A Definitive guide to Game UI for enhanced Gaming experience

If you ever wondered how game designers come up with placement and immersability of assets such as health meter and mission progress without them hindering game play, this article is for you. Like websites or mobile apps, video games have common UI components that help players navigate and accomplish goals. In this article you’ll discover the four classes of game UI and how as a game designer you can utilise them to provide for the best possible gaming experience.

Sixty years ago the Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, NY held an open house. Visitors who toured the lab were treated to an interactive exhibit, a game titled Tennis for Two. The setup was simple—a 5-inch analog display and two controllers, each with one knob and one button. The world’s first video game was born, but after two years, the exhibit was closed.

Twelve years passed, and an eerily similar arcade game showed up in a bar called Andy Capp’s Tavern. The name of the game? Pong. Its maker? Atari. Seemingly overnight, the burgeoning world of video games was transformed. Novelty became an industry.

Since Pong, the complexity of video game graphics has evolved exponentially. We’ve encountered alien insects, elven adventures, and soldiers from every army imaginable. We’ve braved mushroom kingdoms, boxing rings, and an expanding universe of hostile landscapes. While it’s fun to reminisce about the kooky characters and impossible plot lines, it’s also worth discussing the design elements that make video games worth playing—the UI components.

Like websites or mobile apps, video games have common UI components that help players navigate, find information, and accomplish goals. From start screens to coin counters, video game UI components are a crucial aspect of playability (a player’s experience of enjoyment and entertainment). To understand how these components impact the gaming experience, we must quickly address two concepts that are vital to video game design: Narrative and The Fourth Wall.


Narrative is the story that a video game tells. Consider this as your video game character storyline.

The Fourth Wall

The Fourth Wall is an imaginary barrier between the game player and the space in which the game takes place.

Narrative and The Fourth Wall provide two questions that must be asked of every UI component incorporated into a game:

  1. Does the component exist in the game story?
  2. Does the component exist in the game space?

From these two questions, four classes of video game UI components emerge: Non-diegetic; Diegetic; Spatial; and Meta.


  • Does the component exist in the game story? No
  • Does the component exist in the game space? No

Non-diegetic UI components reside outside of a game’s story and space. None of the characters in the game, including a player’s avatar, are aware that the components exist. The design, placement, and context of non-diegetic components are paramount.

In fast-paced games, non-diegetic components may interrupt a player’s sense of immersion. But in strategy-heavy games, they can provide players with a more nuanced assessment of resources and actions.

Non-Diegetic components commonly appear in video games as stat meters. They keep track of points, time, damage, and various resources that players amass and expend during gameplay.

In Super Mario Bros. 3, the stat meter is non-diegetic because it exists outside of the game world and story (characters within the game don’t know it’s there).


  • Does the component exist in the game story? Yes
  • Does the component exist in the game space? Yes

Diegetic UI components inhabit both a game’s story and space, and characters within the game are aware of the components. Even though they exist within the game story and space, poorly considered diegetic components are still capable of distracting or frustrating players.

Scale makes diegetic components tricky. For instance, an in-game speedometer that resides on a vehicle’s dashboard will likely be too small for players to see clearly. In some games, handheld diegetic components (like maps) can be toggled to a 2-D, full-screen view, making them non-diegetic.

In the demolition racing game Wreckfest, cars are diegetic UI components. Over the course of a race, they take on visible damage that indicates how near a player is to being knocked out of competition.


  • Does the component exist in the game story? No
  • Does the component exist in the game space? Yes

Spatial UI components are found in a game’s space, but characters within the game don’t see them. Spatial components often work as visual aids, helping players select objects or pointing out important landmarks.

Text labels are a classic example of spatial UI components. In fantasy and adventure games, players may encounter important objects that are unfamiliar in appearance. Text labels quickly remove ambiguity and keep players immersed in the gaming experience.

The American football franchise Madden has spatial UI components that help players select avatars and understand game scenarios.


  • Does the component exist in the game story? Yes
  • Does the component exist in the game space? No

Meta UI components exist in a game’s story, but they don’t reside in the game’s space. A player’s avatar may or may not be aware of meta components. Traditionally, meta components have been used to signify damage to a player’s avatar.

Meta components can be quite subtle—like a slowly accumulating layer of dirt on the game’s 2D plane, but they can also feature prominently in the gaming experience. In action and adventure games, the entire field of view is sometimes shaken, blurred, or discolored to show that a player has taken on damage.

The Legend of Zelda utilizes scrolling text (a meta component) to advance the narrative and provide players with helpful tips.

A very illustrative infographic summing up all 4 classes of video game UI components can be found below.

Classifying video game UI components isn’t always cut and dry. A life meter may be diegetic in one game but non-diegetic in another. Depending on a game’s narrative and its players’ relationship to the fourth wall, components may blur the line between classes. Likewise, an infinite range of visual styles and configurations can be applied to components according to a game’s art direction.


Where do game developers run their code?

