Research group in emergent narratives

Transparency or Opacity: Re-thinking Video Game Interfaces (2018)

A MDes thesis by Etienne Brunelle-Leclerc
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This thesis presents the results of a two year research-creation project that sought to address a gap in the theorization of video game interfaces. The conceptual framework of game interface design borrows several concepts from more established schools of user experience design. However in doing so, it also imports the biases that are built into these concepts, i.e. that interfaces should always maximize transparency and control. While this holds true for regular software, it does not apply to game interfaces where lapses in transparency and control can be repurposed as sources of challenge. This leaves designers with no way to adequately represent the interface’s contribution to gameplay. This project used a research-creation approach to investigate the merits of possibilities that run against the grain of standard interface design practice. The creative part of the research (conducted in collaboration with the Lablablab team) has produced Hammurabi, a game that leverages the inefficiencies of its interface as the centerpiece of its gameplay. Building upon this success, the reflexive part of the research offers a new theoretical perspective that proposes to frame game interfaces in terms of opacity as opposed to transparency and control as well as concepts and design strategies that will assist the work of future designers.