Ten years ago, Nicole Lazzaro stood on top of an Egyptian temple overlooking the Nile, and found herself captivated not by the beautiful desert landscape, but by a gameboard carved into the sandstone below her feet. "I thought: Wow," says Lazzaro, the founder of video-game consultancy XEODesign. "Two people had stood where I stood 2,000 years ago and thought to pass their time with a game." The moment inspired Lazzaro to envision how future generations would view the games she designed, and with that foresight, she's stayed years ahead of the industry ever since.
Lazzaro is the designer of Tilt, the first iPhone game to utilize the accelerometer, but it's her research into player emotions that has attracted big firms like EA, Sony, and Ubisoft. By tapping into "emotion profiles," Lazzaro helps designers create more engaging gaming experiences that resonate with all types of players, from casual to hard-core. She approaches video game design like a Freudian scholar, classifying important user-feelings into categories, from "easy" and "serious" fun to terms she coins herself like "amiero," which she describes as the euphoric emotion of social bonding. "If we were to change a feature on Twitter, or in Pacman, or Google, how could we change the emotions that players and users feel?" she says. "Make it more viral, make it more fun, match this particular brand—all of these things are possible."
Over the past two decades as the head of XEODesign, Lazarro has improved gaming experiences for more than 100 million users. Now that's some (serious) fun.