There are two basic schools of thought on multiplayer design for kids games -- and in Gamasutra's latest feature
, WayForward designer Stephan Frost explains why they're at odds via the case study of an unsuccessful product he worked on.
Frost defines the two opposing designs as the "interactive experience" and the "competitive game experience". Of the former, he says "this form of gameplay is more of what I would describe as a 'ride', wherein victory is not largely dependent on skill" while of the latter he writes, "ultimately it is up to the player to win the game."
In his work on the project Major League Eating: The Game
, these two design approaches clashed, writes Frost: "The publishers wanted an interactive experience while at the same time offering highly competitive gameplay. The resulting game was not effective, because by trying to please everyone, it alienated the audiences for both types of game."
Frost sees the roots of the need to provide a game anyone can win as the result of the Self Esteem Movement -- frequently summed up with the slogan "everyone's a winner!"
Writes Frost: "The tenets of the Self Esteem Movement most typically enter game design via the interactive experience. There are competitive moments, but ultimately these games feed the idea of entitlement -- because we as publishers and developers are worried that children will lose the game, and be dissatisfied."
For more on designing multiplayer games for kids -- including information about playtesting -- you can read the full feature article, Conflicting Views: Designing Multiplayer In Children's Games
, live today on Gamasutra.