What are non-diegetic and diegetic UIs? [TATT #38]

the acagamic tip tuesday Nov 08, 2022
An image of Tomb Raider

In today's issue 38 of The Acagamic Tip Tuesday, I will show you the difference between diegetic and non-diegetic UI in video games and how game UI designers use both types of UI to create an immersive experience for players. The benefits of diegetic game UI are that it can help create a more immersive and believable game world and it can add an extra layer of challenge or excitement to the game, as players must figure out how to use the in-game interface elements to their advantage. The benefits of non-diegetic UI are that it can provide information more effectively than diegetic UI, because it is not constrained by the limitations of the game world and the ability to present information in a more concise and easily digestible way.

Unfortunately, designers do not know the difference between these two types of UI, which can lead to confusion and frustration for players trying to figure out how to interact with some aspects of a game and trying to find important information. Still confused? This YouTube video breaks it down for you.

Diegetic UI can help immerse players in the game world and make them feel more invested in what is going on 

Game interfaces can be diegetic or non-diegetic. Diegetic interfaces are part of the game's narrative, while non-diegetic interfaces are not. Non-diegetic interfaces may provide players with additional information about the game environment and their own status. Diegetic UI is defined as on-screen elements that are part of the game world and can be interacted with by the player. This can include things like on-screen menus, maps, and other information that is presented to the player. Non-diegetic UI, on the other hand, refers to elements that exist outside of the game world and cannot be interacted with by the player. This can include things like menus, HUDs, and tutorials, which help convey information to the player without breaking immersion. For example, a menu might appear as an icon in the corner of your screen instead of requiring you to take your eyes off the action on screen.

Good game design should strike a balance between diegetic and non-diegetic UI in order to create an intuitive and enjoyable experience for the player. Diegetic UI can be used to convey information to the player in a more natural way, while non-diegetic UI can be used to provide clear and concise information without cluttering up the screen. Ultimately, it is up to the game designer to decide what kind of UI will work best for their particular game – there is no one definitive answer.

Benefits of diegetic and non-diegetic UI in games

There are several benefits to using diegetic game UI:

  • It can help create immersion by making the interface feel like part of the game world. 
  • It can make it easier for players to understand what actions they can take and how to interact with the game world.
  • It can help reduce cognitive load by minimizing the need for players to remember complex control schemes or menu options. 
  • It can increase player agency by giving them direct control over elements of the game world through the interface.
  • It can create a more seamless experience by reducing disruptions caused by menus or other non-diegetic elements popping up on screen.

There are several reasons why non-diegetic UI is a powerful alternative to diegetic UI.

  • Non-diegetic UI can be more visually appealing than diegetic UI because it can be designed without the need to conform to the in-game environment.

  • It can be easier to use than diegetic UI because it does not need to take into account the game world around the player. This makes it possible to design user interfaces that are simpler and more intuitive.

  • It can be less intrusive than diegetic UI because it does not need to be constantly displayed on screen.
  • It can provide more information because they are not limited by what can be realistically displayed in the game world, which makes them ideal for providing complex data or feedback such as statistics or inventory management screens.
  • It can be updated and changed without having to release a new version of the game, making them much more flexible and responsive to player feedback than their diegetic counterparts.

The removal of the HUD (heads-up display), a type of non-diegetic UI element, does not present an obstacle for initial engagement and enjoyment of a game. This is because players are still able to engage with the game world and understand what is happening without needing to refer to an on-screen HUD. It can influence immersion in expert players by increasing their cognitive involvement and sense of control. This is because they are no longer distracted by information that is not relevant to the game world, and can instead focus on the task at hand.

Games Research Find of the Week

Communication sequences indicate team cohesion in video games. Our research shows team cohesion helps gaming teams perform better. Here's how it promotes cooperation and communication between members.

The communication sequences used by teams can vary depending on their culture and dynamics. In recent years, scholars have begun to explore the potential of team communication as an indicator of cohesion. A growing body of research suggests that good team communication is key to a cohesive team. However, measuring team cohesion is complex, and there is no agreed-upon measurement. To study the impact of team communication on cohesion, 48 teams (𝑛=135) in the digital game League of Legends were surveyed about their communication patterns. The results showed that high cohesion is associated with sequences of

1. apology → encouragement,

2. suggestion → agree/acknowledge,

3. answer → answer, and

4. answer → question,

while low-cohesion is associated with sequences of 

1. opinion/analysis → opinion/analysis,

2. disagree → disagree,

3. command → disagree, and

4. frustration → frustration.

This finding provides evidence that cohesion is essential to team satisfaction independently of the match outcomes. Communication sequences indicate team cohesion more than frequencies to determine team cohesion via player interactions. This is an important finding because it suggests that cohesion contributes to team satisfaction even when the team is not winning. This means that cohesion is a crucial factor in creating a positive team environment, and teams should focus on fostering cohesion even if they are not doing well in terms of results.

Read the full study: Evelyn T S Tan, Katja Rogers, Lennart E. Nacke, Anders Drachen, and Alex Wade. 2022. Communication Sequences Indicate Team Cohesion: A Mixed-Methods Study of Ad Hoc League of Legends Teams. Proc. ACM Hum.-Comput. Interact. 6, CHI PLAY, Article 225 (October 2022), 27 pages. DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1145/3549488 (Best Paper)

Join UX rockstars learning about games, research, and writing

Each Tuesday, I will send you tips for UX in game research and design. And once a month, I will send you emails about academic writing.

No hassle, no selling your information, no spam. You can unsubscribe anytime.