How to Design Products Gamers Love

Design is the successive application of constraints until only a unique product is left.”” 

Donald Norman, The Design of Everyday Things

E.l.f. cosmetics recently released a limited-edition skincare product line specifically for the gaming community. The eight-piece Game Up collection is already available online and in Target stores.  

E.l.f., which stands for Eyes, Lips, Face, is promoting the line with a live retro-themed competition at an arcade bar in Los Angeles on July 13th. The arcade bar activation will be livestreamed on the company’s Twitch channel, which launched in May 2021.  

The Game Up collection joins a growing list of products inspired by the increasing influence of gaming on consumer tastes of younger generations. Where Coca-Cola, in a nod to the gaming community and virtual worlds, also rolled out a soda that was supposed to taste like pixels in May 2022.

Image courtesy of e.l.f.

So, clearly more companies outside the video game industry are reworking products to resonate with gaming enthusiasts. Still, the question is, how do you design a non-endemic product that gamers want to buy? 

Towards an answer, the following proposes a partnership between Manly Bands, a leader in ecommerce men’s wedding rings, and Razer, a popular lifestyle brand for gamers, to demonstrate three key design principles for products intended for the worldwide gaming community. 

The objective is to highlight how effective product design can authentically connect non-endemic products with the gaming lifestyle.

Empower reflective design

Effective product design produces pleasurable experiences which, in turn, creates lasting memories. That is because the positive emotions associated with pleasure facilitate the encoding of memories and help retrieve information in the future. To the point that memories associated with strong emotions are impossible to forget. 

That means effective design takes both cognition and emotion into account. Don Norman, in his book The Design of Everyday Things, proposes a three-level processing model to explain how this works (shown in the image below – courtesy of the e-book)

Image courtesy of The Design of Everyday Things
  • Visceral – Fast and automatic responses good for making automatic judgments. Visually appealing design that taps into visceral responses will inspire instant attraction or repulsion.  
  • Behavioral – The home of learned skills triggered by recognizable patterns and situations. Usability design – form, function, feel, etc. – is centered on behavioral responses.  
  • Reflective – The personal meaning of a product and/or its use lives here. The overall impression of a product is a reflective activity. 

The conscious decision to purchase one brand and/or avoid another are rooted in the reflective level. So, while all three levels work together to determine if you like or dislike something, reflective design is often the most important.  

The main challenge of creating non-endemic products for gamers is that their visceral and behavioral properties are unrelated to gaming. However, reflective design can override this gap by advertising how a product helps gamers express themselves. 

Image courtesy of Manly Bands

Outside the video game industry, Manly Bands, a direct-to-consumer retailer of wedding rings, is invigorating what was a niche category with reflective design. The Inc. 500 company helps men (and women) find unique-to-them wedding bands – through digital personalization options and savvy brand partnerships with companies like Jack Daniel’s and Major League Baseball (MLB).  

These personalized rings are designed for more than just look (visceral) and feel (behavioral) but also to help establish their owner’s self-image and place in the world (reflective). Armed with reflective design that connects with personal interests and concepts of self-image, Manly Bands is the fastest growing direct-to-consumer e-commerce retailer in its space.

Break the mold

Manly Bands’ rings are crafted in more than 400 unique styles – made from dozens of non-traditional materials. Yet, a partnership with Razer – one of the world’s largest providers of gamer-focused hardware, software, and services – would immediately build brand equity and win new customers within the worldwide gaming community.  

Razer-inspired ring styles designed specifically for the growing number of married people who subscribe to the gaming lifestyle are a massive market opportunity. Especially since an estimated 215 million people play video games in the USA alone, with 53% playing 7+ hours a week in 2022.

Most importantly, designing wedding bands for gamers establishes a fresh new association between marital commitment and a lifelong passion that characterizes the gaming lifestyle. This association is particularly valuable because it stands out against the backdrop of conventional (false) assumptions that gamers are not also spouses, parents, etc. 

A Manly Bands partnership with Razer connects with millions of gamers who are already happily married or getting married. The same way that “zig when everyone else zags,” is an effective branding technique. In that, wedding bands for gamers are a novel association that grabs attention and encourages positive consumer impressions. 

Click here to learn how to co-brand products with gaming companies 

An unexpected collaboration with a gaming equipment manufacturer to create authentic wedding bands is the definition of breaking away from conventional expectations. The resulting gaming-inspired design(s) generate a pleasant surprise which itself is a powerful marketing tool. Just as a study published by the Harvard Business Review revealed that “surprise is like crack for your brain.”

Embrace gaming style

There are two types of product development: enhancement and innovation. Enhancement takes an existing product or service and improves it. Innovation is a completely new way of doing something, or a completely new product that did not exist before. 

Today gaming is an untapped product design platform that empowers non-endemic companies to both enhance and innovate. This is important because video games are quickly becoming an accepted channel for self-expression. It also means that designs inspired by a passion for gaming are becoming a new chic style. 

Most importantly, the concept of a product for gamers is extending outside of items related to playing video games. A reality which is creating a fresh new style category which is a goldmine for commercial growth and cultural impact among younger generations. 

The same way that hip-hop music initially inspired design styles for/by urban communities but quickly outgrew its niche beginnings. Gaming-inspired style can transform an existing and/or an entirely new offering into a viable product tailored to the tastes of a fast-growing market.

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