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Looking at the general layout of a lot(but not all) of computer games across the FPS/RPG/strategy genres the format usually follows a rough pattern;

Menu = top left,

Chat/log = lower left,

Action bar = lower center,

minimap = top right.

The RHS usual reserved for additional panels or feedback from selected item(eg, weapon select).

My question is who, why and when did this become the norm? ..has it just "always been this way" without thought, rhyme or reason or is there a genuine UX background to this?

**case studies/papers would be good if you know any legitimate research.

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    Well, it at least makes sense to put chat somewhere on the left, because of the high variability of the length of messages and the need to left-align them. If you put the chat box on the right, short messages such as “gg” would be on the left side of the box, closer to the center of the screen and more likely to distract the player with their appearance. If you put the chat box on the left, only very long messages that reach the right side of the chat panel would distract the player. – Rory O'Kane Dec 15 '17 at 22:44
  • I don't know when it started becoming this way, but the placement of each element is based on the principle of keeping the center clear for gameplay and limiting the amount of head turning and eye movement. Communication is on the left due to alignment of Western language. Minimaps are visually interpreted and can therefore be on the right. Action bars are below center due to it requiring more attention than the rest of the screen. Menu is kept out of focus but easily accessable at the top left. Most games follow the format, but it's not set in stone. Don't remember the source, could be dated. – Wanda Jan 23 '18 at 12:15
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Game UX has a long history, and a lot has changed and improved over time. It is important to not only differentiate between various platforms like mobile, pc and console with their different inputs (touch, keyboard, mouse and gamepads etc.) but also between different genres (rpg, moba, racing, ...).

There are a lot of games that do not follow your described pattern. Some do not need a chat and can therefore reposition the minimap to e.g. the bottom left corner.

Researches have done eye tracking in games to find out where people look the most, and where it is the most exhausting for your eyes.

I recommend you to watch some YouTube videos like this and the recommended videos on the side. You can also read and question articles about best practices like this one or this one critically.

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