm there on the top of the screen or right above my head. We were using the actual arms that our QA folks use. In order to like, keep the phone at a nice position. So we position that as a camera. Like I said, we wanted to stay really really low tech. We eventually, we actually got better set up. But we also use the camera from the video conferencing room. The video conferencing room, sorry, camera in the room. Sorry about that. To go ahead and record the entire interaction. There's a fun thing about doing things in this garia way. You start to get some unexpected serendipitous benefits. And one of them is, if you're recording the entire room, on your video conferencing system, just like how we're talking here on zoom right now. Guess what? You can do it. You can very easily send out a link to the entire team, asking them to watch the test live. And here's a fun thing that we discovered, there is nothing like lying to get the people to actually tune in. Nobody wants to watch sports after the fact. It's much more fun to be watching these UXDX events live. You might see my cat up here. You don't know people like this live interaction stuff. So if we're able to do that live, then that's a big benefit. So like I said, we did all of this stuff. We started very low key and very low tech. Very garia, it worked. Got interested, we had people checking in everyday. So the question was, how do we move as fast as we can in order to find more features? So we started to go really quickly. We spread the word across the entire studio in proximity (inaudible) . And of course, when we had our case studies, we were looking to not only make this a benefit for our studio and for our teams, but we wanted all of King to do this. You saw before that I'm the global UX director for King and that's because one of my biggest tasks is not only figuring out how we can spread player centric or user centric ways of working.Sorry, how we can create those end games? But then how can we spread them across the company? King's a big company. It's like 2000 people got teams all over the place. How do we do it? We opted for building those case studies, just like the one I explained and then sharing them inside our whatever channels we had at King. And this one, we see Carmen Hevia, fabulous UX designer. You can follow her here on Twitter at heavy underscore Carmen, explaining it at our King, all hands meeting, where we bring all 2000 people together and in Barcelona. I'm really hitting her Twitter handle because I want you guys to do me a favor. I want you to tell her. You might not have noticed, but there was a very funny picture on the screen right there. It's my really bad Photoshopping skills. We did this theme for the presentation. We did for King where it was like the wizard of Oz. You could see Carmen, it's Dorothy there. I promise you that image is going to haunt your dreams now. I apologize, but that it is what it is. I would love it if you'd all tweeted Carmen right now and tell her that you saw her like Dorothy. It would just drive her nuts. And I think, if we can't have a little bit of fun and pandemic. Anyway, I'll stop talking about carbon sweaters right now and move on. So we shared our case studies. We've been garia. It was time to finally start asking for more budget and start moving and start ramping up on player testing. So we still stayed humble. We got the right camp. We got the camera set up that we needed, not the best possible one. In general, my experience is that if you stay low on your tasks, when it comes to spending money and budget on these things, you're more likely to get approved. People are less likely to ask tough questions and you can always fill it up. And the very thing is when you go lean and you stay humble and you don't ask for too much, you learn some stuff. I'll let you guys guess. Normally I do, if I were doing this in public, I'd ask you to yell out. You can't do it here. But, let's see what could be one thing we would ask for in our budget? I already mentioned a camera that we didn't know we were going to need, but end up being very valuable. So it's Barcelona. It's the summer. We're bringing in players once a week, hour long sessions, Barcelona summer, we needed a fan. And a little bit of air freshener, frankly, it got a little warm in the rooms that we're using. You never thought to ask for this. And of course the company probably would have given us a fan if we needed after the fact. But boy, you seem smart when you're using this very lean, very light approach to figure out what you need. And you have clear anecdotes about why and evidence. Sorry. About why you need these things. So to recap, testing shows value and gets teams thinking about a greater good. So testing is great. And it's a great way to unite the teams. There's nothing like these exposure hours and getting people to really see the experience live. Striving for a greater good improves teamwork and alignment. So when you get the teams to focus on them, the users, then they don't focus on us. Right? And a lot of the arguments come from not saying side and think about what we think is best. And product quality also improves as the whole team fights for the player and not just design. So I mentioned how we use this process to get the team excited about this, not just the designers that we're testing, but everybody was bought in. When everybody's bought in, they care. When everybody cares, everybody's thinking about the player user and then product quality increases. Maybe you notice something in that last line, maybe you notice that I jumped from design. Doing something suddenly the whole team has built in. You're probably wondering, okay, listen, this is great. You know, you got the designs really down. All this stuff you mentioned was with your designers and stuff. How did you get the full team to be bought into this stuff, into the testing? How did you get people to actually tune in to those lives? Okay. That's a good question. It's a good question. Because design is known to be in favor of these user center things. Right? It's normal that they're talking about player feedback. How do they spark interest among the rest of the team? Because it's like this cliche. Right? That designers are different and that they're not like all the other profiles in the team. And come on. I mean, there's a conference about working multidisciplinary. We can be honest here. Like yeah, designers got a little bit of fame about being so annoying about the users. They're always talking about the users. They're different. They seem different from everybody else. Well, the good news is according to John Holland, a vocational psychologist from the United States. We're all different, actually. He came up with this wonderful theory called RIASEC. And basically what it does is it maps out your vocational personality. And he, I can go into a lot of detail. We're running out of time here. So basically long story short, he says that all of us have two strong preferences in this six preference scale. And that those two preferences show, what kind of jobs we tend to be happy with, what kind of tasks we're interested in. And long story short, what they do is they allow us to kind of gently stereotype and group people's interests based on the kind of profiles that they would fit into. So like you have your investor. RIASEC by the way, it's just the acronym, Realistic Investigative Artistic Social Enterprising and Conventional. And those Macs pretty much. So like these kinds of broad categories, like investigative scientists, artists tend to be designers. Like I said, there are two of them. So like