Skip to main content
Get your Wikispaces Classroom now:
the easiest way to manage your class.
Dust or Magic
Pages and Files
Ages and Stages
Code of Ethics
Design Principles, Sources
Digital Plah Doh
Dust or Magic '08
DorM Awards '09
Dust or Magic '10 Presentations
Drop in, Drop out Interactivity
Feelings of Ownership
Is This Learning?
Linking Toys and the Web
Making Scores Meaningful
Panel of Legends
Piaget & Design
Praise & Engagement
Screen Time Redefined
Selling to Schools
Stapler Test, The
Table Sized Multi-Touch
MUC (Minimum User Competency)
Minimum User Competency
(and Nintendo's "Secret Sauce")
Beta 10/08. Please fix the typos! Thanks. WB
highest level of skill or competence
that you must have in order to experience success with a particular IM experience. It is the designer's responsibility to understand the various types of abilities/competence that a novice child brings to the experience the first time, in order to make things work and feel competent with the task. Struggling with something challenging is OK; but it shouldn't be the control mechanisms, the login screen or the main menu.
The concept of Minimum User Competency (MUC) is essential for a children's interactive media designer to understand. Whether it is intentional or not, Nintendo's current game platforms have been designed with a low MUC threshold, consistently delivering experiences where the skills needed to get to the challenge are less than the challenge itself. Nintendo's mastery of MUC has resulted in more mass appeal.
Nintendo vs. Sony. Compare the controls required to use the Nintendo DS (NDS) with the Sony PSP. The lower screen on the DS is touch sensitive, which makes it easier for a designer to create experiences with a low MUC. Even a baby can jab at an item on the DS screen. But try making an interactive experience on a Sony PSP. So the NDS could be used by a baby, or any other individual functioning at a sensori-motor level; which includes many adults after they've met the frustration stage. The NDS also has a microphone, which makes it possible to link sounds with screen events, in such games as such as in Electroplankton.
Compare all three next-gen consoles -- the Wii, the Xbox 360 and the PS3, and you again see how the system gives designers more new ways to make things easy to use. Count the first five screens in any Xbox or Sony PS3, and you'll usually find the need to read and understand a 2D grid. The experience starts with the bottleneck of requiring you to press a 1/4 inch diameter button marked with an X; which is one of 16 possible buttons. With the Wii, if you can get your controller synced, you are greeted with a digital sandbox with over-sized picture icons that move when they are rolled over. Put in a disk, and no reading is required. The Wii holds out a hand to the novice and says "you're in control" before leading you into a game where you are challenged in the right way.
At the bad end of the MUC scale are computer operating systems made by Apple (Macintosh OSX) and Microsoft (Windows Vista). Both have cognitive and motor MUCs that can requiring reading ability, a 2D spatial thinking, and abstract thought. Using a two button mouse or a keyboard where one button can have three or more functions requires a lot of learning. A typical interactive media experience can be viewed from a variety of competency perspectives. Here's an attempt to list three, along with the associated continuum.
Input Device MUCs
Changing the orientation of a toy (e.g., bumping Elmo over, and righting him after he asks to be picked up)
Touch Screen, including the iPhone or (12 months and up)
Kinesthetic controls such as the Wii (2 years)
Mouse (age 2.5 years)
Arrow keys (four years)
PlayStation 2 controller
Key combinations, such as control or function keys.
Cognitive MUCs The objects on the screen are representations, and not real (age 2)
Knowing that the cursor is "you."
Roll over the object can cause them to do things
The concept of clicking, selecting or entering
Figuring out how to switch between Windows
Fine and Gross Motor MUCs
Tilt the toy or object, or knock it over
Touch the screen
Ability to consistently hit a large target
Able to shift click
Able to hit a smaller target
Able to hold down two keys simultaneously, e.g., Control-Z or Control-Alt-Delete
help on how to format text
Turn off "Getting Started"