Easy to Use and Incredibly Difficult: On the Mythical Border between Interface and Gameplay by Juul & Marleigh

Juul & Marleigh writes about game interfaces.


In video game literature and video game reviews, video games are often divided into two distinct parts: interface and gameplay. Good video games, it is assumed, have easy to use interfaces, but they also provide difficult gameplay challenges to the player. But must a good game follow this pattern, and what is the difference between interface and gameplay? When does the easy-to-use interface stop, and when does the challenging gameplay begin? By analyzing a number of games, the paper argues that it is rare to find a clear-cut border between interface and gameplay and that the fluidity of this border characterizes games in general. While this border is unclear, we also analyze a number of games where the challenge is unambiguously located in the interface, thereby demonstrating that “easy interface and challenging gameplay” is neither universal nor a requirement for game quality. Finally, the paper argues, the lack of a clear distinction between easy interface and challenging gameplay is due to the fact that games are fundamentally designed not to accomplish something through an activity, but to provide an activity that is pleasurable in itself.


Published by lankoski

Petri Lankoski, D.Arts, is a Associate Professor in Game Studies at the school of Communication, Media and IT at the Södertörn University, Sweden. His research focuses on game design, game characters, role-playing, and playing experience. Petri has been concentrating on single-player video games but researched also (multi-player) pnp and live-action role-playing games. This blog focuses on his research on games and related things.

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