Fellow ARc90’er Avi and I were chatting up the goodness of physics-based puzzle games like the excellent World of Goo and Crayon Physics and it got me thinking: what’s so universally appealing about these types of games?
I think the answer lies in how these games reinforce our hard-wired logic about the physical world. From our earliest days on this earth, we start to sort out how objects in the real world interact. Some pretty basic ground rules are laid down and reinforced throughout our lives. Things like gravity and the various laws of our physical world are completely hard-wired into our minds. If you actually draw out these laws into their basic scientific formulas, its relatively complex stuff. But in our brains from a very early age, it’s all second nature.
Physics-based games and interfaces play a sort of trick on us. For fleeting moments, even though we’re interacting with pixels on a screen, all those familiar rules are validated. This is why they feel so inspiring when we first experience them. They illicit that “whoah!” after seeing a good magic trick.
As we design interfaces, don’t discount the power of simulating the real world – even in the most subtle ways. Even something as simple as a sliding accordion box feels better than just popping up and hiding information indiscriminately. Just ask Nintendo (with the Wii) and Apple (in just about all their interfaces – iPhone, Coverflow, etc.).
So the next time you’re designing that all-too-boring invoicing application interface, think about putting a nice helping of the real world in it. It’ll make the experience just a little more fun.
[While poking around for links to this article, I stumbled on a nice list of physics-based games. Have at it!]