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A Lesson from Video Games: UI with User Involvement

For the uninformed, UI, otherwise known as the user interface, is the means that allow the user, in this case, the player, and the computer or program to interact. It gives you information and menus with varying amounts of depth that help determine how easy or hard it is to use the program. In this particular case, I’ll be discussing GUI, graphical user interface, which uses images in order to make conversing with the user even easier.

For me, the key to a good UI is to have the most important information shown with little to no clutter on screen. The less I have in the way, the better. However, not everyone is like this, and this is especially true if they are younger or are new to video games (or at least that series or genre). One of my favorite games in this particular area is The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. It has three different settings that the player can choose from once they start up the game (as well as later on):

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1. Standard – Shows the Wii Mote and nunchuck on the screen with each of the buttons labeled, as well as general vital information, such as health, shield durability (not shown here since this person has the invincible shield), and the amount of money (rupees) you have.

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2. Light – Takes away the Wii Mote and nunchuck graphics. It doesn’t label what the buttons do specifically but still displays them along with images that hint at certain button functions. Displays the same vital information in the upper left hand corner.

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3. Pro- Only displays the item you currently have equipped (with the button clearly labeled), and the vital information.

The fact that the game allows you to choose what you’d like/what you need displayed on screen while you play is amazing, as it puts you in control of your immersion. In other games, particularly on the PC, you have to download community mods in order to adjust or even fix the UI, and on consoles you’re usually stuck with what the developers give you. While Skyward Sword isn’t as varied a game as others might be, nor is it the first or the last game to give you this option, it serves as a clear and clean example of what it’s like to give a player more control than is standardly given in a game, especially one on a console.

I personally loved playing on Pro. I didn’t need all of the extraneous information listed in Standard and Light since I’m a veteran of the series, and it allowed me to be even more immersed in the game due to its minimalistic HUD (head-up display; another way of referring specifically to a game’s user interface). I was glad that they had the other options however, as someone who was just starting out would need the buttons listed out for them.

What do you guys think? Do you wish more games did this like I do? Do you find it unnecessary? Are there other areas in design where you think this can be applied? Let’s discuss in the comments below!

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