UX lessons from game design

I just attended the Seattle Chapter of Interaction Design Association (IxDA). Tonight the topic was "UX lessons from game design".

It was an awesome event and you can catch the video later this week. What struck me as really great about this, was the discussion of how to map some of the lessons in Game design with Software in general.

I've talked about this many times in the past, that exploratory learning is something I have high hopes RIA will crack wide open. In that, if the users continue to explore the software parts are revealed or rewards are given, that sort of thing.

An example of putting the fun in software, is the Postpone dialogue when Windows Vista updates. This occurred during one of the presentations so it got me thinking about the concept of what it represents and why.

In that, firstly, why does it ask me to restart? Is it that important I need to be prompted to restart Windows Vista? Why is it important that operating system tell me this anyway, to me, I really don't care just do what you have to do whenever you restart later.

It's a frustration point for me, and it was kind of an annoyance when the person is also in "Presenter" mode. What if, we had fun with the dialogue, what if we gave Windows a personality, a bit of emotion and fun:


Seems very serious right, let's click on Postpone shall we.


Oooh, I've upset Windows Vista.. I mean, I didn't mean, to, what's going on, somethings not right here.. Let's talk this out Vista, tell me more..


Who's fighting, I understand. Sometimes the Drivers aren't certified by Microsoft and no matter how hard you try to be nice to them, they simply ignore your polite advances. I now understand what your needs are..


I agree, we should restart... But Not right now.. I mean, you're a computer..as if I'm going to stop what I'm doing to keep you happy, suck it up and let me get back to work..


So on..

Obviously this would be very painful user experience, but the point is you can take a serious situation and give it personality, keep it minimal but slowly expand on the situation, interrupt the mainstream and see what the end users will enjoy vs hate. I'd wager the conservative approach isn't always right.

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Comments (8)

  1. Zorg says:

    Hmmm… This reminds me of the Office paper clip.

  2. You really have way too much time on your hands… 🙂

    its funny though… hehehe

  3. Rob Burke says:

    I agree that it’s sometimes helpful when UI has ‘personality,’  But I think that, largely, anthropomorphising an application is annoying for users.  

    For instance, I feel like XP has a distinct personality, but it is NOT the personality of the stupid puppy dog that shows up when I try to perform a search.  

    Maybe the challenge is, by good UX design, to give the app or OS an implicit personality.  Hopefully one that’s enjoyable  to interact with. 🙂

  4. follesoe says:


    One of the companies who do this is Flickr. They greet you when you enter the site by saying "hello" in a different language every time. There are all kinds of small details that adds a personal touch.

    If you for some reason end up on a users profile, which has been tagged as "adult" or something like that (no, I didn’t do it on purpose), Flickr will add a link to the top saying "I’ve had enough – take me back to the kittens" – and if you click it, they will issue a search for "kitten" and redirect you back into the "safe zone".

    Google is another company who gets tihs. In Chrome they have a button called "Stats for Geeks".

    I think we often take software too serious.


  5. Hey Scott,

    funny post – which actually gets a point across 😉

    One of the few aspects i keep hitting on when directing a client towards a RIA (or RUX = Rich User eXperience) solution is performance. The "fear" that expanding on the experience for the user will make an application "sloggish" or "too slow to be productive" – i think you have to marry up a personality + experience + performance == RIA.

    the (mis)conception is often a legacy from experiences the client has had years ago (ex. with flash?) where the emphasys was mainly on the pretty pictures and animations, rather than supporting the actual business requirement.

    Basically if you focus on only one of the three aspects you’ll fail in the other two and the "X" goes out of the application..As a developer it’s "hard/difficult" to distinguish the lines and where to draw them – seems that the requirements is moving sometimes faster than technology these days, or rather, the focus is moving ahead of technology.

    Case in point is the "personality" you’ve displayed in the "Update and restart" here – do too much of one and you will loose out (naturally i’m sure you wouldn’t actually implement something like this…he hehe).

    So, when and where do you draw the line? Where to focus the most?

    We hear very often that UX is coming – UX is the  bees knees and we need to focus on it  but mostly the emphasis is on the display model rather than the "whole solution". Dunno, it’s becoming confusing (or am i really becoming that old?) 🙁

  6. Matt Casto says:

    Great post!

    Did you create the personified speech bubble images yourself?  I’m just curious about how you went about doing that.  I have no graphic design experience and I’m trying to get better at things like that.

  7. Reminds me of Alan Cooper’s About Face (1st version) where he griped about messageboxes saying something went wrong and is unrecoverable with an OK btn to dismiss them. "It’s NOT ok that you’ve lost my work."

    He said a beep when users make an error was rude. They should hear a reassuring click whenever they do something right. I thought he was nuts, but in the real world, we know the door closed securely when we hear it click. Now when you click on a hyperlink in IE, it makes a little sound.

    If you don’t hear that little click, you know you need to click it again.

  8. Dave says:

    Where’s the link to the talk?


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