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What Gamers Want: Family Gamers
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What Gamers Want: Family Gamers

April 29, 2008 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 4 Next

What we found

Anyone who spends time with a group like this (from any demographic) quickly warms to their concerns. Hurdles to enjoyment are painfully apparent, as they wrestle with ill-conceived design decisions.

But successes too are magnified, justifying all those hours of deliberation over control mechanics. For the group we have today, the following ten issues were observed to be of the most frequent or greatest concern.

1. Quick Start

The energy in the room took a real dive each time we swapped games. Our parents were surprised by the amount of time before they could actually play the games.

Cars, for instance, insisted on a drawn-out tutorial before we could drive ourselves. This was often exacerbated by long or unskippable cutscenes. The children in the room soon started to make their own fun (much to the parents' frustratifon) whilst the games simply missed their window of attention while they were getting started.

2. Safe Saving

Being forced to replay previous sections of games just because they hadn't manually saved was a major irritation. Whilst the younger players seemed less fazed by this repetition, the older folks in the room found this most frustrating.

The linear levels of Ratatouille were in the spotlight here, often forcing family groups to repeat the same ground a good six times before they were able to progress. On more than one occasion this precipitated them walking away from the game altogether.

3. Friendly Controllers

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.

4. Safe Controls

Most games took only a few misguided presses to dump the player unceremoniously back to the title screen. Our gamers all seemed able to hit these combinations with surprising regularity.

Before they had twigged what was going on, the game had been quit and they were back at square one. Surprisingly, this was a particular problem with the Wii. Younger players' fingers often seemed to stray to the tempting red and white of the power button at the top left of the Wii-mote, whilst older players' larger digits often hit the home button, unintentionally pausing the action.

Article Start Previous Page 2 of 4 Next

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