User Interface Design in Video Games

Instructor: David Gloag

David has over 40 years of industry experience in software development and information technology and a bachelor of computer science

Video games are very popular these days. Just look around, or ask anyone that has kids. In this lesson, we'll take a look at user interfaces, and how they are used in video games.

Immersive Experience

No matter where you look, kids are playing video games. They play them on their cell phones, they play them in local video game arcades, and they play them on our televisions and iPads at home. At times, you can't pry them away. They become so immersed in what is happening on the screen, they lose track of what is happening around them. But what is it that captures their attention? What is it that deserves this kind of dedication? It comes down to several things. One of the most important is the user interface.

What is a User Interface?

A user interface is the set of features one uses to interact with something. It allows us to provide input to and receive output from that something. It is created, or provided, by the manufacturer and dictates how it is perceived and used. Sometimes, the user interface is inherently understood, like that of a common household item such as a fork or spoon. At other times, it requires significant training, like that of a fighter jet. Regardless of the complexity, the user interface controls our experience and forces us, at some level, to interact in a fashion decided upon by the manufacturer.

How Does User Interface Design Apply to Video Games?

User interface design controls how we experience the worlds presented by a video game. This means that designs want to control what we hear, what we see, and what we feel, as examples. This is no small feat from a performance perspective, even with the capabilities of the consoles and personal computers available today. Also, there are input and output challenges to consider. Some don't exist using current technology, and substitutes must be devised. As an example, designers can mimic movement through hand controllers and joysticks, but the experience isn't the same as real-life. The substitutes become even more pronounced when you consider how the textures of various surfaces and how they feel. Force sticks (a joystick that provides vibrational feedback) are a start, but there is more work to be done in order for players to be immersed on a deeper level.

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