GAMING CULTURE CAN BE TOXIC.
GAMING IS MEANT TO BE FOR EVERYONE, YET TOXICITY IN THE COMMUNITY IS NOT THE ONLY CHALLENGE THAT MARGINALIZED GROUPS FACE.
HOW MIGHT XSET COUNTERACT THE DISADVANTAGES MARGINALIZED GROUPS FACE WHEN IT COMES TO GAMING AND ESPORTS?
CREATE A SERIES OF PROGRAMS THAT LEVELS UP THE SKILLS OF MARGINALIZED GROUPS SO THAT THEY ARE ON AN EVEN PLAYING FIELD WITH THE MASSES.
CHANGE THE MINDSET.
Gaming culture is toxic and for there to be any improvement, it needs to change from the very first level - through gamers.
By educating, elevating, and empowering marginalized communities within gaming, XSET can help change the industry's mindset and improve gaming for all.
AN INITIATIVE THAT BUILDS EXPERTISE AMONGST MARGINALIZED COMMUNITIES WITHIN GAMING IN AN UPLIFTING WAY.
MINDSET IS A MULTIPLATFORM EXPERIENCE THAT:
Educates users so that they feel comfortable within gaming communities.
Builds up users’ experience so they are prepared to handle difficult situations of all kinds — whether it be in-game or in chat.
Creates a social network of positivity, comradery, and mentorship amongst users.
THE MINDSET EXPERIENCE INCLUDES
Continues to hone users’ skills, enables them to develop new ones, educate them about valuable insights, and connects them with a variety of professionals within the gaming community.
Keeps XSET at the forefront of users’ minds while continuing to build relationships within the community.
"How Might We" Statements
Business Model Canvas
Research & Empathize
IN 2021, THERE WERE 2.96 BILLION ACTIVE VIDEO GAMERS.
REPORTED FACING HARASSMENT WHILE GAMING.
It was our one-on-one interviews that really brought things into perspective for us and gave us truly valuable key insights.
HARASSMENT ISN'T THE ONLY PAIN POINT THAT PLAGUES MARGINALIZED GROUPS WITHIN THE GAMES INDUSTRY.
Certain demographics are discouraged or outright blocked from playing video games until they reach an age of independence. This puts these players at a distinct disadvantage, as they do not have the practical experience that other players do.
Some demographics don't have the disposable income to buy the necessary equipment to play competitively - or to play at all.
BAD ACTORS WITHIN THE COMMUNITY.
Despite the community's best efforts, there are players that benefit from toxicity and continue to perpetuate this negativity.
Sasha "Scarlett" Hostyn
From this research, I created two Personas to embody our ideal target audience and to guide our work.
To further define our direction and help identify potential opportunities, I set about creating a User Journey for our main consumer, Sydney, as she interacts with XSET.
I then created a Problem Statement to summarize our goals and guide our Ideation Sessions.
"Sydney is a high school student that just started playing computer games. She enjoys the game and is trying to get better, but she doesn’t know where to go for help and she’s constantly being screamed at or made fun of by other players. She needs a trustworthy resource that helps her learn to be a better player and catch up to her gaming peers, teaches her how to respond to toxicity and present herself online, while allowing her to feel safe enough to ask questions and troubleshoot her frustrations."
Equipped with a Problem Statement to guide our Ideation Session, we set about brainstorming possible directions to take our solution in.
WITH SUCH A BROAD AND VERSATILE TOPIC LIKE GAMING, THOUGH, EVEN THE MIND MAPS WE CAME UP WITH WERE A TANGLED WEB OF IDEAS.
We became overwhelmed by the sheer volume and found difficulty in narrowing down our ideas and focusing on a direction.
While reviewing our Mind Maps, one word stuck out to me: Education. It reminded me of our one-on-one interviews, three quotes in particular.
"ALL MY LIFE I WAS TOLD GAMING IS FOR GUYS AND THAT I WASN’T ALLOWED TO PLAY. UNTIL I MADE FRIENDS AT VCU AND JOINED THE COMMUNITY — I FINALLY FELT WELCOMED BECAUSE OF THE RESOURCES THAT VCU PROVIDES US."
