Wednesday, 20 April 2011

What Game Designers Do That Interface Designer Don’t

At many occasions stakeholders ask designers to design experiences that are simple yet immersive and engaging for commercial Web applications. They leave it completely to the designers to think of ideas to achieve such designs. But, commercial Web application designers are always busy designing applications that are a function of

(Over simplification of Web application design)

They make sure all the business rules are incorporated, the right system response is in place, the right set and amount of information is presented so the right decisions are taken and so on and so forth. I would also go ahead saying that there is nothing grossly wrong with that approach. And while the results are not always great designs, they are not bad either.

But there are traits of game designs that an enterprise application designer can experiment with and design experiences that are memorable and desirable for people who use them. Theoretically, game design is not all that different and designers from other fields are perfectly capable of doing much of what game designers do.

[A gross oversimplification of game design (Stephen Anderson’s way)]

Instant Gratification vs. Slow Response Time
In most commercial software interfaces response time management is completely overlooked. The rule is “faster is always better,” and Google has almost mastered it. Search results displayed are shown with how many milliseconds it took for Google to process the results. However, game designers don’t think likewise and they defy the concept of instant gratification by making a good use of response time. It is like one driving to a hill station on a vacation with friends and family where en-route experiences are equally important as reaching the destination is. Slow response time also allows users to think of their next move.

Closure to Completion Effect
Gamers become more aggressive, thrilled, and impatient when they come very close to completion of a level, task, or an activity in a game. But game designers design these activities to be highly unpredictable and vulnerable, to take the gamers' excitement to the peak (for example, a game of Jigsaw Puzzle or Sudoku at the verge of completion). Similarly, Web application designers can start thinking of ideas to make the last piece of a task or an activity more engaging and exciting.

Learn To Become More Efficient In Future
Gamers become more efficient as they play and eventually become experts at it. Game designers leave cues that gamers use as tricks and keys to reach the expert level. The vast majority of software user interfaces have no consideration for how users can be taught by experience with the system to improve their performance. It is about finding those hidden patterns in the way people interact and manipulate the system. It is an applied learning that a user gains and reuses in different conditions to get faster results.

Short-term Memory Management
People love gaming because it challenges their reflexes, thinking, intuition, and dedication as they make progress on higher levels with increased amount of complexity. Short-term memory management is a great tool for game designers to increase or reduced the complexity of the game. Interface designers are trained not to rely on user’s short-term memory (for example, showing a piece of information and expecting the user to remember it to reenter the same somewhere else in the system).

However, game designers use it quite often in forms of locations, maps, symbols, and passwords which the gamers need to remember to clear a level or to reach a place. For example, arcade games use word codes that are displayed when the level is completed. These codes are supposed to be remembered by the player to reenter to reach that level directly from beginning else he or she will have to pass through all the previous levels to get there. Similarly, the famous AngryBird game shows the cage structure once to the player and leaves it to the player’s imagination to strike in the right area.

Building Mystery
Game designers carefully design interactions that in a way expand the player's mind and force him or her to think what’s happening. It is the mild confusion created with just enough context to consume the player’s cognition in subtle and compelling ways.

Enterprise Web application designers think of making interaction highly intuitive and transparent at all times. They think of giving surprises by making the application learn users patterns and start intelligently predicting their next move and automate it.


Anshuman said...

Some of the Enterprise-class software is indeed designed like Games (unintentionaly though :)) - it takes time to master, have expert-gamers/users, and is definitely not instant-gratification :D

Veena said...

Internet casual games, mainly targeted at women (like Diner Dash, Farmville), are designed so that users do not have to spend time learning rules and quickly go in and out of the game any time of the day. We UX designers can learn from the design of these casual games where users can quickly navigate without spending much time to master.