What’s the Difference Between Software and Video Games?
We’re going to talk about the difference between software and games. Now you might be thinking, “Why is this important? Why do I care? What’s the difference?” Well, software has very different design philosophies from video games. The thing about that is that software and games are usually made with some of the same technologies. Programming can carry over to making actual desktop software or you can make games with it. Web technologies, you can make websites with it, or you can make web applications and all that kind of stuff, or you can make HTML 5 games. You can make cool stuff like that.
I’ve seen a lot of people a lot of people in the sofware programming industry or in the art industry or whatever. They have these specific skills set and they’re used to working on things. When they move over to game development, they find it very difficult because the design aspects of a game is very different from that of software.
We’re going to talk about a couple of key differences that I found because I’ve done both and I’ve struggled with this issue personally. I started out in game development but then I moved to software and it was a big mess for me trying to figure out all these different pieces of how to design a good piece of software and not all those steps made sense.
Ultimately, my experience in both really benefited me. My understanding of games really helped me do a lot of consulting and build a lot of really cool technologies with gamification and understanding how users think about things. But then the software experience also gave me a lot of life lessons, a lot of cool stuff that I learned to complete my projects in game development. It’s a lot of stuff that I share here, a lot of stuff I shared on the channel can be software or game development advice and pieces of info.
There are 2 primary key differences between software and games.
- Software removes obstacles while Games add them.
Here’s what I mean by that. If I’m building a piece of software to help you with your accounting or whatever, that software has to make your life easier for doing counting or doing whatever you’re doing. If it doesn’t, you wouldn’t use the software. It wouldn’t make sense. You just use Excel spreadsheet or whatever. Games are different. The whole point of a game is to add an obstacle to the player to prevent him from going places.
For example, in software design philosophy, one of the key things is you want to make sure that any action you’re using is understandable and accessible. You want to make things as easy to do as possible so that the user can get what they’re trying to do, done.
Software should not be in the way, at any point in time, of what you’re trying to do. But a game is all about obstacles. That’s all a game is. It’s just a giant mess of obstacles. You want to make things hard for the player. You want to make things complicated. You want to make things challenging. Otherwise, it’s no fun. If it’s a game that’s super easy, as with a tap game where all you do is just tap, it doesn’t make any sense. You have to add obstacles to make a game challenging. The game has to be somewhat challenging to be fun.
That’s a big key difference between software and game development, and a lot of software developers struggle with this when they move to game design because the philosophy is so different. It can be really challenging to understand that.
- Software reduces time while Games add to it.
For example, Microsoft Word and Super Meat Boy— they’re both applications.
Both were written with a purpose. One of them was designed to save time while the other one is designed to waste time, in a sense. We live in such a productivity-obsessed world that we’re always trying to save time at the things that we don’t want to do. Work is usually one of those things, especially in American culture. We want to save time at work, be more productive, get more shit done.
When it comes to games, games advertised as being X amount of hours long, or this game does this or this and has replayability value. It’s actually a marketing benefit to advertise your game as super long or has a lot of content or whatever. And that’s one of the things we value in games that we don’t value in software. We want software to eliminate some of the time that we spend on stuff and we want games to add to it because of its entertainment value. That’s important to understand and it affects the way that you design.
In software, you would make something designed to take the least amount of clicks, with the least number of menus; to make rapidly used actions right up front as far as user experience is concerned so that they can just click the button and get what they want to do, done.
In games, you want to take a lot of time and do that. Think of a level progression system wherein you can only equip a certain weapon at level 40. As far as software is concerned, that doesn’t make any sense at all.
If someone wants to use some modification to a piece of software, they want to use a different theme or whatever. Disabling that ability to them doesn’t make any sense to the user. From a game standpoint, the sense of progression that that extra barrier those extra things in between the player and where they want to get to really helps the immersion in the game; it really helps make a great game. It’s a really important concept. Like you have to understand that coming from software and going into game design, YES, you’re using the same technologies. But the design philosophies of the 2 are so different.
There are other things out there, I know. If you know any more, please share them in the comments below, I love to hear from you guys. Let’s start a discussion about this because this is something that comes up a lot in game development. I see a lot of people that have experience in software and they want to make games. They ask questions about this and that. They have the software and technical experience but they don’t know the game design philosophies. I’ve received a lot of requests for game design theory and that kind of thing because of this.
If you have any thoughts on it, please leave a comment below. Let’s get those comments poppin’ because I would love to start a discussion about this and hear what you guys have to say.