Jespel Juul and Marleigh Norton presented a paper at the recent Foundations of Digital Games conference in which they questioned the popular wisdom that games should have “easy to use interfaces, but … provide difficult gameplay challenges”. To quote from the abstract:
this paper argues that it is rare to find a clear-cut border between interface and gameplay and that the fluidity of this border characterizes games in general. While this border is unclear, we also analyze a number of games where the challenge is unambiguously located in the interface, thereby demonstrating that “easy interface and challenging gameplay” is neither universal nor a requirement for game quality. Finally, the paper argues, the lack of a clear distinction between easy interface and challenging gameplay is due to the fact that games are fundamentally designed not to accomplish something through an activity, but to provide an activity that is pleasurable in itself.
I argue that they are wrong and the reason for their error is that they are regarding games from the point of view of the player, not of the designer. I will be so bold as to claim that it is of critical importance that the designer makes a very clear distinction between the gameplay and the interface and tries to always abide be the “easy to use, challenging to play” maxim.