How should game creators build titles to appeal to wider audiences? Gamasutra held a kid-infested focus group and came away with 10 key points that will help games better reach the mainstream.
In our first series of focus group sessions aiming to analyze what a specific group of gamers want from video games, we studied families with young children to find ten issues that top these (potential) gamers' concerns.
For example, though hardcore gamers are critical about Mario Kart Wii’s
tendency to reward poor performance with superior items, family gamers are looking for a balanced multiplayer experience that takes these gaps in ability into account:
Our families included players with different levels of experience. The gap between gamers and those who hadn't previously touched a controller was a real problem when trying to setup balanced multiplayer games.
Some of our games, such as Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games, had a handicap setting that made the job of creating a level playing field a lot easier. However, other games only provided characters or vehicles with different stats. Successfully applying these to a field of varying players became an overly complex task.
One dad came up with an interesting suggestion for play leveling -- "Why not make the winners a bit worse each time and the losers a bit better -- that would level the field and make you more likely to play again when you have just been beaten." We have to admit that he seems to be onto something here; dynamic difficulty adjustments would really help games with players of differing ability.”
Another familiar complaint that was expressed was the complexity and size of controllers for novice gamers. Even the Wii Remote, a controller marketed for its simplicity and ease of use, wasn’t able to escape criticism:
“Complex button combinations also led to much aggravation. The controllers which in experienced hands seem the very symbol of accessibility, in the hands of our families became strange and multifaceted artifacts -- alien and unwieldy in the hands of these novice players.
The children in the group had the added challenge of stretching their smaller hands around controllers to reach the triggers and buttons. To them the joypads looked much like the ill-advised and massive original Xbox controllers, before Microsoft saw sense and produced the smaller version.
We have children's pens, scissors and cutlery; why not have smaller child-friendly versions of controllers too? The Wii-mote was easier to handle, although its badly-labeled buttons were initially confusing to our players.”
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on what families with young children are looking for in video games and their top concerns (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from other websites).