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I'm thinking about making games for tablets. Coming from a PC/console background, I'm keenly aware of the huge differences in the user interfaces, and that I need to design it with the target platform in mind.

One aspect I'm worried about is player fatigue. The input devices used on PCs and consoles - keyboards and game controllers - are optimized for extended play and have mature, ergonomic designs. Most seasoned players can easily use them for an hour, clocking in thousands of key/button presses, without suffering from fatigue. Designers can depend on this when designing the user experience, with consequences ranging from size/length of levels, steps required to execute commands, pace of the game and many more.

What about touch-screen tablets? Do players become fatigued faster, or are unable to execute as many taps/swipes per unit of time? If so, are there any resources or guidelines about this matter?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Will post here as comment and not as an answer as its only personal experience here: If ppl have sensitive hands/senews they have a lot less endurance for using tablets. In my case I can only use it for 1-2 hours of continued use per day else I get a senew inflamation that is quite strong (the problem is even worse for phones with 30+ mins of continued use as a browser per day after latest the 3rd day I have a strong senew inflamation). The problems are coming from how I have to position my fingers and hold my hand to hold and use the devices there \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas E. Jul 15 '14 at 5:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ Just a note, although you can use your fingers, there is hardware available (yes ergonomic) to reduce fatigue when using tablets. Armrests, stands, styluses, and grips are just a few of the things I've seen that would reduce the fatigue to be more like that of a computer or a gaming console. \$\endgroup\$ – Anoplexian - Reinstate Monica Apr 15 '16 at 22:44
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Yes this is a real consideration (or rather something similar along these lines) but no I'm not aware of any specific resources that provide guidelines.

Do players become fatigued faster

I've never thought about mobile UI in terms of fatigue. Now that I am, this is possibly true, but fatigue is far from the most important UI problem.

or are unable to execute as many taps/swipes per unit of time?

This is closer to the real problem. Again, I've never thought about it in terms of "X swipes per unit time" and more in terms of "swipes are a lot less accurate than a joystick".

If so, are there any resources or guidelines about this matter?

None that I'm aware of. The general guideline however is that a touchscreen is a very different (and overall less accurate) way of controlling a game than a controller. This has a huge impact on how you design your game: design towards the strengths of mobile input devices, and away from the weaknesses. In general that means games that are less twitchy and more based on players tapping different parts of the screen.

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The only thing remotely similar to what you ask that I have found is the paper Examining User Preferences in Interacting with Touchscreen Devices (which, sadly, seems to be offline). Personally I am surprised for the lack of research on the topic, which seems quite important for this big industry.

Beyond that, my anecdotal evidence from personal experience: taps cause much less fatigue than swipes. Try to reduce swipes to a minimum, ideally only use them for special movements.

If you are really really concerned about this and want to walk an extra mile, you could prepare a few mock-ups of user interfaces for your game, and ask a few persons to use them for a while. It won't give you scientifically accurate answer, but will probably better than working on a void. And if you do, please share your findings with the rest of the community!.

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I've never seen physical fatigue be an issue for tablets (unlike the Wii and especially Kinect).

I think many other considerations will kick in much sooner than physical fatigue, including attention span (which for mobile players seems to be way shorter than console), battery life (games tend to burn through the battery very quickly) and even how hot the device gets, making it uncomfortable.

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As a player of games on my iPad, I can say that taps DO cause fatigue. Too many taps and your fingers and hands start to ache. It IS a real problem and one that most gaming devs don't consider. Repetitive actions should be kept to a minimum or automated whenever possible.

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