[How should game creators build titles to appeal to wider audiences? Following Gamasutra's look at kid-focused gaming, we organized game play sessions with older gamers to find the top 10 lessons for game creators.]
The next step in our
endeavor to discover what gamers really want turns our attention to older
players. This group, which we are pigeonholing as "Silver Gamers", are
typified by the fact that they didn't grow up with video games and often would
consider themselves outside the market of game players. These players, who ranged from their 50s upwards, had a primary reaction
to an invitation to play some games of "that's not for me, but I'll
Over a few weeks in late spring we organized a series of play sessions with
some willing older participants. As with our family gamers sessions, we weren't
sure what would result, but again by the end of each day, the author had notes
as long as his arm and not a few cups and dishes to wash up.
From these various
bits and observations, we have distilled another list of what this group most
wanted out of their video games.
1. Repeat Tutorials
Many of our players took a little longer than average to get to grips with the
basics of the game mechanics. Tutorials often skimmed over some key issues and
assumed a certain level of pre-existing knowledge.
However, unlike more
familiar players who would get frustrated and skip these sections, our older
gamers wanted the opportunity to repeat
the training sessions until they were sure they had understood. Only then were
they happy to proceed onto the game proper.
Surprisingly Madden 08 on the Wii
scored particularly well in this department. Not only did it provide well-paced
introductions to each control method, but you could also jump back to a
practice session for the different motions during the game.
2. Printed Manuals
Touching again on comprehension, a related request was for better printed
materials to explain the game premise and controls. Almost all the games on
test only sported a limited pamphlet. Once you take into account the marketing
and multi-language material, this often only amounted to three or four pages of
It's easy to assume that gamers aren't interested in reading physical
training material. But this group of players made it clear that they very much
preferred reading on paper rather than the screen.
"Why not have a 'quick start' guide like I got with my phone?"
wondered Fred, one of our gamers. "And why can't I have a proper
instruction manual?" chimed in his other half. Our silver gamers
largely agreed that to be able to read though a rudimentary manual before
putting the disc would greatly reduce how intimidating the whole experience is
perceived to be.
There was a surprise
winner in this department - GTA IV! Although
we didn't get very far into the game itself, everyone really appreciated having
a printed map. One of our younger Silver Gamers commented that he remembered
getting great materials with Elite on
the BBC Micro, and how that really contributed to the whole experience for him.
"Holding a flight guide and keyboard layout made me feel like I was really
in the game. I thought modern games would provide more of these things rather
than less. It's a shame really."
3. In-Game Readability
Although they were
wary of being stereotyped, many participants found that the text size, even on
our larger High Definition screens, was often hard to read.
In fact some seemed
to prefer the Standard Definition output that didn't shrink the text so much,
even if it wasn't as sharp.
This combined with the
limited amount of time some games provided to read the text to draw some of our
most exasperated reactions.
"Wait, what did that say again?" was a
common refrain. GTA IV was a prime
offender here, with its help text quickly disappearing without any user
"Find Mii" on Wii Play,
however, scored well, as you could bring up the instructions by holding the B
button on the Wii remote. It also provided large text on a highly contrasted
background, both aspects appreciated by this group of gamers.