me personally, I've been in product and design. So I'm artistic and enterprising, but enterprising would tend to be somebody who's a product manager, conventional be accountants. They really like rules engineering's would be like realistic. So why am I mentioning this? Because if you are aware of these preferences and you are aware of these ideas, that it suddenly becomes very interesting when you have to start doing cross team collaboration, especially in the case of design, when you want to start advocating for the user, and you think about how it resonates with you versus with them. So very quickly before I wrap up, I'm going to give you guys some insights into this stuff. So these are the adjective for one of those profiles that I mentioned. Creative intuitive, sensitive, articulate, expressive, unstructured, original nonconforming, innovative. They rely on feelings, imagination, and inspiration. They like to work with ideas, abstraction and concepts. Which one is that? I know you don't have it in front of you. But come on. You can guess. Right? Yeah. Obviously. It's the artistics. It's the designers. Okay. What this means is basically that because designers are predisposed to empathize with users. It's bread and butter. It's very normal for us. Now the cons to engineers, that's something else. Right? Not saying that they can't empathize with users, it's not, they're not as predisposed. PMs the same thing. And Jesus, we go wider. I mean, think about finance and everyone says that they want to be a customer centric, user centric company. But if you've got people from all these departments and their vocational personalities indicates that they're probably not as predisposed. You are going to need some kind of a bridge. Just to make the point. Let's look at a couple more of these adjectives, cause they're fun. Right? So this is a description for another group. Adventurous, ambitious, assertive, extroverted, energetic, enthusiastic, confident, optimistic. They are dominant, persuasive and motivational. They're like influencing others, being in charge, taking risks, debating and competing. Those are entrepreneurs. Right? Our product folks. They like to be right. They like to argue for their points of view. Of course, this makes complete sense, by the way I got, since I've got you here, please, nobody called me on this. But there's this horrible joke. I don't know if you've ever heard it, but a product manager as a person who thinks that nine women can have a baby in one month. Have you ever heard of that bad joke? The nice thing is that because we're not in person, I can't hear you not laughing. What does that mean? Those two personalities, when it comes to UX and product? It means that sometimes they can conflict. And of course, if you look at these descriptions to make sure that the product goes in the right direction, that is supposed to be for the product. And in studying the users, that's supposed to be UX. They have to work together. Right? We need it to be more like this, but yet their personalities are quite different. So how do we bridge that gap? And then we have another group. What are these? Stable, persistent, practical, thrifty, no-nonsense, down to earth, physical, mechanical. They brought for things rather than ideas or people. They like operating machines and working with our hands. Of course. They're the guys that make it all happen without them, without these folks. We don't have any code to ship. These are our engineers. They're the realistic folks. So you can see when just these three groups we have some serious differences in vocational personality. How do we bridge the gap? How do we take those insights that we get from players and things like player testing? How do we take this new mindset, these new tools, and try to get everyone to use it? Well, we adapt our message to the user. If you're keeping score, that's the second time that I've taken from or how do you make things for products for users and applied it to the team itself? Because guess what? Sorry. There's something there. But the user can be the team user as well. Now normally. As designers, when we start talking about our craft and we start talking about all the great work we do. And maybe this is because we're a relatively new discipline, relatively new. UX is kind of new on the scene. We have a tendency to use words like this. We start to say all these important things about the user interface and about heuristic evaluation. This is the best way to turn off the other members of the team. What we need to do is we need to find something that transcends these vocational personalities, something that we all like. We need to tell them a story. And guess what? That's what I've been doing here today. I've been telling the story of how we've done, how we did this. And the story can be very powerful because it's a format that we all get. We all understand that it energizes and takes advantage of our natural empathy. The empathy that goes beyond just what the designers have, but that everybody has for people. Remember the team brought in their moms, they got this idea very early on. They knew that they needed a user that everybody would feel for. So they went to mom herself. And if you're lucky, if you're smart, you'll get others to tell it for you. So what we did was, and this is the final step and are telling the stories that we did, these UX boot camps. Where we explain to people we tried to tell them the story of the work we were doing in a really fun format. Again, super low tech. My favorite tool in the world, Google forums, you can customize them if you can get people to sign up. And there's something about scarcity that really gets people jazzed about it. We credit (inaudible) efforts to create a fun experience. We brought people from all kinds of disciplines and then we set them out. And we arm them with our stories for them to tell with other people. And you know what? If you're lucky, if you follow this, maybe you'll get to tell that story to even more people. Maybe even more people want to hear it. So anyway, that's my UX Saga. I said at the beginning I reached a pretty cool level. Okay. Well maybe I'm not as far along as I'd like to be, but I'm pretty happy with my progress so far. Just to sum up. And thank you so much for listening to me. This can be, it can be rough online. Talking about UX is easier than actually applying it. Especially in this world now where everybody talks about it. It's a little bit like being environmentally sensitive. Right? Environmentally friendly, this idea of greenwashing. It's easy to bring it up. You need a strategy. You need a strategy to evangelize and drive adoption in this tough world. Right? Actually go beyond (inaudible) . UX designers are great at designing these strategies because you know what we know how to design for actual users. So if we just change our lens and think about the people in the team as the user, then, we can have a lot of impact. And of course a successful strategy will be fun and make the adopter feel very smart. And finally, as you've seen, there's another idea from the product. The product space that we can apply. Lean UX, lean startup, lean product, lean, lean lean can help us validate the strategy for staying very light. We go garia. We don't ask for all at the beginning. We can get traction and we learn some stuff along the way. And it's all about learning. It's all about driving real adoption. So thank you very much. I look forward to hearing from you in the Slack group, on Twitter. I'm a digital altruist. Please use my UX Saga. And hope to see you out there someday. Thanks a lot.