Could anyone please explain to me the differences between "diegetic," "non-diegetic," "spatial," and "meta" user interfaces in terms of how they are represented in games and game development?

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    \$\begingroup\$ made me think of this article and this one, which is where I learned about the UI types you mention. \$\endgroup\$
    – Soapy
    Commented Apr 30, 2015 at 15:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ Where did you pick up these terms? Context can be important to answer a question. \$\endgroup\$
    – Philipp
    Commented Apr 30, 2015 at 16:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ -1 "This question does not show any research effort" \$\endgroup\$
    – Vaillancourt
    Commented Apr 30, 2015 at 21:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ When researching this topic I found this question, so I am glad OP didn't "research". Reading through the various answers and viewpoints with votes for context was much more useful than a blog from a single person claiming to be an expert. Please don't be so quick to condemn users for not researching. There is value in the content. Had he found his answer elsewhere, I probably would have too. Traffic is good. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 14, 2019 at 14:00

2 Answers 2


There is an excellent article over at gamasutra which explains it all, but I'll go over what each mean


In terms of game UI, Non-Diegetic is what you would normally associate a typical game UI, an overlay on top of the game. They have the freedom to be completly removed from the games fiction. Non-Diegetic UIs can represent health and ammo or be a hotbar like in World of Warcraft. Non-Diegetic UIs are normally represented two dimensionally.


On the flip side you have Diegetic, which exist in a game world instead of being overlaid onto the game, very much being part of the games fiction. For example a player could press a button to make their character look at their watch to check the time.


Meta UIs are like Non-Diegtic UIs, the difference is that Meta UIs have some way of staying the fiction of the game. A great example is Call of Duty; There is no health bar, but when you are low on health the screen would be overlay with blood to show that you are damaged. Meta UIs are normally represented two dimensionally.


Spatial UIs are again like Non-Diegetic and Meta UIs, but the main difference is that Spatial UIs exist three dimensionally. An example of this is a glowing trail that appears on the floor that the player can follow.

  • \$\begingroup\$ A better example of Diagetic UI that would be a more apples-to-apples comparison with a health or ammo bar is something like League of Legends' Zach and Bard designs. Zach's size correlates with his HP, giving a diagetic UI of his health, while Bard's empowered autos are measured in how many meeps he has following him arround, giving a diagetic view of his "ammo". \$\endgroup\$
    – godskook
    Commented May 9, 2017 at 18:48

I'm not sure what "spatial" or "meta" mean, but diegetic and non-diegetic are actually terms that originated with film music and mean essentially the same thing in the context of game UI. Diegetic means it's part of the scene, whereas non-diegetic means it's not part of the scene. So a diegetic UI is interface elements that are in the game scene (think the ammo display on Halo guns) whereas non-diegetic UI is buttons that aren't part of the game world (ie. the majority of game interfaces).

  • \$\begingroup\$ Isn't the ammo display of Halo guns a Non-Diegetic ? Such like the Speedometer for Need For Speed. \$\endgroup\$
    – JekasG
    Commented Apr 30, 2015 at 15:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JekasG the guns in Halo have a display on their model which shows the ammo count. You can assume that the fictional character Master-Chief can read this display. When it were a HUD display only visible to the player so the fictional ingame character could not read it, it would be a non-diegetic interface. \$\endgroup\$
    – Philipp
    Commented Apr 30, 2015 at 16:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ A meta-interface is a HUD interface which conveys an information the player-character notices, but which is not visual or audible, so it is conveyed to the player as a GUI element. Like when the character feels pain, it gets visualized as the screen turning red. \$\endgroup\$
    – Philipp
    Commented Apr 30, 2015 at 16:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ A spatial interface is a 3d rendered information which is not part of the game-world but which is provided to the player. Like names floating over the heads of player-characters in an MMO. In the fictional game-world, people don't actually have names floating over their heads, but it is added as a 3d widget for the players convenience. \$\endgroup\$
    – Philipp
    Commented Apr 30, 2015 at 16:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ An entire game isn't usually one category or the other. Rather, certain UI elements within a game are one category, and others are another. \$\endgroup\$
    – jhocking
    Commented Apr 30, 2015 at 16:40

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