What can we learn from video games?

Team Discussion

Multiple authors

I love videogames. I’m part of the first generation to grow up with videogames and I’ve seen the medium evolve from abstract tennis balls and paddles to permanently online communities with multi-millionaire gaming superstars.

I’ve seen the hobby develop from a niche technological curiosity, through a nerdish obsession and into a core part of mainstream culture. The takings of the blockbuster games dwarf Hollywood’s output and some of the visual exploration in games from the Kandinsky inspired graphics of Rez to the hand painted fidelity of Ubisoft’s output can be breath taking.

As this medium saturates the public consciousness and new generations of gamers enter different fields some very familiar mechanics of games are starting to embed themselves in all sorts of technology.

Looking at the launch videos of the Apple Watch I was struck by how important game mechanics are to the design of this product; particularly the fitness apps. Now I recognise that the ‘iWatch’ fitness app has been built on the structure that Nike and Adidas have already laid down with their work but Apple has amplified this engagement even further.

Looking at the ‘goals’ that the fitness tracker sets, unlocking ‘rewards’ and encouraging people to compare their ‘scores’ with their friends. All of these are the core design choices that have made Call of Duty a runaway global smash in the way that Unreal and Quake have never managed.

The design of the interface borrows heavily from game design with clear feedback, encouragement and reward. Apple aren’t the only people doing this – there are some excellent examples like crowd sourced language application Duolingo and some dreadful ones in the form of rubbish ‘interactive ads’ on websites.

There are some fantastic lessons that can be learned from looking at the interaction design in videogames – especially if you wander off the obvious choices and find out what makes a game compulsive, interesting and above all fun.

So put down your interaction design guidelines, stop using Google image search for ‘minimalism’ and get out and play more games.

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