Embrace All Play

A gaming metaverse that enable the formation & autonomy of diverse gaming communities.

Product Design Consultant (Contract)
Feb - Jul 2021
Kelly Hu
Forrest Kim
Neel Saswade
Kelly Liu
Ajia Grant
User Research
Visual Design
Product Strategy
Game Design

project overview

Logitech Gaming is a subsidiary of Logitech and leading innovator of gaming technologies. Their mission is to advance the performance and passion for play through unrivalled design and technology innovation.

Gaming at its essence is play and play happens universally everywhere, with everyone. The environments in which we play can vary with a diverse range of mindsets, moods, friends, cultures, and social contexts. Moreover, gamers can play across any of the aforementioned environments, anytime they wish.

Logitech G's Design Team challenged Berkeley Innovation, a student-led design consultancy at UC Berkeley to address the problem statement: Embrace all play environments. Given this is quite the broad scope, we were also challenged to consider how digital tools might help users engage with a more diverse range of communities, that will ultimately enable more versatile gaming experiences.

My involvement in this project started as the user research lead, where I took on the first sprint of the semester. Being a returning consultant in Berkeley Innovation, I took initiative throughout roadblocks or pivotal moments later on in the semester as well.

Thus, we asked:
How might we embrace “play” through a diverse range of gaming environments and communities?


How we structured our project. In the spirit of gaming, we refer to sprints as "levels". Each level has a corresponding mission which we aimed to solve.
SPOILERS! A Sneak Peak...

Final Recommendations: Core Experiences

Neighborhood is a metaverse integrated into Discord.  By introducing the limitations of the physical world into a digital space, communities interact in fresh, immersive, playful ways. Whether it's jamming out at public concerts, designing interior spaces, or just chilling out in a friend's private room, there's an opportunity to bond in every pixel of Neighborhood.

Mirroring Reality, Increasing Immersion

Personal Hubs


We conducted the following methods to research why people play and how gamers of varying engagement levels & interests find community.


User perceptions and behaviour towards play and gaming 
• How people game (motivations and limitations)
• The community or environment they game in
• How gamers form relationships with other gamers
• Contextual observations around gaming setup, devices, equipment, etc.


Key Insights From Research

After affinity mapping and combining our hefty amount of research, we noticed 3 overarching themes (the 3 I's), which were interaction, immersion, and identity. You will soon see that these 3 concepts are extremely intertwined, and we were curious to see how we might create experiences or touch points in gaming where all 3 overlap. To learn more about what each theme entails, read about our key insights below and take a look at our concept map later on...



The Research Process
How did we first approach the problem space?

We began the project with the aim of better understanding our target users through a variety of research methods. As the research lead, I oversaw the making of our research resources, including interview guides, survey drafts, and diary study templates.

What did we uncover?
The Initial themes about why people game and what they look for in "play"

After conducting a ton of research, we observed patterns and attempted to group them preliminarily into groups. Broadly speaking, we found that the concept of gaming, while varying greatly from player to player, can be grouped into three main principles: interaction, immersion, and identity.

We discovered that gamers search for play experiences that involve at least one of these factors.

Synthesizing Research
We gathered a wide range of data... so it was challenging to understand how everything connected.

Realizing that gaming differs quite drastically from player to player, due to varying environments, skill levels, motivations, and more, I decided to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Taking our groups and sub-themes from affinity mapping, we constructed a concept map to connect recurring insights to gaming motivations, gaming mechanisms, and behaviour.

Forming Insights...
Our top insights

Before moving into ideation, I led the team in synthesizing our research findings into top insights to better guide our next steps.

1/ Feeling chosen & Recognized

Newly formed virtual relationships are typically built from relating over common ground. Acts of kindness or micro-interactions from strangers allow one to feel chosen and recognized.

2/ safety & Toxic Inclinations

Toxic communication is common in gaming and stems from differing skill levels, distance from others, or higher stakes. It can be exacerbated by the inconsequential nature of gaming.

3/ Realism in Exploration

Realism through characters & storylines in games heightens ones personal & emotional attachment to it. It can allow gamers to take games more seriously and introduce power dynamics because of how close it can feel to real life matters.

4/ freedom of Self Expression

Shared, vulnerable game experiences reveal an emotional side of people that is necessary to break the “anonymity barrier” that can form in gaming. This develops trust, which motivates community outside of the game.



Where do we go from here?
choosing a problem space
Entry points to gaming communities and building permanence
Promoting realness in people and interactions
Forming community through in-game communication
Promoting safe, inclusive, and accessible spaces
Balancing between anonymity and connection
Piecing the Journey Together
Refining our hmw statements

Using our potential problem spaces, we brainstormed HMW statements to help guide the next phase of ideation. After brainstorming, we identified a pattern that connects the most prominent problem spaces into something that resembles a chronological gamer journey...

These HMW statements were used to guide the next ideation phase.