The 21st edition of the Developer Nation global survey ran from June to August 2021 and reached more than 19,000 developers in 168 countries. Participants come from mobile, desktop, industrial IoT, consumer electronics, embedded, third-party app ecosystems, cloud, web, game, AR/VR, and machine learning as well as data science. We track developer experience across platforms, revenues, apps, languages, tools, APIs, segments, and regions. A while ago we covered how game developers make money. While a lot has happened since then, business models for game development have seen little change. Here we will focus on where game developers are deploying the code for their games and the technologies they’re leveraging to build their applications.

“More that half of game developers are writing code and deploying games for PCs and mobile devices”

The game development sector has long targeted on-device game deployment. More than half of all game developers are writing code and deploying games for the usual suspects: personal computers and mobile devices. The percentage of developers deploying code for PCs saw a slight increase to 58% in the last six months, indicating that gaming on PC hardware is still a thriving market. However, the proportion of developers creating games that run in the cloud saw a slightly larger percentage increase in the last six months, rising to 30%.

Cloud gaming is arguably one of the most foundationally innovative trends in the game development sector. The increased usage and availability of smartphones with high-speed internet connections has paved the way for game developers to deploy their code to a game-configured server instead of a downloadable, platform-specific version. With less game-specific content to download and similar performance to on-device versions, both gamers and companies stand to benefit greatly from cloud gaming.

“59% of professional game developers deploying games to the cloud use a multi/hybrid cloud strategy.”

Cloud developers can either work with a single public, private, or on-premises server, or they can devise a strategy that uses a combination of these server types. Our data shows that about 46% of game developers deploying their code to the cloud are now using a multi/hybrid cloud strategy. Further, we see a significant increase in multi/hybrid cloud deployment to 59% when we filter for professional game developers only. Though a multi/hybrid cloud strategy can be more complex, it’s a popular approach for game developers when tackling one of cloud gaming’s biggest issues: latency

Multi/hybrid cloud solutions are becoming more popular as companies look to reduce dependency on a single vendor and avoid vendor lock-in. There’s also a cost optimisation that’s associated with hybrid solutions, whereby companies can keep a steady amount of compute resources available on a private server, while engaging a public server for variable increases in resource requirements. 

“Backend technology usage in game development has risen by 56% in the last two years.”

Over the last 12 months, backend technologies have seen a massive increase in usage by game developers, making this the third most popular technology in game development, behind only 3D and 2D game engines. Backend technology use by game developers has almost doubled in this timeframe, from 11% to 21%. The growing trend of games being deployed in the cloud has partially fuelled the growth of backend technologies, especially among professional developers. 

Ad network usage has dropped from the fourth most used technology to the ninth most used. 

In the two years leading up to this last survey, ad networks had an average usage of about 27% among professional game developers. Usage has now dropped to 21%, a change that is in line with Apple’s recent update requiring iOS developers to ask users for permission to be tracked by third-party websites and other applications. A survey was conducted before the iOS 14.5 update that showed about 57% of users were either unlikely or extremely unlikely to allow tracking by an application. Restricting access to users’ Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) reduces the possibility of conversion tracking, meaning less revenue potential for the advertiser and publisher, making the revenue strategy less attractive. 

Ranking of technologies used by game developers 

Usage of backend technologies like game servers and orchestration tools have risen to 50% and 18% respectively among professional game developers. Game server technology is also evolving, with the emergence of dedicated multiplayer products like Agones that are built on the back of Kubernetes. The growth of both backend technologies and cloud gaming are interdependent and are impacting the methods by which professional developers are building games. The future of game development will leverage the advantages of cloud technology more often, requiring game developers with skills and experience in managing data across multiple servers.

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Job positions for Video Game designers


game design job positions

So, you know how to get into game designing, and you know that education and training standards you need to succeed – now all you need to do is get ahead of everyone else and begin to make headway as a game designer.

Once you have achieved the level of education or training needed for a career in game design, you can plan for your future in the industry. This begins with determining your career path, gaining experience, and creating your first game.

Determine a Career Path

Even within the specialty, there are many different types of game designers. Furthermore, game designers have diverse roles within their various positions which may not be obvious. This is why it is important for aspiring game design professionals to fully consider the type of game career they intend to pursue.

Senior Level Designer

This position is responsible for outlining the level objectives and game flow within a set and then is required to create the documentation for each level. A senior level designer should be able to create, position, and fine-tune game play elements and AI components.

Level Designer

This is a position subordinate to a senior level designer. Level designers will typically use the provided design documentation, including all mechanics, any guidelines, and the mission outlines to create and implement each of the game’s levels.

Lead Animator

Animators work in close collaboration with artists, programmers, and designers to create each aspect of the characters used in the game.

Gain Experience

Getting an entry level job with a large game studio can be a difficult proposition. Since most employers require some game design experience for most jobs, new game designers have to find creative ways to gain relevant experience.

