Design

D&D's Return: From Dungeon Master to Webmaster


Books, dice, and figurines from Dungeons & Dragons

Photograph by Simon Hayter/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Books, dice, and figurines from Dungeons & Dragons

(Corrects the spelling of Vincent Higgins last name.)

Bust out your graph paper and dodecahedron die, because Dungeons & Dragons is back—and in business. Literally.

In a video that may seem a parody at first, but really isn’t, ad agency DDB demonstrates how using the role-playing game from the 1970s and ’80s can help people understand and design user experiences (UX) for websites.

“DDB California – Age of the Alchemist” from DDB California on Vimeo.

Vincent Higgins, DDB’s executive director for UX, explains in the video how “Dungeons & Dragons taught me everything about user experience design.” Higgins, who will clearly be played by Fred Armisen in the movie version of this story, says he was “heavily involved” with the role-playing game and its hit points and half-elves while growing up. As a designer of choices and paths a person may take when visiting a website, he realized that his old days as a chaotic-evil gnome (or perhaps he was a lawful-neutral paladin?) could inform the work he is doing today.

Tyler Wilson, a senior planner at DDB, was initially skeptical of using D&D in planning website design, but he came around fairly quickly. It turned out that D&D could be useful when drawing up a map of a user’s journey through a site. “What we love about the map,” he says in the video, “is that you take the same principles of building a dungeon and actually apply it to the classic logic map.” Site planners roll multisided dice to simulate the different ways someone may interact with a Web page. “Dice gives you two things: variability and probability,” says Wilson. “When we look at a consumer journey, there are probabilities built into what they’re going to do, but those probabilities are not absolute.”

Dungeons & Dragons combined with interactive computer design—the revenge of the nerds is truly complete.

Grobart is a senior writer for Bloomberg Businessweek and the managing editor of Bloomberg Digital Video. Follow him on Twitter @samgrobart.

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