When doing this week’s reading I couldn’t help but think about how the interface design principles discussed could be applied to the latest trending applications, specifically, the extremely popular video game, Among Us. In prior classes, we have discussed how successful technologies have human-centered designs, and I believe that the success of Among us is largely attributed to its human-centered design. The goal of the application is to become a technological platform for a socially deductive game with rules that are reminiscent of Mafia and Werewolf. It allows users to play a pretty complex game with players around the world which normally wouldn’t be capable of being done on such a large scale. How were they able to digitize a game that is so reliant on human logic and interpretation?
When first entering the application, it becomes obvious as to how the game became successful. Immediately you are confronted with an aesthetically pleasing and directly manipulated interface.
Schnieder explains that using techniques to get the user’s attention is vital to a satisfying interface experience. The start screen marks the various functions within the applications by enclosing them in white boxes. The game is also incredibly popular with old and young users alike because of the simplicity of its design. Schneider states, “Novices need simple, logically organized, and well-labeled displays that guide their actions,” (2006, p. 86).
Once you click on the “How to Play” box, the application pulls up a visual presentation that clearly demonstrates the rules of the game and explains the various roles that players and tasks may have throughout. The use of visuals in the instructions makes it understandable to various age groups. Throughout the game, colors and markers are used meaningfully to indicate various actions and roles. For example, imposters and their actions are marked by the color red. The icons for sabotage, kill, vent, and lock doors are exclusive to the imposter and are colored in red and white. The crewmate’s tasks are colored using green and blue, with the exception of the report button, which is used when a body is found. They also define the roles of the players who have been killed. Players are marked with an X to indicate that they no longer can vote and chat with living players. Ghosts continue to do their tasks, however, they are see through- and can only be seen by other player ghosts.
Schneider identified 8 Golden Rules of Interface Design, and I believe that the application is so successful because it abides by most, if not all, of the rules (2016, p. 95-97).
- Strive for consistency- The tasks, roles, and markers of the game stay consistent throughout all gameplay. There are three maps that can be used with different tasks, however, the tasks for each map do not change or swap. The players can be confident in the consistency of the interface and are therefore able to glean meaning through how other players interact with it. For example, if an imposter is pretending to do a task, but the taskbar does not go up, a crewmate observing can find suspicion in that.
- Seek universal usability- The application facilitates the gameplay for all age groups, expertise levels, and international variations. It uses visuals and task demonstrations in order to bridge cultural/language differences. It also allows for customization of gameplay with regards to difficulty in order to appeal to different levels of expertise. It utilizes language censorship in the chat function in order to protect younger players.
- Offer informative feedback- when a task isn’t done correctly it will notify the user. If the task is done correctly they will be notified and the taskbar for the crewmates will go up. If there is still a kill cooldown or sabotage cooldown, the icons will not be fully illuminated in order to indicate to the imposter that they may not be able to use that function yet.
- Design dialogs to yield closure- There are tasks that must be completed in order within a series. The tasks are identified as completed as you go, for example, once you’ve completed one of the three trash disposal tasks, your tasks list will notify you where the next trash disposal tasks are and that 1/3 are done.
- Prevent errors- because of its booming popularity, the servers sometimes encounter errors because of high traffic. To address this, the creators of the app are continually conducting updates and are now planning a second game. They will now be providing a very sought after functionality- voice chat through the application.
- Permit easy reversal of action- when typing in a chat you are able to delete and change what you want to say before sending, you are also able to open and close menus with the click of a button.
- Keep users in control- because of the consistency of the tasks and platform, the control is entirely in the hands of the players. They interact with the game and must make their own interpretations with regards to other players’ behaviors in the game in order to find the imposter. It is a game of stories, truth-telling, manipulation, and lying in order to win (depending on what role you get). Most of the game is dependant on the players’ analysis of the actions taken by other players.
- Reduce short-term memory load- players are afforded a list of tasks and maps of where these tasks can be found each and every game. Many of the tasks are simple and provide demonstrations on how to complete them.
The strength of this application/game is that it provides a strong technical foundation for the exchange of human meaning. The possibilities are endless through the use of human logic and strategy. This was afforded by its human-centered interface design.
Irvine, M. (2019). From cognitive interfaces to interaction design: Displays to touch screens. Unpublished Manuscript.
Shneiderman, B., Plaisant, C., Cohen, M., Jacobs, S., Elmqvist, N., & Dikopoulos, N. (2016). Designing the user interface: Strategies for effective human-computer interaction (6th ed). Pearson.