Video games are taking over the world and it's time for Design to take them seriously. This article is part of a series on the lessons that Designers can take from video games—Serious Play.
Part I : Serious Play
Part II : The Future of Design Tools
Let's talk design tools.
It's Design's favorite topic, and yet goes completely misunderstood. It's almost embarassing to think that a decade ago we were all using photo-editing and presentation software to design apps and websites. Now, with tools designed specifically for what we do, it's taken the process of designing an app or website from weeks down to minutes. But in our obsession with efficiency and the systematization of our work, something is lost, and the process is often held up and praised more than the work itself—which is often, blah.
"We become what we behold."
We've been building Andy apps, not in traditional design tools, but in 3D software (Blender) and a game engine (SceneKit). Anything new and undocumented is a struggle, and game engines and 3D modeling tools may be the most complicated software ever created, period. But in that struggle with 3D is something incredible—a chaos theory-level complexity that is never quite predictable. Let me tell you, there are no bugs quite like 3D bugs! Many of the design decisions in our apps were a direct result of a "happy accident" we stumbled into by flipping the wrong setting or uploading a texture to the wrong field.
In a decade+ of building creative tools, you learn that your favorite tools are often not the fastest. I have a japanese pull saw that's slow & tedious but cuts wood joinery like a dream. Good tools get the job done, but great tools are often laborious, constraining, and unpredictable, but they push you creatively to achieve something unique.
Game engines are the future.
We're not the only ones using game engines outside the world of video games. Game engines are reshaping many industries like filmmaking, home renovation, architecture, creativity, generating realistic humans. If the future of the interface is AR, then the tools we use to design and build those interfaces are going to look a lot more like Unreal or Unity than Figma. This is the early days, and the terrain is being explored right now. Jump in if you want a hand in staking the new trails.
Lesson, Give yourself room to play.
If you find yourself in a creative rut, block out time for yourself, detach from the design system, put down the rectangle-maker, and pick up a new tool. It doesn't have to be a game engine. It can be a pencil or a block of clay. Become a novice again, get frustrated, and open yourself up to a few "happy accidents."