Monday, April 26, 2010

We should play games

I am a huge fan of computer based games. Not that I don't play outdoors, but with time I have embraced computer games as my favorite pass time. Playing with my kid is lot more fun and enriching, but computer games give me direction in which our future interaction with computers is heading. More and more devices and software and in the core information are becoming tangible and graspable. Future lies in having a system where you can easily sense the appropriate information of the context you are in. And when I say computer based games, they are not just limited to screens. Nintendo Wii is an excellent example of out of screen games, which is marvelous combination of physical and virtual environment. So are Sony's gesture based game control and the latest in news is project Natal by Microsoft. Natal is an excellent example of how gaming is taken a step further to take advantage of computational power to utilize virtual information in a tangible manner.
Project Natal by Microsoft

Nintendo Wii game setup

Take for example Google maps open on a mobile device. If you open google maps on any mobile and tag your current location it'll automatically zoom to your current location and show information around you. May be based on your previous searches it shows sequential information. If you have been searching for restaurants in past on your laptop/pc and/or mobile on google maps, next time you do a search on your mobile it may/will automatically provide you with restaurants information around you. So you are in a game.

Project IGI game screenshots

A game is nothing but consumption of information in a context which is realistic. I have been playing project IGI. It's a third person, strategy based, shooter game. Information in there, is real like a physical world. You don't have dashboard or graphs or table to play with. you have actual physical objects. And once you are in game you will just play it rather than figuring out what's what? It's quite natural. Just see how lot of information weather, life of soldier, ammunition available, light conditions, time of day etc. can be easily figured out just by looking at the screen. It's real and natural.

If we take scenario of enterprise applications there has been lot of efforts in bringing the complexity of UI down to natural usage and very small amount of time investment to learn them. One way to achieve this is to create a game like scenario and then let the users (system admins, CEO etc.) play with the tangible information about outside world in the same fashion. Challenge is to figure out a way to represent the complex virtual information and relations between them in more natural way. Hence comes data visualization and mapping part of Design. It's altogether a separate topic in itself.

So in a nutshell if you want to learn UI design concepts you better be playing games !

Happy Gaming


Anonymous said...

Nice read :)

Mandar Sarnaik said...

Very nice thought...
Clear and concisely written.