The uX-Games

Some time ago I tweeted about the existence of the uX-Games, my nerdy spinnoff of ESPN’s X-games. I mentioned it again more recently at my office’s annual designer meet up where the design teams from across the company meet for some much valued face time.

Humorous and sarcastic as they sound the uX-Games would be a great way to bring designers together to share methods, swap war stories and possibly create the next best deliverable. The uX-Games are not another convention or meet up though. We have enough of those. Instead, the uX-Games will be held primarily online using the tools we use best – tinychat for video messaging, blogs, emails and more. Now what can a uX-Game competition or event plan look like?

In this highly fantastical event I have organized a series of potential games.

Xtreme Paper Prototyping

This event can take on two distinct forms: timed and freestyle.

Timed Paper Prototyping: Exactly what it sounds like. Moderators will establish a series of design charrette and teams will have limited time to come up with concepts and create paper prototypes for the product. Categories will range from screen interface only to full form; paper and pen only to basic actuators and motors. Grading is subjective (remember the Olympics?) and will be based on a 10 point scale. Key factors will be creativity and uniqueness of design, remaining true to the project constraints, and inventiveness in the technique.

FreeStyle Paper Prototyping: Much more free form. A design charrette will still be provided as a prompt. There is no time limit. In this event points will be awarded based on the methods used and the quality of the story told. (Ok, all design is telling a story but here we are looking for original and off the wall methods.) As a judge, I will be looking for the person who used spaghetti string to demonstrate the latest torque hinge and a WoolyWilly toy to demonstrate the latest drawing application.

Speed Dating

No, we won’t be pairing off UX guys and gals at the uX-Games. We are all social people and you can handle that on your own. Speed Dating is one of the user research events. Five to Ten minutes per user, researchers are provided a design problem and an end product to design. User’s are guided before the event to have a consistent voice. After an hour of research the athletes break off to find design implications and motivations. Points for this event are given based on the user’s opinion on their skills as a researcher (user’s are UX professionals not participating in any event) as well as the accuracy of the themes proposed after synthesis.


Think choreographed swimming. Teams will be given a prompt and will have a series of 30 second intervals to act out different product ideas. Not sure what bodystorming is? Points for creativity of ideas and explosiveness of character during the method.

Rapid Prototyping

Leave the paper behind, lets move into the more tangible. This is the Iron Chef aspect of the competition. We provide the pantry of design tools and a secret ingredient design prompt. Teams have one hour to design three prototypes. There must be at least one behavioral and one physical prototype. Up to 20 points can be awarded per judge, 10 for originality, 5 for tools used, and 5 for alignment with the design prompt (taste, plating, originality).

Who Wants to Be a Millionaire

Whats an Olympics of design without some good old trivia. Questions range from the history of Interaction Design, birthplace of the :) (Carnegie Mellon) and anything else. The medals for this one are pretty straight forward.

Lost in Translation

From my experience, one of the greatest challenges faced by UX practitioners is the fact that designers, developers and businessmen alike use the same terms with wholly different meanings. (Ok, UX people have the same problem – what are we calling our field anyways?) So let’s get the judges to define some terms in a variety of fields and we challenge teams to discuss these terms with a mixed body of users. Points are awarded based on the blindly selected users ability to define the terms using a single cohesive voice.


So this is by no means an all inclusive list of events at the uX-Games. Ideally these would be held over a series of weeks at assorted local locations. (hey IxDA, let’s get this going). The finals can be held at any of a variety of existing conferences whether its Interactions, SxSW or CHI. Either way I think this would be a great way to develop some new methods and make some entertaining products and mistakes in a very low risk environment. So please, spread the word, lets get this going, and let me know what other events should be at the uX-Games (launch date unknown.)

I also apologize for the overuse of () throughout this article. I don’t normally use them this often but have a lot of commentary to add to this post.

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