Game Designer Internships

Some companies offer internships or co-op positions for beginner designers.

Go Small and Indie

Small businesses on a budget are often willing to hire game programmers or artists with little practical experience.

Coding for a Cause

There are some charities that require coding and game design. You can sign up and start writing code while gaining real-world experience.

Develop a Game

Game designers can create a buzz, get experience, and gain a competitive edge when they design and publish their own game. Utilise free programs to create a simple, engaging and interactive mobile game. Publish it for sale on the app marketplace. Then begin working on something more complex. Each game will add value to your portfolio and most importantly, it will count as design experience.

Game design is an exciting and fast-growing field. However, it is one of the most difficult to break into. To do so you need a clear direction and understanding of the industry, education and training requirements, and a strategy to succeed.

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How to become a Video Game designer : Education & Training

In the first part of our series we looked at how to plan and get started for a career as a video game designer, taking a look at what a game designer actually does, who typically employs them and the potential for earning good money. In this second part we’re going to look more closely at education and training.

video game designer

If you have spent any time researching a career in game design, then you probably already know that the most current game design training is needed. This industry is growing; however, it remains extremely competitive. Therefore, it is essential to have expert knowledge of the entire game R&D process. If it is your goal to work for a game studio or to design your own games, you need training as a programmer and in graphic design or art.

Degree Programs for Game Design

Many universities offer courses in computer science. However, designers may need a bachelor’s degree if they are planning to work for large game studios. Although some colleges offer a degree in game design, aspiring game designers can get the necessary training from computer science, software engineering, or related degree programs.

Required Coursework

The required coursework for game design programs cover subjects like 2D, 3D and CAD modelling and animation. They also include level and interface design. Other courses needed are in storyboard rendering, drawing, and scripting.

Co-Curricular Activities

Many schools have a club for students who wish to work on game design and development outside of the classroom. If your school or program doesn’t offer a game design club, join their AV club instead.

Coding Bootcamps are a great way to learn a lot in a short period. These are often available free or low-cost through various schools or communities. There are also some free camps available online.

Extra-Curricular Activities of a Video Game Designer

It’s important, also, that you regularly play video games. As simple as that sounds, you need experience as a game player. It helps you become aware of the most modern trends in the industry. Understanding the most current advanced gaming technology can also be beneficial. Pay attention to how games are structured and begin to think of ways you would improve them. Make notes for when you begin to design your own game.

Some employers will require a bachelor’s in video game design or related computer science program, while for others A-levels will be the minimum requirement. To make up for insufficient formal education, you may need to have experience working within the computer science, or graphic arts industry. You will need to possess an understanding of programming languages, software design, and modelling programs.

Next week, we’ll take a close look at how to finally launch your career.



How to Break into Game Design (Part 1): What They Do and How to Get Started.

Developers in game design work alone or as a team to develop and design video games. The video game sector is a £41 billion industry in the United Kingdom. This number is expected to grow as more and more people play video games on their smartphones, according to Reuters.


What Does a Game Designer Do?

Game designers work with developers to coordinate the complex task of building games from the framework out. Designers have duties that include:

  •     Designing characters – backstories, storylines, and story arcs
  •     Creating and defining levels
  •     Creating puzzles and mini games
  •     Contributing to the art and animation

While most developers create the code, a designer may also write code. Various programming languages are utilised for gaming. Depending on the studio a designer might have the duties of project management and testing.

What is the Economic Outlook for a Game Design Career?

According to new research conducted by IBISWorld, the software development industry is rapidly expanding. The latest statistics from Reed show that software developers make an average wage of £54,079 in the UK.

Who Employs Game Designers?

Most game designers work for game studios. There is a robust freelance market, however, for experienced game designers.

Skills Needed to Become a Game Designer

It is helpful that you have a natural ability, talent, or interest in acquiring artistic skills. However, people lacking these abilities can often compensate by having other technical computer skills. In fact, tech abilities may be preferred by some studios. Some specific skills game designers should have, include:

  •     Computer programming or knowledge of certain programming languages
  •     Coding
  •     CAD or 3D modelling
  •     Knowledge of AV equipment
  •     Critical thinking and problem solving
  •     Written and verbal communication

How to Get Started in Game Design

Because of the growing need, there are more colleges and universities offering degree programs in video game design. Besides, there are technical degree and certification programs offered at various schools. Some communities and online services even offer free beginner coding courses to get you started. These courses are usually offered in connection with a computer science or media department of a local community college.

Game design is an exciting career with enormous earning potential. There are many facets of the job that include managerial and administrative duties, so it is important to have excellent communication skills in addition to computer and artistic abilities. It is true that most video game designers have a bachelor’s degree in some type of computers science. This doesn’t mean that it is required, as many studios consider experience in lieu of education.

If all this has sparked your interest, stay tuned as over the next few weeks we’ll be publishing the next in our series on breaking into Game Designing as a career. Part 2 of our series will explain the educational and training requirements needed to get into the industry.