Looking at dominant metaphors in different design disciplines I’m in some way involved in, it’s obvious to me that most are spatial (no surprises there). Here’s some thoughts on how I think this is (or should be) changing. Information architecture tends to approach sites as information spaces (although the web 2.0 hype has brought us a few ‘new’ ones, on which more later.) I do a lot of IA work. I have done quite a bit of game design (and am re-entering that field as a teacher now.) Some of the designers in that field I admire the most (such as Molyneux and Wright) approach games from a more or less spatial standpoint too (and not a narrative perspective, like the vast majority do). I think it was Molyneux who said games are a series of interesting choices. Wright tends to call games ‘possibility spaces’, where a player can explore a number of different solutions to a problem, more than one of which can be viable.
I don’t think I’m going anywhere in particular here, but when looking at IA again, as I just said, the field is currently coming to terms with new ways of looking at the web and web sites; the web as a network, web as platform, the web of data, and so on. Some of these might benefit from a more procedural, i.e. game design-like, stance. I seem to remember Jesse James Garrett giving quite some attention to what he calls ‘algorithmic architecture’ (using Amazon as an example) where the IA is actually creating something akin to a possibility space for the user to explore.
Perhaps when we see more cross-pollination between game design and information architecture and interaction design for the web, we’ll end up with more and more sites that are not only more like desktop applications (the promise of RIA’s) but also more like games. Wouldn’t that be fun and interesting?