Depictions of violence in "hardcore" games has become so prevalent, that it seems some sections of the video game audience perceive anything non-violent as too kiddie to buy.
That's the topic tackled by Portal project lead/lead designer and Quantum Conundrum co-creator Kim Swift. At GDC China in Shanghai, she discussed her design history and lessons, notably focusing on her frustrations over core gamers dismissing non-'adult' titles as 'games for kids.'
In a much larger keynote - written up earlier on Gamasutra, and to be available on GDC Vault in the next few weeks, Swift spent one section focusing on her musings on her games' reception to date.
When talking with the media about her latest title, Airtight's Quantum Conundrum, she noted that she got a lot of questions if, "because it was a cartoony stylized game, if it was really easy, and [therefore] if it was more a game for kids than adults." Firstly, she joked, kids are probably better at games than the people asking the question!
But more to the point, is there an unsettling presumption among the hardcore that "stylized games, or games with no violence or sexualized content or harsh language, are games for kids"? Swift does note that she plays more adult titles - and, indeed, "swears like a sailor," so she's not being prudish, per se.
There's something about Swift's titles that play to a wider audience, given her work with Narbacular Drop at DigiPen that turned into the classic title Portal, as well as the semi-spiritual sequel Quantum Conundrum, and she wondered whether an issue here is people "mistaking easiness for accessibility."
As far as Swift is concerned, the path to success is all about giving the players the tools that they need to accomplish a goal. As she noted, after Portal debuted, she got a flood of emails praising the title's accessibility, given even novices "could ease into the control scheme, could figure it out, could master them and get good."
The lesson? Portal has universal appeal, despite the lack of decapitations or extreme violence, and some of those who played it and didn't consider themselves hardcore gamers "had fun, because they were allowed to have fun."