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What's Your Demographic?
by Rob Lockhart on 12/30/13 03:53:00 pm   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

I'm Rob Lockhart, the Creative Director of Important Little Games.  If you were to follow me on twitter, I'd be grateful.

~

When you're working on a game, you hear this question a lot.  If you've worked in the entertainment industry, or heard it talked about, you know the kind of answer people are expecting. The format is _Gender(s)_ _Age Range_.  If you're working on something that kids might consume, that age range needs to be super-specific, maybe three consecutive years at the most, and is expected not to cross gender barriers.

Either this is a stock photo for the word 'demographics' or the Village People are accepting new members.
Either this is a stock photo for the word 'demographics' or the Village People are accepting new members.

The more I've been forced to answer this question, the less meaningful I find this kind of answer.  The question is, without a doubt, still a meaningful one.  Who do you think would most enjoy this game?  No game is for everyone, and, practically speaking, marketers need to know where to direct their efforts and their dollars.  There are also certain kinds of products which are perfectly justified in using gender and age.  Acne cream, for example, will mostly be sold to teens, even though lots of other people have acne.  On the other hand, I think there are ways of dividing the population which might be more valid (i.e. more predictive) for interactive entertainment.

I googled
I googled "acne cream for the elderly" and this was the first image result. No joke.

Sometimes the simplest conventional thing to do is to point at a genre.  That is to say, the best predictor of your enjoyment of the next pixel platformer is your enjoyment of the last pixel platformer (or, perhaps, whether you know what a pixel platformer is).  This is a rudimentary form of segmenting by play-style, which is a strategy with a lot of depth.  You might consider defining your audience in opposition to other games' audiences, or court people who liked a certain game except for one particular thing.

In my case, I'm working on an educational game, which is a concept that comes with a lot of baggage.  People assume that it's for kids, and probably young kids.  And it is.  But it's for a lot of other people, too.  My game isn't for everybody, but it's not about gender or age.

Codemancer is a game about learning programming, but it's not a puzzle game, or a sandbox environment.  It's for people who are interested in story-driven interactive experiences.  It might be for people who are somewhat interested in learning to program, but not totally obsessed with learning to program (the obsessed don't need my game or any game).

I hope that my game is for people, especially women, who wouldn't normally be drawn to the "hacker" archetype.  It's for people who can't stick with open-ended learn-to-code creativity tools like Scratch* and Kodu*, or who might be ill-suited to online tutorials, like the ones at Codecademy* or Code School*.  Maybe they don't have access to in-person classes, like the ones at Starter League*, or are too embarrassed to expose their ignorance to a class full of strangers.

So now when people ask me what my game's demographic is, I say "what's Harry Potter's demographic?"

Then they say "But really..." and I say "Fine.  Males and Females 8-11 years old."  I've got to pick my battles.

*These are all cool things that you should check out.


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Comments


David Serrano
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A more productive answer to the demographics question would be to provide the Myers-Briggs personality types and or the player models the game will be designed (or most likely) to appeal to. Because this communicates why the game will (or should) appeal to specific types of players in multiple demographic groups.

So instead of answering "Males and Females 8-11 years old," try "INFJ's or Idealist/Socializer/Diplomatic players (Chris Bateman's model) of all ages". If nothing else, you'll enjoy watching the blank or confused expressions they'll make as they attempt to process the answer lol.

Rob Lockhart
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That's a great answer! Thank you!

Wendelin Reich
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It really is, though your article was great, too, in that it made me think!

The demographics-question seems to encapsulate a lot of the assumptions that 'business-persons' hold vis-à-vis developers. You're right about having to pick one's battles. Developers have to validate at least some of the assumptions held by business-people if we are to talk with them in a fruitful way.

David Serrano
profile image
I highly recommend Chris Bateman's book: 21st Century Game Design. The title was slightly misleading as the book was primarily about player models, psychology, behavioral science and how to apply them to design. And Bart Stewart wrote a definitive guide of existing player models and proposed combining them all into a single, unified model.

Book: http://www.amazon.com/Century-Design-Charles-River-Development/dp
/1584504293

Personality And Play Styles: A Unified Model By Bart Stewart: http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/6474/personality_and_play_s
tyles_a_.php?print=1


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