Reading Reflection Chapter 5 + Interlude

I found this week’s readings, especially the ideas on interface design, to be both incredibly interesting and relevant as I begin to brainstorm out potential ideas for the sequencer assignment. I wanted to respond specifically to a couple of ideas that were brought up – how we might design control for digital interfaces, and how interfaces and instruments’ mappings get learned.

In discussing interface design, my mind naturally wandered towards video game controls and controllers, as those were probably my first experiences with digital interfaces. I find this area of design to be particularly interesting as the problem is two-fold: designing a controller that is intuitive yet has enough mappings to allow for complex controls, and the design of the game itself to work within the constraints and mappings set by the controller. Especially for games where controls are so important, like fighting games, these two things don’t happen sequentially and can feed into each other – controllers can get made to better suit a particular set of controls, or certain games feature input remapping to improve the efficiency of a certain control scheme. An interesting example of this is in new keyboard controllers being introduced to fighting games, a scene which has stuck to and been designed around the traditional arcade stick and buttons format. These keyboard controllers allow for sequences of inputs that are simply impossible to do on an arcade stick (one simple example is that you can hold a left and right input simultaneously on keyboard, which is impossible on a stick), which drastically changes the way players can approach the game. When we consider designing interfaces that control sound or even games, are there moments where the efficiency of an interface might go too far or be “too smart” and break our intended experience? Especially for something like an instrument – how much of the physicality of pressing the keys or blowing into the flute is an integral part of the experience? 

On that topic of intended difficulty and physicality, one of the quotes that stood out to me during the reading was describing the piano as having “no more expression to the expert than to the novice, because the interface is identical. It’s just that you get better at playing it… you are learning it!”(291). Is it possible to create interfaces that allow novices to still express themselves comparable to an expert without sacrificing on depth in some way? Do we just consider that harsh difficulty curve of learning a necessity, even in complex systems? Since I want my sequencer to be somewhat “skill expressive”, I think these questions are quite important to me and I think it’ll be interesting the way I address them in the coming weeks.