"I WOULD LIKE TO SEE MORE RESOURCES FOR FEMALES IN GAMING. MANY OF US DIDN’T GROW UP PLAYING SO WE HAVE TO CATCH UP ON EXPERIENCE LOST."
"THE GAMING INDUSTRY IS VERY SIMILAR TO STEM MAJORS: MALE-DOMINATED AND SEVERELY TOXIC. I HAD TO DROP IT, IT WAS TOO MUCH FOR ME."
That was the real light bulb moment for us. STEM and other institutions had been battling these issues for years; why couldn’t we reference which programs were successful and use them to inspire our own solutions?
Now with a clear direction, we were able to select our best ideas from our Ideation Session and group them together in complementary executions.
From there, I created an ideal User Flow to illustrate how we wanted users to interact with the new XSET initiative, freshly dubbed MINDSET.
From this User Flow, I was then able to circle back and define an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) list of core features.
A comprehensive, thorough breakdown of each program to educate users on why specific skills are essential.
Quick “at a glance” hubs so as to not overwhelm users.
Way to find application details and register online.
Direct tie-ins to XSET.
XSET’s main platform for information is its website, so creating an offshoot of its existing site to be the hub for MINDSET became my primary focus.
Along with my MVP list, I also designed with the following in mind:
It needed to be intuitive for both kids and their (potentially) non-gamer parents.
Users needed to have access to everything they might need on their MINDSET journey, including the ability to sign up for the programs.
It needed to fit in seamlessly with XSET’s existing website and branding.
Using my MVP list to define which pages were integral to the MINDSET initiative, I created multiple rough thumbnail Sketches inspired by XSETs existing site and various STEM program-related sites.
I then tested these Sketches to see which held the perfect balance of visually striking, informative, but also intuitive before refining those.
I further revised my designs through multiple iterations of Wireframes, testing usability between each batch of revisions to ensure that the website remained intuitive and didn’t get bloated with unnecessary features or overly frivolous design.
While working on the Wireframes, I also focused on MINDSET’s Branding.
It needed to have the same tone as XSET’s current branding while still bearing enough individuality to mark it as a separate endeavor.
I first created a Moodboard and Spotify playlist to help me brainstorm and further visualize the direction we wanted to go in.
XSET’s existing XSET FEMALE has already made steps in the direction we wanted to take MINDSET, so I decided to expand upon their token purple color for our initiative.
Otherwise retaining XSET’s Visual Brand Identity, I created a Typography and Palette Guide. I used designs that XSET already utilized for their website and marketing as inspiration and expanded upon them, creating a Button and Asset Guide to further lead the production of the High Fidelity Prototype.
Finally, I put my Visual Identity Guides to good use in the High Fidelity Prototypes.
As a casual gamer myself, I always find it exciting to work on projects having to do with the industry – especially when it involves bringing aspects of digital gaming to the real world. As a member of a marginalized community, I also found it extremely fulfilling to work on a project that would improve gaming culture. Finally, as a designer, it was a fun challenge to build off an existing brand and create something that was fresh and powerful while still maintaining the brand's core aesthetic and messaging.
As always, scope is a constant consideration. There are so many ways to address toxicity within gaming, but it’s not possible to solve all the problems there are in one fell swoop. Additionally, there was a careful balance we had to strike between what programs would work and what made sense for XSET, the brand, to do. I also wasn’t able to test usability as much as I would have wanted and would have liked a broader testing audience. Unfortunately, I was also unable to test our high-fidelity prototype. I really would have liked to have had an ideation session with members of the XSET crew to get them involved in the process and to also see what features they found most valuable.
MINDSET started off as a passion project for a respected client but it has the potential to be so much more. While its current iteration could benefit from a communications plan and KPIs, in the long term there is an amazing opportunity for partnerships across different sections of the gaming industry. These partnerships could range from game developers, to esports companies, to streaming platforms, each providing support for marginalized communities within their own specialties.