Throwback Thursday: Director of UX for Epic Games, Celia Hodent


This Throwback Thursday piece is dedicated to our guest, Celia Hodent, the Director of User Experience for Epic Games and her love for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. As described on her website, Celia explores how cognitive psychology and neuroscience can be combined together to “improve usability and flow in games.” She has a PhD in Psychology and specializes in cognitive development (or as DECAL describes it: “the construction of thought processes, including remembering, problem solving, and decision-making, from childhood through adolescence to adulthood”.) With this knowledge, she has been working on personalizing experiences in games like “Fortnite, Unreal Engine 4, Unreal Tournament, and many other exciting projects.” Celia is quite passionate about education and art, which she is more than excited to share with interested parties.

Thank you for your time, Celia. Let us dive into her Advanced Dungeons & Dragons story:

“I grew up playing a lot of games with my friends and family, including video games. So trying to pick ONE game that left a lasting impression on me is tricky! When I’m asked such question, I usually don’t give the same answer each time. 😉

Today, I’m gonna pick one of the first video games that had a great impact on me: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons on the Mattel Intellivision console. I was very young when that game came out but my older cousins were playing it a lot so whenever I would go visit them, I would play too.What I loved about that game was the mix of light strategy (which path on the map will be the most effective to reach the dragon’s lair – that cloudy mountain over there…) and action game once entering a zone (randomly generated maze). But above all, I loved the sound design – so smart and emotional! In the game, the maze is in the darkness and is progressively being revealed as your character moves forward, as well as the creatures inhabiting the maze. So, you didn’t know what was coming. Is a snake, dragon, bat, etc. waiting to ambush me??! However, you could hear them. That was the true genius of that game.

I remember I would freak out when hearing an enemy. Even though you could hear that it was close by, you didn’t know where exactly it was hiding (left? right? up? scary…). To this day, I can still make out the sounds from the dragon and the snake, my favorite enemies! The bat was also an interesting but super annoying one: it could not hurt you but it would tail you, making that irritating noise. It would also cover other enemy noises! Stupid bat…The spider was the only silent enemy. Just like the bat, it could not hurt you. However, it would steal your arrows, which was your only weapon against the filthy creatures trying to kill you the entire time! And, of course, arrows were a scarce resource.

That game, with its anticipation and surprise components, was certainly the most emotional one I played during my early childhood. The fun part is that I remember it would take me forever (and help from my cousins) to complete a map and retrieve the crown. The hardest part for me was when I started running out of arrows (I blame the freaking spiders.) It was so depressing. How could I ever survive in this unwelcoming world without arrows? (Hint: I did not.). I played this game again a few years ago and finished it in no time. Hey, at least my hand-eye coordination progressed drastically during all these years! :p

This game has certainly influenced me to always pay attention to sound design in the games I work on and to never neglect the power of surprises on the experience. It also remains a true lesson of how to solve design problems and create a memorable and truly emotional experience despite huge technical constraints (16-bit!). It was quite the humbling experience and will be a constant reminder that there’s always a way to convey a great experience, no matter the technology.”

Thank you again for your time, Celia and thanks for stopping by! If you want to know more about Celia, you can follow her on Twitter: @CeliaHodent. If you want to stay updated on more Gamer Compatible reviews, you can follow us on Twitter: @gamercompatible or on Facebook: @gamercompatible.

Game on! And signing out.

Images provided by the guest.

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