Game interface design: the key aspects

Game designVideo Games

Redacción Tokio | 28/12/2022

If you’re reading this blog post, it’s probably because you want to know how the game interface design works and because you are probably interested in video game design. Well,  you’ve come to the right place. Today we are going to talk about game interface design and we’re going to give you some examples that we hope will inspire you to give the best of yourself and become the video game designer you want to be. Let’s go!


What is a video game interface?

It’s one of those days when you really want to have fun using your console. You install a game and press the play button. Suddenly, you are immersed in a fantastic, captivating story that also challenges you at a competitive level. But how did you get there and how do you understand what hundreds of games want you to do? The answer is simple and, at the same time, complex: it’s through the video game interface.

A video game interface, the UI, is the thing that is instantly appealing for gamers. It is a front door, an invitation that designers give us to enter the world they have built. Designing a good UI is quite a challenge. Many times, studios neglect this part of the game because they don’t have enough time or resources to dedicate to it, but a poor game interface design can become a burden in terms of user experience. A good design, on the other hand, will allow us to start the game in a simple and intuitive way.


What is game interface design?

As we have already mentioned, game interface design represents the point of interaction between the player and the game. Its fundamental objective is to provide the necessary information so that the user can perform every action that the game suggests in a totally fluid way. A good UI design guides users in a direct or intuitive way so that the player can navigate the video game correctly.

Here are some things that you should take into account when considering game interface design:

  • Environment/Platform. The first thing to consider is the location for the game you are designing. You must take into account the possibilities and limitations that the platform offers you. For instance, designing games for smartphones is not the same as designing them for consoles or for a computer.
  • Content. Good UI design provides the player with all the necessary information so that he can interact with the game and everything runs smoothly.
  • Visual design. Video games represent a very visual experience. Ugly or dense visuals in the game interface can be counterproductive and take the player out of the immersive experience you want to provide. Art style must then be defined clearly.
  • Information architecture. Define the hierarchy of elements in terms of their importance to the user and organize them in such a way that everything results in a coherent and relevant interface design.


Video game interface design styles

Diegetic, Non-Diegetic, Spatial and Meta. These are some of the classifications that you will find for the different interfaces that are designed for a video game. Next we are going to talk to you a little about each of them, using some examples of games that you surely know and that use one of these typologies for their interface design. Let’s go!



As it often happens with music in movies, saying that a video game interface is diegetic means it is included within the game world. In other words, it is a type of interface that can be seen, heard and touched by the characters in the game. This time of game interface design is part of the game’s own narrative.

Surely many examples come to mind. But if not, don’t worry, here are some:

  • Dead Space. An example of diegetic game interface design present in this Visceral game is how it’s possible to see the character’s life bar integrated into his suit. Another example is how his inventory is displayed through a device that the protagonist has integrated and is shown before him without stopping the action of the game.
  • Fallout. Actually, Fallout is a mix of diegetic and extradiegetic interface design. But in this case, it’s possible to focus on the use made of the PipBoy, a device that our protagonist has integrated into his arm and that allows us to access the inventory, mission journal and radio, among other options.
  • Assassin’s Creed. In this popular Ubisoft game, the protagonists use an eagle to  detect enemies on the map. It is another example of how to integrate game interface design within the narrative of the title itself.


Non diegetic

When we talk about non-diegetic or extra-diegetic interface design, we are referring to the elements that are displayed outside the game and that are only visible and audible to the player. Although things are changing in this regard, it is the most widely used interface design in video games. Here are some examples:


  • Diablo III. Although it follows and is integrated into the graphic and visual style of the entire game, this Blizzard title shows an interface that the protagonist of the game is not aware of: a bar that displays the character’s abilities, his life levels or mana and the access to the inventory. This represents a sort of interaction for the player, but doesn’t have any influence on the game’s narrative.
  • GTA. As it also happens with Fallout, GTA games present a mix of interface types. As far as we are concerned, the presence of the minimap or the display of a menu when we have to select a weapon represent two good examples of this. These are elements that facilitate player interaction, but of which the protagonist is unaware.



It could be argued that spacial game interface design stands at a middle position between the two previous concepts. These are elements that are integrated into the game actions, but of which the characters are not aware. Sometimes, this type of interface design can stop the narrative of the game, as it happens, for example, when a tutorial comes up.

Examples of this type of game interface design include the markers on the heads of the enemies, the signs on the map or, more specifically, the use that Splinter Cell Conviction makes of the overprinting of names on buildings and objects.



This is a very particular part of the interface design since it describes elements that are inside the story of the game, but that are not in the game space. It is a design that aims to make the experience even more immersive such as when drops of blood or broken glass appear on the screen.

Some specific examples of this can be found in the game ‘The Last of Us’, where players can feel the presence of enemies through the walls. The way that is displayed on the screen is an example of meta interface design. It is part of the narrative, it favors the immersion of the player, and it is not within the game space, but rather it is part of how the protagonist perceives the world.


What’s the best option for game interface design?

We have described briefly the different types of interface design and we have given you some examples. It is not difficult to conclude that the best options often include a combination of elements so that the player experience is the best possible.

For example, GTA games present users with a combination of all these elements. The diegetic type of game interface design is used when the protagonists use their phones; extra-diegetic design appears when users select their weapons; spatial design includes the enemy markers; and meta design is present when they shoot at us and the screen fills with blood.

All these concepts are not apply separately. In most games, we are going to observe this type of interface combinations according to the possibilities and means of each studio. It is this combination of elements that makes for a game that is rich, intuitive and a fully immersive experience for the player.


Become a game designer!

Now that you know how game interface design is presented, maybe you’d like to learn how to do it. Either way, you’re going to need specialized training. At Tokyo School, we are specialists in preparing you for the future, which is why we invite you to learn more about our Master’s Degree in Programming with Unreal Engine. The video game industry is the future. If you are passionate about videogames and want to go one step further, do not hesitate and contact us!

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