Friday, February 29, 2008

Mac Air or how Apple Cheats

So this very well may be Industrial Design 101 and if it is, my apology.

Apple decided to introduce the Mac Air here recently. The first thing they showed wasn't the computer itself but a common every day product that it resembled, the manila envelope. To me this has been one of the keys to Apple's success - having their products remind the user of items they are already used to. Same with Nintendo - it is no coincidence that the Wiimote looks like a TV remote. It's inviting and doesn't scare away anyone from using their products.

The Mac Air isn't the first product from Apple to look like an every day item either. Remember the 1st Shuffle that they released?

It resembles a pack of gum so much that there were plenty of images online to choose from to post:

Instead of posting a 100 more images just think about the new Ipod Nano and its shape - much like a post it note. Even the original Ipod resembles a pack of cards.

So what does this have to do with videogame design? There is definitely something to be said about being innovative but there is even more to be said about familiarity. I don't think it's a bad thing to give the player something immediately to attach to - be it the shape of the character, the weapon, color, controller commands, etc.

Captain obvious warning here, but: the opposite of familiar is unknown and most people fear the unknown...even in video games, that instant familiarity with the player or player's weapon, attack, etc breaks down that survival instinct to flee, so to speak.

Eric and myself always sort of had an unspoken rule - if we couldn't explain something to someone and give them a reference that they understood then the idea sucked. It was a good first step in self editing.

I'm sure the Mac Air won't be the last Apple product to be released that reminds everyone of a shape that has nothing to do with computers.


omar kendall said...

I have a question/assignment: what characterizes design that doesn't cheat? Thanks in advance.

I am having a hard time deciding if the MBA is for me. Thoughts?

Ruben Dario said...

Im here just to say that reading you helps me know a little bit more about the real world behind videogames.
Great Blog.
Un saludo desde Mexico.