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This Developer's Life: The Universal Game

This week I have a question for you: what makes a game universal? As our audience expands and what a "gamer" is loses meaning we must begin exploring what universal ideas are best expressed through games. I don't have the answer, but I'm hoping you do.

This Developer’s Life: The Universal Game

Dear Reader:

This week I am going to call on you again to aid me.  Over the next few weeks I plan to write about creating “The Universal Game”, a game that crosses demographics lines.  

Run with me on this one.  Ignore the fact that it’s probably impossible; imagine you’ve got a mandate to try.  What do you do? 

The Impetuous

I’ve started thinking more and more about the universality of gaming and, while I’m not sure we’ll ever achieve a game that appeals to the entire set of “people who play games”, considering things which are universal which are also well suited to being conveyed in this medium seems worth the time. 

This got me thinking a lot about how so many of our games focus on what would, in pop psychology, be called “left brain challenges”, and how hard it is to create intuitive or emotive challenges for our games (does Insult Swordfighting count as an intuitive challenge?), which led me right back to the question of what it would take to make a “bilateral game”, which in turn made me ask the question “what would give a game universal appeal”. 

Thoughts So Far

Those of you following me on twitter, already know this part, but I put out the call there too and got some interesting response.  I’m going to list some of them below because I felt like they were particularly salient.  I’m more in the dark on this one than anybody, so apologies in advance to anyone I throw up here to disagree with.  I’m reposting you because I thought your comment was worthwhile! 

(For those of you wondering I’m going to start #universalgame so that I can see the flow of the discussion) 

The Comments 

The idea of simply aiming for the lowest common denominator was raised by @manveerheir.  While this might get you high sales, this tactic has never gotten the highest sales in any medium, which says to me that it’s (luckily) not really a path to universality. 

@ Oizys brought up the thought of making an a la carte game where users can tailor their experiences.  It’s a great thought and where I was headed for a while, but it sort of defeats the point of trying to make a universal game (as why not just make lots of games and let people make their a la carte choices when buying games rather than in the game itself…as we do now). 

@ Larington raised the questions of aesthetics in a universal game.  This one stumped me completely. 

Moving On

I think that catches you up with the discussion thus far.  I want your thoughts.  What’s universal that is well suited to be conveyed through games? 

Catch me on twitter @jamesportnow or email me at [email protected] 

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