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Using familiar objects to enhance 'the raw accessibility' of games

"I'm more concerned with the raw accessibility of a game. And I want to make brand new games for the widest possible audience. ... What they're familiar with is the stuff that we have culturally: soccer balls, billiards, playing cards, dice."

In a new interview at Zam, Zach Gage (Tharsis, Sage Solitaire) points out something that sounds obvious, but is still an interesting insight: Average people don't necessarily understand the conventions of video games, and moving designs closer to their understanding means taking that into consideration.


"But for me, I'm more concerned with the raw accessibility of a game. And I want to make brand new games for the widest possible audience. When I look at that, especially because I make games for mobile, a lot of that audience isn't familiar with JRPGs or platform games. What they're familiar with is the stuff that we have culturally: soccer balls, billiards, playing cards, dice.

"When you start with those elements you can do something really unique, but you can do it in a way that people feel comfortable -- much in the same way that Undertale does something unique but people who play JRPGs are comfortable with it because they have that underpinning. For a lot of non-gamers and new gamers, mostly mobile gamers, their cultural familiarity comes from these physical things."

It's an interesting take that is directly backed up by his own design work -- for spaceship sim Tharsis, Gage included dice rolls not just in the game's design but in its actual interface. That way, players can directly understand the role of randomness in the game, and interact with it in a familiar way. 

The full interview on Zam includes more of Gage's insights into game design, particularly as viewed through the lens of his past projects. 

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