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Meet the EA industry experts delivering Masterclasses this year

With the Game UX Summit 2018 soon approaching, we sat down with our EA industry experts who will be delivering Masterclasses this year focusing on critical UX topics as well as hands-on activities.

Find out what our speakers will be discussing, why they are passionate about UX, and where they believe UX is headed in the future.

PopCap Games, EA Mobile, Seattle

Narisa Spaulding – Sr UX Designer

As a UX Designer on our game team, I live at the deliciously chaotic intersection of game design, player research, experience design, and interface design. I work with game designers to explore what matters to our players, and to help get our vision into reality.

Why are you passionate about UX?

I dig UX Design because there is no better validation for a designer, than seeing someone use something you have created and have them say “this is exactly what I need”. It’s challenging, especially in games, since we deal with an emotional layer to our products. I’m passionate about using the tools and processes with the field of UX design to build empathy and shared understanding of our players within my game team, to empower anyone — be they engineers, artists or QA - to contribute to the creative process.

What will you be discussing during your Masterclass talk?

We will be attempting to demystify how Journey Mapping as a design tool can help game designers unpack assumptions, expose areas of risk, and achieve a big picture view of player motivations without having to write pages of design documentation. We will provide plenty of hands on practice, buckets of post-its, and share some of our insights* for how to manage a collaborative design session of 10+ creatives who all insist on sharing their opinions at once. Ultimately, we will showcase how Player Journey maps can build a shared language across disciplines, and help you understand what an MVP of your game could look like.

*May or may not include scented candles and funny noise makers.

From design to research to strategy, where do you see UX headed in the future?

I’d like to see UX Design in games catch up in some ways and continue breaking new ground in other ways. Design: there’s so much more collaborative design potential to unlock when we explore new tools that enable lightning-fast iteration and prototyping. We are finally at a place where the tools limit us less. On the research side, we should consider both qualitative and quantitative data in early design and UX exploration to inform strategic decision making. Finally, it’s about voices — all voices. If UX design and research can help us better understand our ‘target players’, how can it help shine a light on other voices' journeys and experiences?

What can attendees look forward to at the GAME UX Summit this year?

UX in games is a unique and exciting challenge. There’s no better way to push our craft forward than by learning from each other. Regardless of what your job title is, your decisions impact the player experience. So let’s come together to talk about what matters.


Eric Hewitt – Competitive Systems Manager

I’m responsible for managing tournaments, rules, settings, and various systems for the competitive side of the Battlefield franchise. I work under the EA Competitive Gaming Division, so one of my biggest goals is to ensure the competitive success of the current Battlefield title that we’re working on – recently Battlefield V.

Why are you passionate about UX?

I’m very passionate about UX because it’s one of the most important factors to inviting and onboarding any newcomers into a game, a space, and a community. Many first timers can be instantly turned off from a game if they cannot comprehend or adjust to its flow and functionality. As game companies begin to chase the exciting esports landscape moving forward, there aren’t many studios that are looking at the UX side of that world. Determining best practices for designing and creating competitive titles will be crucial to a game’s success in the future.

What will you be discussing during your Masterclass talk?

We will discuss the history and future of competitive gaming by doing a deep dive into competitive game design. I will also be explaining the relationships that can be drawn between sports and video games, and how our world can take learnings from sports history along the way. We will then focus on why competitive games are increasing in popularity among both gamers and developers, and how they appeal to the spectators and streamers of eSports.

From design to research to strategy, where do you see UX headed in the future?

I see UX headed in the direction of a deeper understanding at the micro-level. For the past 5-10 years, there has been a lot of research and strategy built around the different “player profiles” that comprise the various gaming communities across the world. While these profiles provide a great snapshot of the player base that we’re making games for, it still leaves a lot of questions around how those players would interact with specific games themselves. Furthermore, I think that there’s a lot left to be investigated when it comes to competitive games, and I think the industry has only seen the tip of the iceberg thus far.

What can attendees look forward to at the GAME UX Summit this year?

Attendees can look forward to learning all about the modern trends in designing an accessible and fun player experience. The speakers will explore everything from the latest practices from top studios and the future plans for innovations to reach new heights in the UX world.


EA Tiburon, Orlando

Karen Stevens – EA SPORTS™ Accessibility Lead

I push to improve the user experience for those with interactive differences. This may involve disability, accommodating left-handedness, colorblindness, and more.

Why are you passionate about UX?

I believe everyone should be able to play video games – it’s an important way people bond with friends and family. It can also provide a sense of freedom and independence for those with disabilities. My goal is to prevent and/or remove roadblocks that may prevent play.

What will you be discussing during your Masterclass talk?

Accessibility is the correction of a mismatch between the person and their environment.  This class not only covers designing for different differences, it also touches on empathy training, community management, customer service, and more.

This masterclass covers accommodating gamers with a variety of differences. This includes those who are deaf, blind, or have physical challenges. It also covers topics relating to low vision, color blindness, photosensitivity, cognitive issues, sensory processing disorders, and more.

Learn more about EA’s accessibility resources here: https://www.ea.com/able

From design to research to strategy, where do you see UX headed in the future?

I see UX moving to a more inclusive future, where a wider variety of people are able to use our products.

What can attendees look forward to at the GAME UX Summit this year?

For those interested in learning more about accessibility, I recommend “The Importance of Good User Experience Design for Mobility Accessibility Across the Spectrum”. Members of the Neil Squire Society and Limbitless Solutions are on the panel. Both groups develop accessible hardware and bring extensive experience to the table.


PopCap Games, EA Mobile, Seattle

Mara Patton – Game Designer

As a Game Designer, I work to create compelling, satisfying content for players. What this actually looks like depends on the cycle of the title I’m working on. At the moment, my role currently involves writing specs and working with the other designers to figure out structure, rituals, and content.

Why are you passionate about UX?

Game Design’s goal is to create something that people find joy in using and come back to over and over again. UX helps by getting me out of theory and into what people are actually experiencing. This early validation is absolutely key to our process and our confidence in our design. UX lets me frame the work I do around player satisfaction, and keeps my aspirations tied to what they need, not what I personally desire.

What will you be discussing during your Masterclass talk?

Narisa and I will go over a tool we’ve found helpful for our own projects - Player Journey Mapping.  We’ll be helping attendees identify users by their motivations rather than demographics. We’ll practice using those motivations to validate a player’s experiential, emotional journey through a slice of a hypothetical game. This is a tool anyone can use to better predict if a user’s needs and wants are being met by your design! And it can be used throughout a project’s life cycle, from the earliest concepts through to launch.

From design to research to strategy, where do you see UX headed in the future?

UX gives us many tools to better understand our users and have more confidence in our titles.  As we keep expanding who our audiences are, we need to continue to strive at gaining empathy and insight into our player base. The part of UX which excites me most is how it provides us with standardized ways of clarifying, articulating and validating against our user’s needs, wants and desires. This is extraordinarily powerful in an industry that seems to be moving faster every year.  And it connects us to what I think is the most gratifying part of my job – making things that bring joy and pleasure to people!

What can attendees look forward to at the GAME UX Summit this year?

Diverse and amazing speakers and attendees who are all absolutely passionate about providing the best possible experience for our players. UX covers a wide range of topics, and anyone who’s part of the daily struggle to create a product that players use and engage with will find something to learn and be inspired by. 


Click here to register for Game UX Summit 2018.  Space is limited, so be sure to secure your spot. We look forward to seeing you in Vancouver!

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