So after the look at the different ways in which the classic hardware interface dissolves, let’s peek at what makes game interfaces work.
Games and Handicaps
An often mentioned part of games is that within a game we submit ourselves to rules that make reaching the goal harder. Like we may only hit the ball with the foot for example. It’s not efficient, but it’s what makes games fun.
These rules of course also always define the interface. In this case the foot, or the club in golf for example. And one thing that can be clearly seen in these cases: The interface is a big part of this inefficiency. It doesn’t help in making things easier for the user. Quite the opposite.
Considering that the goal of many interface designers is usability this seems terribly counterintuitive, doesn’t it?
A Conflict of Interest
So assuming that a good interface makes the users job as easy as possible while a good game make the players’ job harder, then that leaves us with a conflict of interest of sorts.
If the interface is too efficient, it can destroy the gameplay. Simply carrying the golf ball into the hole would simply kill the game. If the interface is too inefficient then there is no challenge. The experience would be disappointing.
On the other hand if the interface is too inefficient, it will just make for frustrating gameplay. Imagine playing golf with a flyswatter.
And when interface design goes wrong we have something like “pixel-bitching”. In the adventure games of yore it was neccessary to find the interactive elements in complex scenes, yet these were very small.
Or think of a classic RTS game. Now imagine you had to select each unit individually to issue commands. The game would turn into a chore filled with busywork.
A bad interface creates tasks that require little to no challenge to the player yet take up lots of time. I’d imagine only very few people would consider that enjoyable. (Which is, of course, something that you can monetize if you’re into that F2P thing…)
So with game interfaces we’re caught somewhere between challenge and usability. Usually we want the interface to support and enable the actions of the player. That means, among other things: clear feedback, providing the neccesary information to the player so he can make his decisions, and understandable relationship between input and outout.
In the 12th session of the Game Culture Club we got together to discuss the topic of Games and Interfaces. Since it was a purposefully broad topic we had much to discuss and a lot of interesting points. Let’s try to break it down, shall we?
Shells, gas clouds, and flotillas of tanks - shattering, corroding, death.
Dysentery, influenza, typhus - scalding, choking, death.
Trenches, hospitals, the common grave - there are no other possibilities.
- Erich Maria Remarque: All quiet on the western front. P. 133.
We met again in July for 12th GCC. And over barbecue and beers we talked about games and violence. Two things that so often seem intertwined. We had an excellent discussion and have decided to seperate the writeup into three parts.
(Wolfenstein 3d screenshot)
So let’s start with a look at the reasons for violence in games.