Idea Exploration
Informed by our research insights, we began generating ideas for a community-finding platform.
The First Ideas...
We decided to merge the rating systems and gaming starter pack ideas to create a more personalized, easily-consumable, social media-like feed for community finding
Concept Testing
After reviewing our idea's alignment with the research insights, we spoke with 12 users and conducted A/B testing on our mid-fi prototype.
Unexpected Pivot!
Our concept testing raised red flags concerning the viability of our idea..

After conducting concept testing on 12 gamers, we received feedback identifying the pitfalls of our initial concept. This put a wrench in our workflow, and decreased team morale as a whole. Although I was not the sprint leader for this part of the project, I assisted in helping reframe and bring our project back on track. This included hosting activities to get us thinking divergently and reflecting back on our research insights to ensure we stayed grounded in human-centred thinking.

First, many people would not use the app more than once — its predicted usage was extremely short-lived in that people would use it once to attempt to find a community, and never again. Moreover, people voiced strong preferences for instant gratification in community finding. Our concept placed emphasis on reviewing information and statistics before committing to joining a community. However, people wanted to be automatically matched rather than having to wait for some sort of admin to approve their requests. The legitimacy of random people running potential community searches was also put into question, as people felt more comfortable joining communities with mutuals rather than with random people. Finally, participants wanted more personalization features on their personal and community profiles, since this allows them to gauge the vibe of groups and provides another form of criteria vital for community finding.

What does this mean for us?

Moving forward, I asked the following questions to our team to guide our pivot:
1. How can we make the process of community finding immersive and engaging (i.e not short-lived or dull), while maintaining genuine interaction?
2. How can we weave real-life interaction into virtual settings to promote differentiation of communities and communication of their vibes? (personalization)
3. How can we maintain and strengthen communities beyond just finding them?
4. What happens to communities once they've been formed? How can we be involved in its later stages?

Back to the drawing boards...

Our concept testing insights pointed towards pivoting and reconsidering our research insights. At this point, my goal was to re-evaluate how to address our HMWs and leverage both rounds of research results to build a more effective space for finding community.

Backtracking to our concept testing, research insights, and guiding questions, we defined our main product goals as the following:

Ideation 2.0
The birth of our community-finding metaverse

Our team explored ideas that mimic real life interactions in virtual spaces. Based on our research insights, we determined that exploring the idea of a metaverse (a virtual space where people interact in a simulation of a real world) would be most worthwhile given the following analysis of 3 HMW questions pertinent to our research.



We started with some lo-fi sketch exercises illustrating the core experiences our metaverse
Our lo-fi mockups consisted of avatar and room customization, a map and navigation feature, a game launcher, and a general public room.
Before moving into mid-fis, we took things a step back and mapped out the user journeys of our metaverse, revisiting our HMWs and research insights.
Mid-fidelity Explorations
To begin the process of bringing our concept to life, we created mid-fidelity screens of each core feature
Embracing All Play in a Metaverse

Final Design Recommendations

Neighborhood is a metaverse integrated into Discord.  By introducing the limitations of the physical world into a digital space, communities interact in fresh, immersive, playful ways. Whether it's jamming out at public concerts, designing interior spaces, or just chilling out in a friend's private room, there's an opportunity to bond in every pixel of Neighborhood.

Mirroring Reality, Increasing Immersion

One key insight we found was that a connection to reality in virtual spaces encourages a level of personal attachment, because things feel more valuable (could be the characters, surroundings, etc). We see that this has become especially relevant during Covid-19 to recreate tangible activities virtually. So what does this mean for us? Well, we see that immersion can anchor interactions to shared moments or memories. To that end, we leveraged a 3D metaverse to create an immersive environment and amplify the genuineness & individualization of community finding.  

Personal Hubs

Whether it's getting invited to someone's place, or receiving a compliment on your outfit, acts of kindness from strangers allow one to feel chosen and recognized. Similarly, in virtual environments, one research participant noted that transactions like accepting friend requests or receiving an invite to visit one's igloo [in Club Penguin] made them feel supported and special. We created personal hubs to promote self expression and privacy. By introducing a level of exclusivity through invite-only private spaces, we plant the seeds for vulnerable in-game experiences where people can share stories, opinions, etc. which reveal emotional rawnesses necessary to develop the trust of others.

Reflections, reflections.

As someone who doesn't play video games and was overall very foreign to concept of gaming, tackling this problem space was definitely an intimidating feat. Since my first project with Berkeley Innovation was more user research-heavy, I was excited to weave storytelling techniques and narrative-building strategies into building a prototype grounded in user insights and feedback.

Over the course of the semester, our team encountered several obstacles from concept testing difficulties, multiple pivots, and dealing with a large scope. Although rather stressful and chaotic in the moment, this taught me the importance of adaptability and reframing. Given our problem space was quite exploratory in nature, I learnt about the importance of considering various angles in decision making processes and ensuring we ground all our work in the insights of our users.

Working on this project was a rollercoaster ride of highs and lows, but it helped me grow as a designers and I'll definitely be carrying forth the lessons I've learnt into future projects.

meet team Stardew! <3

and thank YOU for making it this far down!