Vs. Mode: Interfaces

I've spent time over the last two days playing Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword for the Nintendo DS. The game itself is enjoyable, you control the action with the touch screen. Draw a slash on an enemy and Ryu attacks. Draw an upward motion to jump, and so on. It is an intuitive control system. I have enjoyed the interaction and innovation the game offers, even if I'm feeling like I do the same thing again each level until a boss fight creates a new pattern to recognize. In spite of this fault, the action is intense and the game keeps the pace moving.

The gameplay got me thinking about interfaces, video games and library systems. Interfaces, both streamlined and extremely complex are a staple of video games and libraries. Given this history and connection, it is also a good topic for this week's Vs. Mode. After a short week last week with Library Voice and my eventually follow up with applications in the classroom, Chad and I are back for another round...


This week sees the re-release of two very distinct games that greatly depend on their unique interfaces: Myst for the Nintendo DS; and Supreme Commander for the Xbox 360.

Myst is a classic adventure game that most will remember from the early 1990's was a technical marvel with it's detailed graphics and 'life-like' world. While I know this may alienate some, I never was able to get into Myst. I knew a number of both children and adults who were immersed into Myst's world. I shared a dorm floor with someone who spent days drawn into Myst and Myst's sequels. While the world was created to a player in, I always felt a strong disconnect as I continually clicked trying to find the right image to open a door or solve a puzzle. "Pixel hunting" as gameplay, never felt like a game to me. While I respect what Myst did for the industry and the love people have for it, the interface continually frustrated me. And it appears to be frustrating reviewers for the DS version as well.

This streamlined interface, while it created a feeling of immersion, did not make comprehension of the environment and goals a priority. As a player, I was often left wondering where to go next or what to click on to advance my progress.

How many of our students feel the same way?
Do our students feel lost in our interfaces, wondering where to click to actually get what they need? Do our students have the Myst like patience to keep trying or do they get frustrated and jump back to their comfort zone of Google?

Supreme Commander is another game releasing this week. It is a story of interfaces to the opposite extreme. It actually recommended that players use 2 monitors to play when it was released last year for the PC.

Two monitors? The level of detail and information available actually encouraged a dual monitor set-up. Now, how many gamers actually used this advanced set-up is up for question. The commitment of time and of the learning curve for the player is great, but supposedly the reward is worth it. Supreme Commander is a real-time-strategy game of controller units, managing resources, and organizing battles on multi fronts. Players are processing a lot of varied data all at one time in order to successful play the game.

Image a dual monitor set-up for undergraduate research? The same student that may complain about the library catalog or a databases' interface may go back to their dorm and use this dual monitor set-up. The game requires a lot from players, but players are capable of meeting those expectations. Should library systems create a high level of expectation as well? Student can map every action in World of Warcraft to a hotkey function, but struggle to keep articles marked in a database or access subject headings. There is a disconnect there. It is not a matter of ability, it is a matter of desire, interest, or perceived value.

Chad my question is, where should libraries fall? Closer to the streamlined and obscure version of Myst? Or toward the complex and rewarding Supreme Commander?

And where, oh where, does EBSCO's new interface fall?
Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword image from MSNBC
Myst images from Gamespot and Nintendo Centrum
Supreme Commander images from IGN


Kiara said...

These are good games, and I think you will like every games in the Download Games site.