A certain game developing friend and I have an ongoing argument about the level of user challenge needed in good games. I have similar conversations with *nix gurus who think that having to learn the command line interface is the most rewarding thing about using a computer. In both cases, I feel that developers are mistaken to believe that the interface needs to be challenging.

However great the sense of achievement when you master the horrifically complicated controls for Hitman on the PS2 (it was originally written for PC) or remember the arcane command that will reveal all of your Linux box’s secrets to you, that hurdle should not have been placed in front of you in the first place. You should have been focusing on skillfully sneaking up behind that guy and garrotting him, or setting up your firewall (incidentally, see Ping’s new project because this whole area sorely needs attention).

Most people aren’t enthused by overcoming an interface challenge. Interface challenges are what make them give up. Task challenges are what keep them coming back and getting better and better. Work out what your user is actually trying to achieve and then get the hell out of their way.

I was going to expand on this, but then I realised that Kathy already said it:

“If you look at things that people are passionate about, there is always some way to tell that people have really become experts. They ski double-black diamonds. They have a black-belt. They are a grand master. They grow rare orchids. They speak conversational Klingon. So one of the ways to help people become more passionate is to figure out what it looks like when people are better at that thing, and help find ways to make that happen for people.