Video game vs professional software user interface design

by Kevin Kostlan   Last Updated September 15, 2017 21:16 PM

Consider the user interface of a professional software (i.e. Eclipse or Word) vs that of a complex (non-reflex testing) video game (i.e. Oxygen Not Included or Civilization V).

Several contrasting trends appear in the GUI design (the CLI's, when present, don't seem to differ much):

Sound: In video games sound effects accompany button presses and other options. In prof software they tend not to (they may have the option to but it tends not to be used). Video games usually bring their own music, but many people "bring their own music" to prof software (i.e youtube).

Real-estate: Video games devote >90% or so of their area to the main screen, with buttons at the edges. When a button is pressed, a menu pops up briefly if need be. Prof software tends to make these sidebars persistent, so that a lot less real-estate is spent on the main screen (the user can adjust the sizes or hide components but in most use cases the sidebars end up taking quite a bit of space). Real-estate seems particularly scarce in IDE use-cases.

These patterns aren't always adhered to but they are good rules-of-thumb that are broken rarely in mature projects.

Why do we see these trends?

Is there a "good reason" for these differences or is there room to gamify complex professional software?

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