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How players' game tastes differ? And does “taste” really affect players' game choices? If so, how does it affect?

Yongcheng Liu, Blogger

July 21, 2023

8 Min Read


Since its release, the Xbox version of Naraka: Bladepoint has been played and loved by many players and has been selected for the Famitsu Gold Hall of Fame. In the game's research projects, we also heard many global players passionately praise the game’s art style, which is one of the most heard words during that time period.

"I was attracted by the unique and inspiring art style and animations during combat. You can tell it's very competitive, and the game's scenes are also very beautiful." - US player.

"Great art style, easy-to-learn but difficult-to-master gameplay, excellent Japanese voice actors." - French player.

However, in fact, such praise is not heard in every research project. Not all players will evaluate a game from the perspective of art style, whether it is praise or criticism. All of this suggests that such differences may be related to players' taste in games.

This inevitably makes developers and researchers think, what exactly is game taste? How players' game tastes differ? And does “taste” really affect players' game choices? If so, how does it affect?

For game developers, understanding the preferences of players is essential as it affects the decision of art style and UI design during development, as well as the promotional strategy. However, taste is ultimately a very abstract and complex concept, so this blog does not seek to provide a clear answer, but rather hopes to provide some ideas and inspiration.

1. How to define game taste?

The taste of a game is often reflected by "what kind of game players find fun and visually attractive". Based on our research experience, game taste is close to a person's aesthetics, with two layers of meaning. One is about external beauty concept, that is, what kind of game will make players feel good-looking and be attracted to download. This is sometimes good for guiding game art style selection, character design, environment design, etc. The other layer of meaning is more abstract, which is the concept of internal beauty, that is, what kind of game will make players feel like it is a good game and willing to choose to play. Under this definition, it will not be limited to game art. Gameplay, worldview, emotional experience provided to players will all be involved. What we are particularly concerned about is how players perceive the world we have built based on their personal game taste.

2. Does game taste affect a player's choice of games?

There are indeed differences in taste among people. The so-called "low-quality online webpage games" may become the favorite of non big city and rural market players (no disrespect, only segmentation of different players). On the one hand, taste is a completely subjective evaluation and it is difficult to compare one set of subjective standards with another set. However, on the other hand, some phenomena in life make people feel that taste really has a certain threshold.

For example, game advertisements are everywhere on the Internet, including advertisements that use brainwashing slogans and gimmicks to attract people. While some of them are "low-quality" and "webpage game style", we also have to admit that some of these games indeed have very good data and even unknowingly occupy a high position on the list. That means, some of these games do cater to a large group of players in terms of game taste, and have very loyal users.

Another case is that in actual player research, we found that players are indeed influenced by their game taste when choosing whether to start a game. Some games with not very high quality graphics have a group of players who sincerely believe that their art is very good. For example, an old online game that has been in the market for several years has a considerable proportion of new players who choose to "come and play because of good graphics." This is a bit counterintuitive, because as the market iterates, the graphics quality of this old game should be difficult to beat similar games in the market. Doubting this, we had face-to-face interviews with players, and finally heard their praise for the game art. Players said that they would go to a certain map to see the scenery everyday, and they were very intoxicated with paddling a boat and swinging in the game. Meanwhile, they even just wanted to be a pure scenery-oriented player and completely ignore character progression. Only then did we believe that the data was not joking, and these players were truly attracted by the game's art and graphics. It can be seen that although it is difficult for us to quantitatively measure players' taste, it does unconsciously influence their choices of games.

3. What factors are affecting a player's gaming taste?

3.1 Humans are naturally able to recognize more beautiful things, and the quality of game graphics can be easily perceived by most players. That is to say, when high and low graphics quality are presented at the same time, even beginner players can tell the difference.

To discuss what factors influence a player's game taste, it is necessary to discuss whether it is innate or acquired. Psychological research has confirmed that people have consistency in their aesthetic preferences for faces, and even infants who have not yet been influenced by environmental factors can recognize more attractive faces. Infants tend to stare longer at faces that adults rate as more attractive.

In games specifically, the influence of innate factors is reflected in players' natural ability to recognize higher graphics quality. If high and low character models coexist in the same game, their quality difference could be easily perceived by players.

So why would some of non big city and rural players choose games that don't look as high-quality ones? - The reason may be simple: they may not actually have bad taste in games, but perhaps they have not seen good enough games before.

3.2 Taste is also influenced by the economic conditions of specific audiences, and common promotional activities often do not reach non big city and rural players.

Taste is not only innate, but also a product of cultural and economic factors. A person's income level, family economic level, etc. will also affect his game taste, but these factors usually only play an indirect role. For example, players with lower income and education levels may influence the information sources they can access. In the previous example, when the researcher further explored why players do not play games with good graphics or 3A masterpieces, we saw the reason behind it through the players' life context-some of them live in third- or fourth-tier cities, many of whom are migrant workers or housewives, and their economic level may not be as high as those who live in big cities. They actually have few chance to interact with AAA games, and even away from mainstream online promotion channels. For example, when some of them want to read novels, they will not go to a dedicated novel platform or App, but will choose browsers to read; when they look for new games, they will not go to livestream platforms or game communities, but still use the browser to search.

3.3 The player's living environment affects game taste. A player's taste in games often depends on their personal gaming experience and that of their friends around them.

Taste is sometimes the sum of one's entire life experience. The environment in which one grows up, educations from childhood to adult, the friends one connects, and all the happy and sad experiences ultimately shape one's understanding of the world and form one's standards of beauty. Among them, the biggest influence is the games that the player has been exposed to and the games that the people around him/her have been exposed to. A player who has played a large number of high-quality games will naturally have a higher standard for future games. A player with limited gaming experience will have different taste for games.

For example, in the new player survey mentioned earlier, why do users still rate an old game that has been online for many years as “having high quality graphics"? we found that these players have something in common: first, there are many beginner players, which means that they almost have no gaming experience before, so they won’t compare it with other games on the market; second, some of the main players of web games compare the graphics quality with other web games, so they think that the game has outstanding quality in terms of graphics; third, they have a common feature, which is that they do not care about excellent games on the market, and have not seen friends and families play games with better quality.

4. Summary

We should acknowledge that players have different tastes. While expanding the scale of targeted audiences (research of non big city and rural players is important), user research can attempt to locate target users who fit a game through certain indicators, help identify more effective promotional approaches, and provide design insights that are more in line with players’ needs.

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